I’ve also cooked over fires, way back when - but soon gave them up for a stove. Much of my decision was based on convenience: stoves are quick and easy to use, and more reliable than wet wood. But the decision was mostly based on the impact of fires on the woods, and the evolution of Leave No Trace principles.

One of the main reasons (at least in the Eastern US) that fire-cooking is going out of fashion is that, compared to the western US, there are just too many backpackers in too small an area. The impact on the backcountry is just too large. (I’d refer you to LNT.ORG for a full discussion of Leave No Trace principles; if you’re going to be doing backpacking in your future, you absolutely need to understand and practice those principles.)

Fires leave a heavy mark on campsites, and ruin the sense of wildness found in the eastern woods. I hesitate to use the word “wilderness” here in the East; we just don’t have the large, untouched areas of the West. What we do have are pockets that were touched by settlement, then abandoned and allowed to revert to woods. Likewise, many of the woodlands we hike were logged in the 19th and early 20th centuries and allowed to revert later, or are parts of managed forests to supply lumber-related industries. There is a definite wildness about such places, but not the remote, untouched sense of wilderness that exists elsewhere.

Campsites are heavily used, and tend to proliferate as each person avoids previously-used sites in search of his or her own “pristine” site - then “improves” the site with his or her own fire ring and fire scar, thereby driving the next person in search of yet another pristine site. So, to preserve the sense of wildness, most of us have (with various degrees of reluctance) abandoned the practice of using fires - and the few who still do are resigned to using the beat-up sites that have existing fire rings rather than build new ones. (Not a perfect solution, but the “sacrifice” of these sites does help preserve that sense of wildness.)

There’s another, more practical problem, in using fires in the “sacrifice” sites: with their heavy usage, all of the down and dead, combustible wood has long since been completely depleted for a quarter mile or more all around. So, even when you practice LNT principles and use the “sacrifice” sites, gathering firewood is a time- and effort-consuming job.

There’s also the issue of dousing the fire - it needs to be cold out, which requires several quarts of water. So, if you’re not camping beside a creek or other plentiful source, you’ve got to carry it, at two pounds a quart.

For me, even when wood is readily available and it’s appropriate to have a fire, I simply find them to be too much like work - and I go into the woods to get away from work. Your choice may be different, and that’s OK. Just do me one kindness, and minimize your impact (don’t hack on standing trees, or build new fire-rings) so we’ll both have plenty of forest to enjoy.

Enjoy your future hikes, and - if you do decide fires are for you - enjoy some delicious dinners. And say hi to me, if we ever cross paths.