Whether you’re building a campfire for cooking or trying to stay warm on a chilly night we’re going to cover the key steps for building a successful campfire.
Finding or Building a Fire Ring
When at a public campground make sure you only use the designated fire pits, grills, or rings. If your campground does not have one, check to see if campfires are allowed. There’s usually a sign at the entrance or hosts site.
If you’re camping at an undeveloped site, make sure to check with the Forest Service to make sure fires are allowed in the area, and during the season. These regulations often change based on the weather and fire hazard.
If you’re building your own fire pit, make sure to clear the area around the fire pit of anything that could catch fire. Make sure to avoid an area with low hanging branches or dead wood.
Gathering Fire Wood
To build a successful fire, you’ll need three types fuel: tinder, kindling and firewood.
- Tinder includes small twigs, dry leaves, needles or forest duff. You can also bring some newspaper – don’t feel bad about cheating.
- Kindling consists of small sticks, typically less than one inch around.
- Firewood is any larger piece of wood that will keep your fire going long into the night.
Building a Campfire
There are a few ways to build a fire, but here are the three most common and effective ways.
Teepee: Start with a small cone of kindling around a few handfuls of tinder that are loosely piled in the center of the fire ring. Once the fire is going strong and the temperature increases, you can add larger logs a few at a time as needed.
Log cabin: Place two larger pieces of firewood parallel to each other with some room in between to form the base of your structure. Then, turn 90 degrees and place two slightly smaller pieces on top and perpendicular to form a square. Place plenty of tinder inside the square. Continue adding a few more layers of firewood around the perimeter, getting a little bit smaller with each layer. Finish with a layer of kindling and tinder across the top. Remember to leave space between logs so the fire can get plenty of oxygen.
Upside down (pyramid): Start with three or four of your largest logs side-by-side on the bottom layer. Turn 90 degrees and then add a second layer of slightly smaller logs on top. Continue alternating a few more layers in this manner, getting smaller as you go. Place your kindling and tinder on top.
Lighting a Campfire
Light the tinder with a match or lighter. Using fire starter that is designed to easily ignite can help the tinder catch the flame. (Be sure to carry waterproof matches and firestarter for emergencies.)
After lighting the tinder, blow lightly at the base of the fire to provide oxygen, which will help increase the intensity of the flame and ignite the wood.
Extinguishing Your Campfire
Extinguish all fires by pouring water on them, stirring the ashes, then applying more water. Repeat as often as needed. Ashes should be cool to the touch before you leave the site. Be certain a fire and its embers are out and cold before you depart.