Building a campfire is a skill because it requires knowledge of the proper materials, tools, and techniques to create an efficient fire.
Knowing how to build a reliable campfire can mean the difference between having an enjoyable outdoor experience and one that’s more difficult and less comfortable. A well-built campfire will help keep you warm, provide light and ambiance, and can even be used to cook delicious camping meals for kids & you!
Furthermore, a campfire is a great way to bond with friends or family as you share stories around the fire.
With the right resources and preparation, anyone can learn how to start a campfire and become an expert at doing so.
Table of Contents
Find or build a fire ring
A fire ring is a circle of stones or bricks used to contain and protect the campfire. It helps ensure that embers and sparks don’t spread, potentially starting an unwanted wildfire.
If you’re camping in a designated area, there may already be an existing fire ring on-site. If not, it’s important to make sure you designate a spot away from trees, shrubs, and grassy areas.
Once you’ve identified the best location, you can use rocks or bricks to build a fire pit around it. Make sure each side of the circle is level and that the stones are arranged tightly together, without any gaps between them.
Choose the best firewood
The kind of wood you use for a campfire can make all the difference. The best firewood for a campfire is dry and seasoned hardwood, such as oak, hickory, or maple, which produces more heat and less smoke than green wood.
However, if you can’t access the seasoned hardwood, below is the essential category of fuel wood type:
- Tinder: Small twigs, dry leaves
- Kindling: small sticks
- Firewood: a large piece of wood, larger sticks
The best type of campfire for cooking
When you’re cooking over a campfire, the most commonly used fire shape for cooking is called the teepee (cone) or cabin. This type of fire has logs arranged in an upright teepee shape with tinder and kindling in the center.
The flames should be high enough to cook your food but not too high that it starts burning it.
If you plan on doing some basic grilling or boiling, this simple campfire will do.
Once the fire has been lit and is burning steadily, you can start arranging the logs or pieces of wood in a log cabin shape. This will provide an even cooking surface for your food and also help keep the fire going longer. You should build this type of campfire with larger logs so that it lasts longer and doesn’t burn out quickly.
Build the campfire
Cone (teepee) shape campfire:
To build a cone-shaped campfire, begin by placing a few pieces of tinder in the center and then add small kindling wood around it. Once the kindling is set up, arrange your larger firewood in a conical shape around the smaller tinder and kindling. You can also use twigs to bind the logs together to prevent them from shifting as your campfire burns. The key to a successful cone-shaped campfire is making sure that the tinder and kindling are tightly packed together so that they ignite quickly and easily. Once you have your firewood set up, light the tinder at the center of the campfire and allow the logs to start burning.
Log cabin campfire:
The log cabin campfire is a great way to achieve an even spread of heat throughout the fire. To build a log cabin campfire, start by placing several pieces of tinder in the center and arrange kindling around it in an upright teepee shape.
Once the kindling is set up, begin layering larger logs one at a time around the kindling in a cabin shape, using twigs or small pieces of wood to bind the logs together.
Once your campfire is built, light it at the center and allow it to burn until all of the logs have started burning. Once they’re burning steadily, you can adjust them as needed for optimal cooking or heating.
A pyramid campfire is great for larger groups or when you need a lot of heat from your fire. To build a pyramid campfire, start by arranging your tinder in the center and then building up kindling on top of it in a pyramid shape.
Once the kindling is set, arrange a few logs around it to form a cone-shaped base for the fire. Make sure that all of the logs are tightly packed together so that they stay in place as your fire burns.
Once your campfire is built, light the tinder at the center and allow it to burn until all of the logs have started burning.
Light the campfire
Lighting a campfire is not as simple as lighting an ordinary match. You will need to prepare the campfire area first, get some kindling and tinder, arrange it in the desired shape, and then light it.
The best way to start a campfire is with newspaper, dryer lint or cotton balls for your fire starter, and sticks or twigs as kindling. Arrange the tinder and kindling into your desired shape (such as a teepee, cabin, or pyramid), and then light it with a match.
Make sure to keep the flame close to the tinder and kindling until it catches fire. Once it’s lit, you can adjust and add larger logs as needed.
When the fire is burning steadily, you can start cooking or heating things over it. Be sure to monitor the fire at all times and always have a bucket of water nearby in case of emergency. With a bit of patience and practice, you’ll be able to light a campfire with ease!
Extinguish the campfire
When you’re done using your campfire, it is important to properly extinguish the fire. The easiest way to do this is with water. Pour a bucket of water over the fire, making sure to cover all of the embers and logs with enough water to smother them out. This will ensure that no spark or ember remains lit and will prevent forest fires.
If you don’t have access to a bucket of water, you can also use dirt or sand to cover the fire. Make sure that you cover all of the logs and embers with enough material to smother them out completely.
Once your campfire is extinguished, be sure to dispose of any remaining ashes in a safe area away from combustible materials. This will help prevent any potential fire hazards in the future.
A good rule of thumb from the US Forest Service is, “If it is too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.”
Clean up the campfire
Once your campfire is completely extinguished and all of the ashes are disposed of safely, make sure to clean up the area. Rake up any remaining debris or ashes, remove any logs that may have been left behind, and clear away any garbage or trash.
Make sure to check for any smoldering embers as well – if you find any, be sure to extinguish them completely.
Finally, make sure to check the area for any potential hazards that you may have missed while building or using your campfire. If necessary, take steps to prevent any future fire hazards in the area by cleaning up debris and trimming back plants. Following these steps will help ensure that your campfire area remains safe for future use.
How to start a campfire with wet wood
Starting a campfire with wet wood can be tricky, but it is possible. First, you will need to gather some dry kindling and tinder (newspaper or dryer lint works well). Make sure that the kindling is small and thick enough to create an adequate amount of heat when lit.
Next, place the wet logs on the bottom of your campfire pit and arrange the dry kindling and tinder on top. Light the kindling and tinder, making sure to keep a steady supply of oxygen flowing into the campfire. The heat from the small sticks will eventually dry out the larger logs, allowing them to catch fire.
Once your fire is burning steadily, add more wet logs as needed. Make sure to turn the logs often and keep supplying a steady flow of oxygen to make sure that the fire stays alive. With patience and practice, you should be able to successfully start a campfire with wet wood.
The bottom line
Campfires are an enjoyable and necessary part of the outdoor experience. With a bit of knowledge and practice, you can easily light a campfire in any environment.
Whether you’re starting with dry or wet wood, it is important to pay attention to fire safety – make sure that you always keep a bucket of water nearby in case of emergency, never leave the fire unattended, and properly extinguish it when you’re done.
With these tips, your campfire will be burning bright in no time!