Super Smokey campfires is a real bummer. Particularly when you've agreed to "chaperone" a student camping trip and you have to stay up all night and your main source of light and warmth looks like a smoke stack chimney that is also choking you.
A smokeless campfire isn't going to happen, but here are some steps you can take to avoid getting an excessively smoking fire (see picture 3).
It's now just after 4am and I think I'm ready to publish :)
Step 1: Dry Firewood
Only burn dry, preferably kiln dried wood. If you're unsure of how dry your logs may be, set them near (but not too close that they could catch) your fire so they can dry.
Logs that are damp often make a hissing sound when they're on the fire. If it's safe to do so, you can try removing the hissing log (make sure it's completely extinguished).
Additionally, some types of wood will naturally smoke more than others so it's a good idea to know what you're burning.
Step 2: Avoid Greens
Avoid green wood, pine needles, grass, etc. these often have moisture that will contribute to a smokey fire. Even small branches that may appear dry, have some moisture inside that'll cause.
Step 3: Bark
Not all bark is good fire bark. Birch bark is a popular choice. Whatever was just thrown on (literally minutes ago) was not a good choice and brought back unnecessary excessive smoking.
It's possible that breaking up the chunk of bark could have decreased the amount of smoke.
Step 4: Air Flow
Make sure you stack your logs in a way that promotes airflow and allows oxygen to move around. Don't smother the logs.
Step 5: Smaller Fires
Just because you may have a lot of space, doesn't mean you need a huge fire. We have split logs and put 1-2 on at a time, depending on how cold it's getting or how small the pieces are.
Build your fire slowly and only add wood to keep it going.