Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

REI promotes Fires as integral to "camping" and has succeeded in reinforcing this perception in the General Public.REI promotes Fires as integral to "camping" and has succeeded in reinforcing this perception in the General Public.

This is the image of "the outdoors" that has been packaged and sold to the public.

Its all based around creating air pollution, and burning things- usually far away from population centers, where services are scarce, fire and rescue far away.

These spaces have been organized for generations around a simple concept: Invite people to come, and start fires.

Today, the public is coming out in a big way, dressed in plastic bags because they are afraid to get wet- driving giant gas guzzling vehicles so they can charge their cellphones- and bringing tons of wood to create air pollution where it isn't.

Its time to stop this insane behavior. Clackamas and the other fires in California and elsewhere are caused by people who believe without reservation that "camping" is burning a load of wood- and garbage.

I've been to many state and district parks over the last few very dry weeks. Almost without question, these people seem to believe that a fire is absolutely necessary or "something is missing". REI and the outdoor industry seem to promote this idea.

I have seen many people arrive, set up all their RV and tents and stuff, and start a fire, and then just have a burning pit and column of smoke, for the next 8 hours, going for no or any reason at all.

The firebugs sorely need to get the message that its no longer the public's responsibility to pay the massive costs of fires, or have to breathe their smoke, just because we want to visit nature.

So lets not get twisted. A few of these fires were started by lightning. A lot of them were started by people, on public land with rules that have been crafted to accommodate people who like building open fires. These practices are promoted by companies as "recreation". What they've done is invite a kind of arson into the western states, in particular.

Like the pollution scandals of Fluorocarbons, fish-killing insecticides, and microplastic pollution, the "outdoor industry" seems hell-bent on destroying the environment. The profit motive has collided with the stated goals of bringing people into nature, and the consequences have never been so stark or appalling. Perhaps the truth is, the whole idea of selling people stuff and promoting nature as an experience has unintended consequences beyond crowding at park campsites, air pollution, and wildfires. Perhaps it is destroying the experiences that they are promoting in the first place. 

I hate to say it but there is no reason for an organization to sell Nature to people who cannot appreciate it any other way than dressing in plastic bags and riding in on 4 wheels with electricity and fossil fuels. Hubris is ever present in every human endeavor, and recreation is no different, certainly not in an industry that feeds these trends.

Its time for REI and the industries involved to change their ways, and educate people who cannot leave no trace that the sun is setting on their "way of life". 

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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

I get the impression that you don't like campfires; correct me if I am mistaken.

Frankly, you are way overboard.  REI actively promotes LNT principles and sells ll kinds of alternatives to traditional campfires and generally promotes ecological life styles.

I believe the change to non-campfires is well underway.  Years ago, I routinely cooked on campfires.  During my first summer of work with the NPS, we routinely cooked on a wood burning stove (1957).  For at least the past thirty years, I have used some sort of alternative fuel, usually alcohol or gas.  The last significant fire I built was in the 1980's for use as a homing beacon for a night time  helicopter rescue.We extinguished it promptly once it had served its purpose.

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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

we never make campfires in dangerous, dry, windy conditions.

That said, many places are not like that, with seasonal, very long, wet periods (so far), and campfires are.....safe (if their ever safe), when properly done.

I'm as concerned about air quality as much as the next person, but my little campfire is insignificant compared to the coal burning powerplant belching out smoke/pollutants as clean-air restrictions are loosened.

Taken as a whole, and I dislike even thinking about this, the ongoing air pollution from continuous fires around the globe, industrial, land clearing (S. America, etc,) is pretty messed up.

I want to say my  little campfire is insignificant, someone else says they all add up, so every little bit helps.  I'm also not giving up meat just yet. Or my car. 

Can I do my part by voting for politicians who vote FOR the environment, clean air/clean water?

Doesn't California have a ban on campfires already?  Or is that just situational based up weather/dry conditions?

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes
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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

I believe th California ban on campfires is situational, based on conditions.  Various parks and forest, preserves, etc. also impose fire bans depending on th situation,

At Channel islands NP, campfires are not allowed,period.  Environmental protection.

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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

When I get to backpacking this winter, I can't wait to have a campfire, and drinking some hot gluhwein! (while standing around, shivering, freezing, waiting to get into my sleeping bag, lol)

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes
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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

Here's a reply that agrees with you. Yes, REI partners with LNT. Why then aren't LNT's resources about minimizing fire impacts prominently displayed on REI's homepage?  Unprecedented wildfires, the vast majority caused by human activity, are devastating public lands across the west. I should see a big banner educating people about wildfire and how to avoid starting one across the top of the website when I go to buy a new pair of wool socks. Players in the outdoor industry need to be doing everything they can to reduce the risk of helping send massive numbers of people into the outdoors.

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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

While human activities have indeed started many of the current wildfires, most of them have resulted from lightning strikes - enough that I dare say we would have a problem even if human activity were not a factor.

A big factor is development and construction within the wild land-urban interface.  People are occupying the outdoors, not just simply going there for recreation.

In all fairness, I think you expect too much of REI.  REI's commitment to conservation and wise use is quite substantial.  If you want to help. consider donating your next dividend to a pertinent conservation entity,

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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

Time for another op-ed piece.  This time a dissenting opinion. 

Not very eloquent but here goes.

We live in a really-really big country, with lots and lots of open, unpopulated land.

We are blessed to have so much public land available for recreation.

Most everyone understands - ‘the times they are a changing’.

We all know about climate change, air pollution, water pollution, grazing rights, mineral rights, drilling rights, melting glaciers, melting ice, rising sea levels…etc., etc., etc, ad infinitum. 

We are bombarded daily with geo-political strife.

But recreation is what we are lucky to do when we’re not working…or looking at a screen.

Recreation takes us away from strife and rebuilds the human spirit.

For me, that mostly means Outdoor Recreation, specifically, backpacking.  But it could mean, boating, fishing, hunting, bird watching, kayaking, hiking, photography, etc..

Hunting and fishing are as old as the hills, as old as mankind.  We are sort of blessed to be able to get out into nature and find adventure…in the forests, in the mountains. 

Sometimes it appears that the urge to get out into nature, for adventure, is being lost.

Yet it seems everywhere I go, the woods and trails are packed.  Why are folks craving to get into the forest?

Every year, when I’m in Wyoming and preparing to go into the wilderness, I visit the ‘Museum Of The Mountain Man’, which remembers that western spirit, that adventurous time in our country’s past and each and every time I never fail to think that I am blessed to be able to walk on that same ground where those pioneers trod.

Not far away, the rutted tracks of the wagons on the Oregon Trail cross the highways and are still visible to the eyes.  I can’t help but be moved each time I see them and think about that indomitable spirit.

About 35yrs ago, my sons were in scouts and I was an adult leader.  My adult leader training (woodbadge) kind of carried on that adventure spirit.  The scouts still carried on the traditions of western camping, teaching lashings, use of ropes, how to uses axes, bow saws, all the while transitioning to modern camping/mountaineer techniques and especially LNT.  If fact, the literature moved the program away from high impact group camping  and into backpacking.

Fast forward to just 3yrs ago. I volunteered with a local troop, to share my backpacking skills, only to find that troops no longer emphasized camping at all, at least not this troop/district.  If the kids didn’t want to go camping, they didn’t go.  They would rather have organized video gaming.  I couldn’t and still can’t believe it, but it was true.  Of course this is not the norm for the program in total, but I view this little anecdote as a sign of the times. .  IMO, the kids only did what the parents wanted to do or had the skills to do.

I feel kids want and need the adventure of backpacking and getting out into nature.

I think it is part of the human spirit and I hope we don’t lose that spirit.

I also believe that having a campfire, building a fire, sitting around a fire, cooking on a fire, (sharing adult beverages around a fire) somehow touches on that indefinable part of the human spirit of adventure.

I think it is almost an innate part of the human spirit, I don’t know why, and can’t explain it, but man and fire have been together since time immemorial.

Can we have adventure without campfires?  Sure we can.  Campfires are managed pretty good IMO…’only in existing fire rings, not above 10,000’, not in posted times of fire danger, permits, etc.. These restrictions are very reasonable and understandable.

But in my view, when and if we ever got to the point of a total ban, something in our souls will be lost.

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes
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Re: Fire, Smoke, and selling an idea of what "camping" is to the public. It has to stop!

Kudos to @Philreedshikes and @hikermor .  Personally, I think that what REI is doing, by promoting responsible campfires, fire safety, and LNT is much more beneficial to the public at large than if they were trying to dissuade people from having fires.

I tend to agree with @hikermor that campfires, especially those of educated campers, are in the minority of causes of wildfires.  Wasn't one of the recent ones started by fireworks at a gender reveal party?  I doubt that those folks have been reading REI's pages or adhering to LNT principles.

As @Philreedshikes mentions, us humans are connected to fire from the beginning of human history.  It was our original "television".  No matter what REI, or other forums may say, people will continue to build campfires.  Isn't it better if they know how to do so safely and responsibly?

I can't begin to count the number of times I've sat around a campfire, roasting hot dogs, making s'mores, sharing my thoughts with friends and family, or just peering into the flames by myself.  It's cathartic and peaceful.

In short, campfires are, or should be, a part of the human experience, and educating people is a much more beneficial tactic than shaming and condemning.

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