How To Successfully Build A Campfire

October 29, 2020

How To Successfully Build A Campfire

Learning how to build a campfire is an important skill. Admittedly, it's no longer necessary for survival, but it is still useful to know how to build one. 

Campfires are reminiscent of childhood, school trips, or family camping trips. It's a fun activity for children to try, with adult supervision, of course, and for grown-ups to enjoy learning too. 

This article explains how you can safely and efficiently build a simple campfire, whether you're out on a wild adventure or simply enjoying camping in the garden. 

1. Be Prepared 

Being prepared is key when working with fire and when adventuring in the wild. You must have the right camping gear to help you light a fire and, of course, to stay safe. 

If you're off camping, make sure you pack a firelighter or matches, dry wood in case it rains during your trip, and a container to fill with water if the fire misbehaves. Fire etiquette requires you to bring the right equipment to stay safe. 

2. Scout Out the Area 

The first thing you should do when camping is to check with the campsite manager, or whoever owns the land on which you're staying, that campfires are permitted. 

Most modern campgrounds have designated fire pit areas, which make it easier to light a campfire. However, if you're out in the wild, you'll need to look for the best area to lay your kindling. 

You'll want to find a clear area with no excess undergrowth. The last thing you want to do is light the fire in a dry area where multiple fire hazards are present, especially if you're on a family camping trip with young children around. 

3. Gather Materials 

If you're going camping in a designated camping area, you may want to come prepared with a bag of wood. However, if you're camping out in the wild, you should be able to gather sticks and larger logs from the surrounding areas. 

You should always burn wood and natural matter as opposed to any toxic substances such as plastic, which will emit nasty fumes. 

When hunting for firewood, you need to look for a variety of materials. Look for dry leaves and other matter (tinder), twigs and sticks (kindling), and logs (fuel) with which to build your fire and keep it well stoked. 

4. Dig a Dent 

Clear the area in which you're going to lay your campfire. You don't want any excess twigs or dry leaves lying around that could easily catch alight and spread the fire. 

Once you've done this, you should dig a shallow dent. Preferably you'll be digging the pit into a soil or sand base, rather than grass (especially if it's dry). The pit's center should be the lowest point, as this should help contain the fire. 

Once the pit has been hollowed out, you should surround it with medium-sized stones. You can gather these while you're looking for firewood. These stones are placed around the edge of your fire area in order to contain any wild flames and keep the fire hot. 

5. Lay Your Fire 

Dry matter, or tinder, is first to go into the fire pit. Tinder catches alight easily and is the best and easiest way to start a fire. 

The classic campfire laying technique is to lay down your tinder and build a teepee shape around it using kindling. Leave a small opening in the side, however, to let the air in. The teepee shape will help to protect baby flames, and a bit of air will encourage them, like bellows. 

6. Light the Fire  

Once the wood is stacked, you can light the campfire with a match or a lighter. Another method is to fiercely rub two sticks together until a spark forms, but this can be time-consuming and isn't always successful. 

If you have laid your kindling in a cone shape, you should light the tinder beneath this cone. If the match doesn't catch the first time, try again. If the flames continually fail, you may have to adjust your structure to let in more or less air and add more tinder. 

Fire etiquette requires you to never leave your fire untended once it's lit, so make sure someone is always watching. 

7. Keep Stoking the Fire 

Make sure that once the flames have caught, you start putting on larger pieces of wood to keep the flames alive. Small twigs burn out easily, and if you're not careful, your fire will go out. 

Start by adding more kindling, and when the fire is hot enough, you can begin to place larger logs on the flames. It's important not to add too many at once; otherwise, the fire will be smothered. 

You should also make sure to carefully place larger logs on the flames and not drop them. The weight of the log can also crush the flames and cause your campfire to go out. If this happens, you are likely to have to start again. 

8. Put the Fire Out 

Every camper knows that you should never leave a fire alight, even if it's just the embers. Fires can quickly spread, especially if it's windy. 

You should start by reducing the number of logs put onto the campfire. If the embers need some encouragement to go out, you can sprinkle water over them and stir them up. You'll know the fire is out when the fire pit stops steaming. 

Once the fire is out, you should brush over the ashes, fill in your pit (if you're camping in the wild), and clear up any remaining camping gear. 

Eager to Learn More Camping Tips?

With this campfire guide, you should have all you need to light a spark on your next trip. If you're new to camping or simply wish to access more camping advice, join our mailing list today! We'll provide you with expert camping tips to set you on your way. 

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