Love a campfire I do. Half a chance will give me ample opportunity to set about lighting one. The wilderness is just not homely without it. They purify my water, cook my food, heat my body, light my camp, keep animals away and lift my spirits.
But it also uses up alot of wood (which can be a scarce resource if over-used and also might be a home to some creature) and damages the soil around and beneath the fireplace. It takes a while to clear up and, in some cases, smoulders underground for days, weeks or even months only to surface again and cause an uncontrolled fire. Some places – many national parks and reserves forbid open fires. Dartmoor does. Which is a pain because this is where I live.
This is why I use a wood stove where possible. They are small, efficient (both in terms of combustion and the amount of wood they use) and safe. It enables me to enclose my fire and comply with local law. Best of all they are quick to get going, quick to cool and pack down, and don’t damage the delicate substrata.
The Honey Stove – I’ve used one for years and love it. It packs down small, it can use a trangia meths burner as a back up (or even hex blocks) and now there is even a titanium version and an expansion pack for larger group use. Stable, rugged and reliable – if a little fiddly to put together with cold hands! Basically the Honey Stove is a different take on a firebox (wait for it…a box for a fire). You can get also good fireboxes also Liard Fireboxes and CanoePaddler Fireboxes. They don’t come cheap but there are plenty of plans to make your own
The Bushbuddy – a super efficient wood gasifier stove that generates so much heat from so little fuel. It basically superheats the wood gas to create a secondary burn – which consumes just about all the fuel (leaving very little ash and give off very little smoke). This one is from Canada but you can get variations on this theme including this one called Wild Woodgas Stove . If you are a bit handy then you could always make your own out of tin cans.
I use a small wood stove as often as I can – it creates less impact on my immendiate environment and is a part of my environmental policy: leave no trace