With statewide fire bans across NSW, now’s the time to dial in your fire-free camping setup. Just because you can’t have campfire toasted marshmallows doesn’t mean you can’t still have a flaming good time.

Camping trips and campfires go hand in hand, almost as good a combo as avocado on toast. So when devastating fires are sweeping this wide brown land of ours, and total fire bans come into play, you might start thinking of pulling the pin on that Christmas camp trip. But before you start looking at cheap flights to Bali, take a look at some hot tips for making your camping trip red hot, without a campfire.

What is a total fire ban?

According to the NSW Rural Fire Service,

A total fire ban means no fires out in the open. A total fire ban helps limit the potential of fires developing. During a Total Fire Ban you cannot light, maintain or use a fire in the open, or to carry out any activity in the open that causes, or is likely to cause, a fire.’

This basically translates to no campfire, and no gas bbq* on your camping trip.

So how can you still have a successful camping trip without the warming glow of the campfire?

*More details on this under ‘cold cooking’.

1. Bring a Decent Lamp

Your fire is often the primary light source at night, so make sure you bring a good lantern as a replacement central point around camp. You could probably get away with just using your head torches, but a freestanding lantern is way more sociable and means you’re not shining your torch in everyone’s face when you talk to them.


pat corden, head torch, explorer review, explorer project

Photo by Pat Corden

2. Games Night

When you replace the campfire with a lantern, you’re going to be able to see around camp far more easily. Rather than be saddened by the change in ambience, use the better light to your advantage by cracking out a deck of cards or a board game. Anyone for Monopoly?


Escape The Rat Race With A Cheeky Weekend In Lake Macquarie, photo by Damon Tually, camping, tent, friends, Watagans

Photo by Damon Tually

3. Cold Cooking

Some people love cold cooking, and will deliberately head off camping without a stove. The easiest cold meal is the classic sandwich (my favourite is peanut butter and jam) but given a bit more imagination, you could put anything between your bread. Other options include cereal, meat and cheese boards and fruit salad.

The rules around gas barbecues are pretty tight and inside national parks, they need to be approved on Total Fire Ban days. Best pack the esky instead!


Drool Over This Gourmet Campfire Toastie // Camp Kitchen, Jonathan Tan, meat, cheese, cabbage, mustard, pickles, bread

Photo by  Jonathan Tan

4.Call It an Early Night

With a campfire smouldering away, there’s always that temptation to ‘stick another log on’ and stay up for another hour talking the night away. But without a fire, you’ve a great excuse to grab an early night; massively increasing your chances of waking up for that dawn surf or sunrise walk. 


Bondi Sunrise – Early Morning Dispatches From The Break, photo by Matt Pearce, bondi, sunrise, ocean, surf, golden, water photography

Photo by Matt Pearce

5. Better Stargazing

It’s much easier to switch off a lantern than to extinguish a fire. So turn off all the lights, lay back and take in the wonders of the night sky. If you’ve got the camera handy, it’s also a stellar opportunity to finally give astrophotography a red hot go. 


Sleeping Like A Star - NEMO Galaxi 2P // Gear Review, Jon harris, review by Mattie Gould, meroo head camp ground, nsw

Photo by Jon Harris


Keep up to date with fire bans across NSW and download the Fires Near Me App.

Stay safe out there.


Feature photo by Jesse Lindemann