How to Build a Fire

Get that fire crackling with these surefire tips

Flickr/Cape Cod Cyclist

Camping is not complete without the continual crackling of the campfire. And without that noise, it is almost certain that your fire will not sustain. So whether you are building a fire to fend off the mosquitoes, or to roast some marshmallows for s’mores, making that wood burn is a necessary skill. I've experienced my own fair share of failed campfires in need of some rekindling, so now I present to you a surefire way of keeping your flame going.

Note: Pack matches or a lighter. It really does make your life much easier. Everything else we can leave up to finding in the woods.

Step 1: Gather what you need.

a. Gathering what you need is best remembered by sizes. First the smallest of the essentials, called tinder. Tinder is the easiest burning material and there are many options. If we are sticking solely to what we find in the woods, you can use leaves or wood shavings. Wood shavings can easily be made by your Swiss Army knife. If you have any newspaper or cardboard on you, they also work as great tinder too.

b. Next, you need kindling. One up in size, kindling includes twigs and very small branches.

c. Finally, firewood. Firewood can range in size but they should be thicker and longer logs than what you used for kindling. Make sure your logs of firewood are completely dry as that can be a determining factor of a well lit campfire.

Related: How to Choose a Campsite

Step 2: Create a fire pit.

a. Find an area with little vegetation. You want to clear a space of at least 5 feet. Even though you won’t be using this much space for the actual fire, you need it to be clear so to prevent accidents and forest fires.

b. Dig about a 3-foot wide hole, not deep, just enough to loosen the dirt. Surrounding this patch of loosened dirt place rocks. This is your fire pit.

Step 3: Build the fire.

I am a fan of the teepee style which is great for cooking, and a long-lasting fire.

a. Place your tinder in a pile in the middle of the pit.

b. Place your kindling over the tinder in a teepee like fashion.

Note: Here is where practice may come in handy. It’s easier to light the tinder in this stage, before you place the firewood over it. But if you are not quick with setting up the teepee style just yet, you may want to set up the teepee of firewood first, and then light the tinder.

c. Place the firewood in a teepee fashion over the tinder and kindling. If you need some more length to reach lighting the tinder use a larger leaf, or if you have newspaper this is a great way to stuff the bottom and get the rest of the tinder really lit. Light the tinder from all different sides so that the fire is evenly distributed.

Step 4: Watch your fire.

Enjoy your fire. Remember the style of the teepee when adding firewood. It doesn’t have to stay in that fashion once the fire really gets going. But the whole point of the teepee set up is that air can get underneath the wood and allows it to breath, lighting much more easily. So when adding fire remember to leave some breathing room underneath the logs.

Step 5: Putting out your fire.

Always pour water on your fire if you are leaving it. If you plan on using this fire pit again, sprinkle water lightly, and use a fire poker, or poking stick to push the coals into the sprinkled water so that it all gets wet. Once the hissing sound is done, your fire is out.

Safety is very important when building a campfire. So make sure to check out these fire safety tips for wildfire season.


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