Cooking and Fires

People who cook in the outdoors of New Zealand are up for a whole other level of el-fresco dining experience - whether it be on a mountain top, on a camping trip or in a backcountry hut. It is a great way to celebrate a long day of outdoor adventuring with a hot meal and friends.

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What are the risks?

It is important to understand how to prepare and how to mitigate the risks around cooking and fires to keep you and our natural environment, safe from harm.

  • Cookers tipping in a camp - be sure to set up your camp correctly with enough room for the cooking to occur safely.
  • Huts - Turn the heating off carefully, triple checking and leave the hut as you found it, restocking firewood for the next person.
  • Running out of fuel - Always take enough supplies and fuel for an emergency situation or an extra night or two. Keep these dry in wet conditions. Read more in our cooking pamphlet.
  • A survival situation where you need heat, fast! - Take the right items for a survival situation and learn how to make a fire in our Camp Craft series check out our survival section or sufficient supplies
  • Risks to the environment - Get a fire permit from Fire and Emergency NZ and also consider fire risks especially in the summer months.



Helpful hint:

To make a fire you need three things - oxygen, fuel and heat.

What you need to know 

Types of cookers
  • Compressed gas canister style - One of the most comment stoves, they are easy to set up and can be bought relatively cheap.
  • Non pressurised liquid style - Easy to ignite in most conditions and can work in the wind. Safer to transport but cooking might take longer and will use more fuel. Beware that care needs to be taken because fuel can spill easily on the ground. Refill at least 3 meters away from your cooking site.
  • Pressurised liquid fuel style - Fast and efficient with a high heat output. They are less likely to blow out in the wind but are on the expensive side.

Campcookerstove Kerry Adams

Things to consider before lighting a fire
  • Find out if you are permitted to light a fire via the National Rural Fire Authority.
  • Use an existing fire pit if available to reduce the impact on the environment.
  • Your site needs to be flat with a clear area of a meter around it. Clear away any dead dry sticks and foliage that could catch alight.

How to build a fire

A fire needs three things to be successful: fuel, oxygen and heat.

1. Find firewood - You need three sizes of wood to get started. 

  • Tinder is what you use to start the fire. This can include thin tree bark, dry leaves or small twigs. You can also use paper to help you get started.
  • Kindling is small sticks around 2cm in diameter. 
  • Firewood is the bigger pieces of wood that you will need to fuel your fire. Firewood doesn't need to be bigger than the width of your wrist.

2. Build the fire - Start of with a dry base, then add your tinder and shape it like a cone. Place the kindling around the tinder in a Tipi shape. Make sure you leave plenty of space between each piece of wood. A fire needs oxygen to thrive. With this in mind, place down a couple of pieces of firewood in the same Tipi fashion.

3. Light the fire - Use a match or lighter to ignite the tinder and wait for it to catch alight. If you need to, you can blow on it gently to provide more oxygen to help the flames to ignite faster. When you have yourself a roaring fire, keep adding wood to keep it alive.

How to extinguish a fire

Plan ahead and stop adding wood to the fire so that it can burn down to embers before bedtime. Store additional firewood at least 3 meters away from the fire and never leave the fire unattended. You can extinguish your fire by pouring water on it, turning the ashes over with a stick and repeating this until it's cool to touch.

Watch the Light a Fire video to find out more.

Find out more


Helpful hint:

Always soak your ashes in a bucket for as long as possible, in warmer months these can easily cause forest fires.



How we can help 

Learn from our resources

  • Check our online store for helpful resources about cooking in the outdoors.
  • Read more about your desired activity - find them here
  • Check out the courses page to find a Bushcraft course provider in your area.


Outdoor Safety Code

The first thing to remember is that every trip needs a plan. A few simple steps to take before you head out can make all the difference if something goes wrong.

Find out more

Helpful links

Fire and Emergency NZ -  Find out more about prevention of fires, getting fire permits and understanding responsible outdoor cooking.

Find out more

Preventing Wildfires with DOC - Learn about how to prevent wildfires in NZ

Find out more

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