How to Host the Perfect Backyard Bonfire

It’s prime time bonfire season—and if you’re as excited as we are, you’ve probably already begun collecting loads of firewood and perfecting your s’more-making skills. There is nothing quite like a laidback summer or fall evening huddled with guests around an open fire. Whether you want to create memories with the kids, or throw a party for the neighbors, hosting a backyard bonfire doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. We’ll help you take your bonfire game to the next level with these effortless, affordable tips: Backyard Bonfire Checklist

1. Make a shopping list — and stick to it.

A shopping list is a crucial component for planning any event. Write down your list to ensure you don’t forget any of the essentials. Plus, this will prevent you from filling your cart with unnecessary or impulse items, and keep you from overspending. When it comes to building the perfect backyard bonfire, make sure these items are on your list:

  • Firewood
  • Kindling
  • Matches/lighter
  • Seating
  • Blankets
  • Plastic silverware, plates, cups
  • Plastic utensils
  • Napkins/paper towels
  • Long sticks or skewers for s’mores
  • Cooler
  • Ice
  • Thermos (if serving hot drinks)
  • Bug spray
  • Light snacks
  • Preferred beverages
  • Hand wipes (for sticky marshmallow fingers)
  • Trash bags
  • Bucket of water (for extinguishing fire)
  • Koozies (optional)
  • Decor (optional)

2. Get comfortable.

A night under the stars calls for cozying up. Make sure to have comfortable seating for guests, whether that’s lawn chairs, haystacks, logs or stumps, or right on the lawn. For harder surfaces or for grass seating, consider laying outdoor blankets or pillows down. Keep the number of guests in mind and provide ample seating, too — no one wants to be packed like sardines and sweating around the fire! If temps are expected to drop over the course of the evening, keep guests warm and toasty with extra blankets.

3. Put a new spin on s’mores.

Always supply the traditional items for those who don’t want to mess with the original. But for those who might want get a little adventurous, consider serving alternatives such as peanut butter cups, Kit Kats, Rolos, mint chocolate, nutella, grilled pineapple, sliced bananas, strawberries, coconut—even bacon. Different flavors of graham crackers and marshmallows might wow guests as well.

4. Keep beverages stocked.

Sitting around a hot fire and smoke will make your guests thirsty. Keep the cooler packed with cold water, soda, juice boxes — whatever may quench their thirst! If the weather cools at night, consider a thermos full of hot cider and set out some fun toppings such as caramels, cinnamon sticks, whipped cream, or a spiced liquor of choice for the adult crowd.

5. Protect your lawn...

Nobody wants their lawn to suffer from a night of fun. Make sure to take the proper precautions to protect the grass around and/or underneath the fire. Start by raking a 10 ft. diameter around the site to remove any dead grass, leaves, and debris that could easily burn, and always keep a bucket of water nearby in case sparks fly. The most preferred site for your backyard bonfire is an area that’s clear of grass (think bare dirt, soil, or rocks). Place bricks or rocks securely around the bonfire site to further protect the surrounding lawn. If you’re using a portable fire pit, consider buying a protective pad or building a temporary platform with landscaping tiles to elevate the fire pit and provide insulation.

6. Keep the fun flowing.

In many cases, bonfires are best spent catching up with loved ones and laughing about old memories. The conversation and time spent with good company may be enough entertainment for everyone. But always have a backup plan in case guests get antsy, or worse, bored. First things first: Make a playlist. Whether it’s Beach Boys and the Beatles, or the latest hits, your guests will thank you when or if the night gets a little too silent. Consider having bags, horseshoes, giant Jenga, a few fun card games handy, or even some digital games pulled up on your phone like “Heads Up!” You might not end up needing them—but you’ll be glad you did just in case!