Campfires can keep us warm, dry our clothing, boil and disinfect water, cook our food and even keep wildlife away from us.
Building a campfire is a crucial skill for every outdoorsmen and it takes more than just stacking some wood and sticking a lit match near it.
However, with the right knowledge, materials and tools, anyone can build a campfire like an outdoor pro.
For a small fire you can use your hands and two matches
For a medium fire you will need a knife
For a big fire you will need an axe and a saw.
STEP 1: GATHER TINDER
Tinder is an easily combustible material used at the first stage of starting a fire. Its main purpose is to ignite kindling.
It can be made of any flammable substance, as long as it is finely divided and has an open structure.
Keep in mind:
Dead and dry twigs
Tree bark fiber
STEP 2: PREPARE KINDLING
Kindling is small dry wood sticks used to ignite the fuel of the main fire such as wood logs. It keeps the fire going after it is started.
STEP 3: SHAPE THE FUEL
Wood logs are the main fuel that keep the fire going after it is started.
Chop or saw from a dead tree, never a live one (green).
STEP 4: CLEAR THE AREA
Clear a space at least 6 feet (1.8 m) in diameter around the fireplace, free of burnable material such as trees, brush, and low branches.
Consider digging a fire pit. Setting a fire on the surface without knowing what is under the fire pit can lead to a root fire which can show up several feet away from the actual fire site.
Gather enough dry tinder, kindling, and fuel wood before you start the fire.
Place all within easy reaching distance of your fireplace.
STEP 5: LIGHT THE FIRE
Bend the tinder in half and light the center.
Light the fire from the windward side.
Add kindling carefully to keep the fire growing.
Let your fire burn down to a fine ash.
Afterward, ensure your fire is completely extinguished.
STEP 6: ARRANGE THE WOOD
There are 7 ways to arrange the wood from simple to complex.
* See WOOD ARRANGEMENTS at the end of this guide for additional information to select which choice works best for you.
Place the larger pieces of wood appropriately on the cleared area, followed by smaller pieces and sticks.
Be sure to allow the air to circulate throughout the arrangement.
Do not overload by adding too much wood as it will suffocate & extinguish the fire quickly.
TEEPEE: Sticks propped upright against each other
+ Easy to make, produces a lot of heat
- Requires more maintenance, hard to start in wind
LEAN-TO: Sticks leaning against a larger log
+ Easy to make, great against wind & light rain
- Burns quickly & less heat
STAR: Sticks spread out in a star shape
+ Long-burning with different cooking temperatures
- Requires maintenance & vulnerable in wind
PLATFORM: Stacked upside-down or pyramid shape
+ Lasts about 6 hours, lots of heat, & great for cooking
- Takes more time to build & cut logs
LOG CABIN: 2 by 2 stacked & spaced horizontally
+ Lasts a long time, produces lots of heat for cooking, & low maintenance
- Takes time to build & harder to keep fire when windy
ROCK REFLECTOR: Teepee with rock protection
+ Easy to make, efficient, high heat
- Burns quickly & high heat
+ Slow burn, great for group fires
- Takes time to build & fire mainly on top