Your much-anticipated family camping trip is just days away, and you’ve been busy packing totes with clothes, kitchen accessories, food, insect repellant, sunscreen, flashlights, campfire tools, and much more. With all the essentials on board and your list of must-see attractions in hand, you’re guaranteed to have an awesome family vacation filled with wonderful memories. You’ll spend your days hiking in a national forest, swimming in crystal-blue waters, and visiting some of our country’s national landmarks. When night falls, you’ll gather around the campfire to make scrumptious S'moreos, share some fun stories from the day, and watch the beautiful flames of the campfire dance in the darkness. And this year you’ll try something new that will set your campsite ablaze in shimmering hues that elicit “Oooohh”s and “Aaaahhhh”s from everyone nearby. This year, spark up your campfire with dazzling colors by easily adding some store-bought ingredients to your fire. Here’s how!
Soak Your Campfire Fuel
Soaking your fuel (newspaper, wood chips, pinecones, etc.) in a color-changing chemical will yield hours of colorful flames. For this you’ll need a 5-gallon bucket (plastic, not metal), the chemical that creates the color you want (see below), and some water. It’s recommended that you use a pound of the chemical for every gallon of water. Cut these amounts in half for a smaller batch. Place your campfire fuel in the bucket and then add in the correct amounts of chemical and water. Let it sit for at least 24 hours before using.
Make Wax Fire Starters
These homemade wax fire starters are easy to make at home and then take along with you on your camping trip. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Old candle wax
- Muffin tin
- Paper baking liners
- Color-changing chemical of choice
Step 1: Melt the old candle wax in a double broiler.
Step 2: Once it’s melted, add a couple of tablespoons of your chemical into the wax and stir so that it doesn’t harden. Add more chemical if you desire a more intense color. Remove from heat.
Step 3: Pour the wax mixture into the baking liners, filling each liner about half full, and let it harden.
Step 4: Once they’re cooled, remove from tin, tear off the liners as much as possible, and store in a baggie. They’re ready to be tossed into the fire to melt and create a sparkling campfire!
Wax Pinecone Fire Starters
As a variation on the wax fire starters above, you can make wax pinecones for a natural-looking color changer. Simply dip dry pinecones in the melted wax mixture, lay them on wax paper to dry, and they’re ready to be tossed into the fire.
Orange: Calcium chloride
Green: Copper sulfate (tree root killer used by plumbers)
Light Green: Borax (laundry)
Blue: Copper chloride
Purple: Potassium chloride (water softener salt)
White: Magnesium sulfate (Epsom salts)
Pink: Lithium chloride
For cool effects, toss or sprinkle one of these into the flames:
- Magnesium shavings
- Powdered aluminum
- Iron filings
- Powdered coffee creamer
Some Words of Caution
While altering the color of your campfire flames may make you feel a little like God, you should use caution because you are playing with fire (literally!). When soaking your fuel, make sure it’s in a well-ventilated area. Also, always wear protective gloves and safety goggles when working with chemicals. They can burn skin or stain clothing. Always add color-changing chemicals to your fire only after you’ve used the fire for cooking, as you don’t want to cook over a fire that is emitting chemicals. And, while it may be very tempting to mix chemicals to try and create a new color, don’t do it. You can’t mix chemicals the way you mix paint. You’ll just end up with dull colors if you mix them.
Have fun creating a spectacular show of colorful flames on your next camping trip! Share a pic with us of your brilliant campfire on Facebook or Instagram. Or comment to tell us how you create a colorful campfire!