Whether you’re building a campfire to enjoy with friends on a camping trip or keeping yourself warm through a cold winter night, knowing how to build a great fire is a must-have skill. To build the perfect campfire, you need the right combination of tinder and fire starter, as well as the right way to feed your fire with oxygen for it to burn as long as possible. Are you ready to work on your campfire building skills? This infographic will give you the perfect instructions to build campfires.
1. Prepare Your Site
Choosing the right spot is the first step in building your campfire. Make sure there are no trees and branches right above your campfire. Otherwise, they could catch fire. Start digging a circular pit with a diameter of about 3 feet and a depth of 6 inches. You can also put large stones or bricks around the pit to secure the fire.
2. Gather Tinder and Wood
You can’t just burn wood by lighting it with a match. You need something that burns easily to ignite the fire. This is where tinder comes into play, as this material burns easily. Look around for dry leaves and small branches. You can also use old newspaper as an alternative to tinder if you have lots of it. Below are examples of tinder to start a fire:
- Pine Needles
- Dry Leaves
- Old Man’s Beard
- Birch Bark
Tip: Soak balls of dryer lint in petroleum jelly before your next trip for a great make-ahead firestarter.
Campfires Require Kindling and Fuel Wood
- Kindling is composed of small, dry branches and twigs that can be arranged to easily catch fire. If you can’t find small sticks nearby, you can just gather bigger pieces of wood and cut them up to the ideal size for kindling.
- Fuelwood comes in the form of larger branches, split wood, and logs that are used to keep a fire going. When choosing wood for your campfire, remember that softwood, such as cedar and pine, catches fire easier, but burns out faster. On the other hand, hardwood like oak and ash is harder to ignite but burns for a longer time.
Tip: Both kindling and fuelwood should be dry when gathered. To test if your kindling is dry, try bending a piece. It should snap and not bend if it’s dry.
3. Build a Teepee
Positioning your wood is very important in building the fire. One of the most efficient campfire building techniques is by balancing the wood against each other in the form of a teepee. This allows air to flow between the wood and the fire to breathe. The tinder should be gathered in a loose bundle and placed in the middle of your teepee.
Different campfire types call for different stacking methods so it’s best to learn about them before your trip.
Tip: Be sure that there’s a safe distance between your fire pit and other objects that might catch fire, such as your gear or tent.
4. Light the Tinder
Now it’s time to light the fire. Light the tinder and gradually add more before it all burns out. As soon as the wood or kindling begins to burn, you can stop adding tinder, as the air will help keep the fire burning. Bear in mind not to use gasoline. That way, you can avoid harming the environment.
Tip: Always bring a lighter or life strike since these will come in handy to easily start a fire during emergency situations. If you’re using matches, be sure to carry the waterproof kind or store them in a waterproof case.
5. Add Kindling and Fuel Wood
At this point, the kindling should be well-lit and your fire should be nice and hot. Add wood gradually to avoid smothering the fire. You can control the fire a bit by adding smaller pieces of wood. What’s important is you have your campfire built nice and warm.
To keep the fire going, add fuelwood, starting with small pieces, which catch fire more easily, then add medium and finally, large pieces.
Tip: Be sure to pace between adding wood. Adding them too quickly will smother the fire. Be sure there’s enough airflow to ensure that your fire won’t burn out.
Measuring Your Material
Remember these basic measurements so you’ll know how much tinder, kindling, and fuelwood you need.
Your tinder should be enough to fill a circle made with your hand. It should be around the size of a pencil lead and longer than your outstretched hand.
Your kindling should be enough for an armload. It should be as thick as or no thicker than your thumb and a length from your elbow to your fingertips.
Your fuelwood stack has to be as high as the length from your feet up to your knees. It should also be around the size of your wrist and the length of your arm.
Campfires Types for Every Situation
- Has a structure similar to a teepee tent and is one of the most basic ways to start a fire.
- The narrow ends keep the fire contained, while the wild gaps at the bottom promote ideal airflow and oxygen supply.
- This can be used to start a beach fire by building a large teepee using pole-sized driftwood. A teepee fire can also be used for boiling and cooking by hanging the pot directly above it.
Star or Indian Fire
- Has a star-shaped structure that makes use of only five or six pieces of wood, with the fire burning in the middle.
- Doesn’t produce a big fire but requires very little maintenance to keep burning for long periods of time.
- This can be a survival fire at night to keep you warm and keep predators away.
- Has a parallel structure wherein two logs are placed side-by-side and the fire is trapped between the two logs.
- Its structure keeps the fire protected from the wind.
- You can place a pot on top of the two logs to cook or boil something.
Building your fire successfully is very satisfying. It can also be very frustrating if you’re not doing it correctly. You have to do everything right, just as this campfire infographic illustrates. Try to remember these few steps by heart and you’ll be able to build a campfire in no time!
Building a campfire is a necessary skill in survival situations. Starting a fire is just the beginning. You need to know certain techniques in positioning your firewood and maintaining the flame as long as you need it. Take note of these simple instructions and get your campfire going on your next night out in the woods.