Every good camping trip has a campfire. The campfire is what pulls everyone around at night for warmth, campfire stories, and great discussions. So it is essential that you know how to start a campfire. Sure you could always cheat and go the Duraflame route or you could use one of the many firestarter products out there to give yourself an advantage, or you could do it like our primal ancestors and build your own fire with nothing more than some firewood you gathered or purchased, tinder, kindling. Hell, sometimes you will still need all of this with the fancy firestarter products if you are trying to start it in damp or wet conditions. Either way we will walk you through getting your campfire started.

Create Your Campfire Ring

Whenever you are building a campfire, make sure you are building it away from vegetation, trees, and bushes, etc. You should not build your campfire on any grassy surfaces, it should be bare dirt under your fire. Campfires when not build properly can easily get out of control and grow quickly.

Next you want to make sure you have a fire ring of some kind. Your fire ring may be as simple as a stacked circle of rocks or a rugged steel fire barrel provided by the campground where you are camping. There are a couple reasons you need a fire ring, the biggest is to provide some kind of barrier to prevent hot sparks from popping into your chair, tent, or the tinder dry bush that you are camping next to. The fire ring also helps to contain logs as they are burning, so that they do not fall and roll out of your fire. You can also make a fire ring by digging a small hole in the ground with a shovel if rocks are not available.

Once you have secured a safe spot for your fire and built a fire ring, if needed, it is time to gather your firewood.

Materials Needed

You will need a few types of burnable materials to build your campfire; tinder, kindling, and firewood.

Tinder – This kind of material burns easily and fast and is used to start your fire and ignite your kindling. Tinder is often dead tree bark, dry leaves or grasses, and very small twigs. Dryer lint also makes great tinder.

Kindling – Your tinder is quick burning and is used to ignite the kindling in your campfire. Kindling usually is small branches or can even be larger chunks of dead tree bark or small splits of wood. Generally kindling will be no bigger than a half-inch to inch in thickness.  small branches.

Firewood – Firewood is the largest materials and what will burn for the long haul and keep you warm all night long.

In general, whether you a re collecting your firewood or buying it, overestimate what you think you will need, as different types of wood burn faster than others.

Preparing the Campfire

While there are different ways that you can organize your fire, and there are benefits to each, depending on your situation (i.e. high winds), we prefer the Teepee method. In the Teepee campfire method, your campfire is organized and looks like a teepee. To organize your fire, use the following steps:

  1. Put your the tinder staked and bunched in the middle of your fire ring.
  2. Using your kindling, place one end of the end of the kindling on the ground outside your tinder, and then lean the upper end of the kindling against another piece of kindling, until they are supporting one another. Repeat this until your tinder is fully encircled with kindling and it looks like you have a small teepee.
  3. With your firewood, repeat step two and build a larger teepee around your kindling teepee.
  4. Using a match light your tinder. You will want to light the tinder from underneath if possible to direct the flame up to the kindling and firewood.
  5. If all went well your tinder will ignite, which will in turn ignite your kindling, which will in turn ignite the firewood. Depending on the type of materials you used, it could take anywhere from a few minutes to 10-20 minutes before you have a decent fire, don’t be impatient and mess with it, as it could ruin the fire. Once the fire is going it will eventually collapse into a burning pile of wood. This is OK, just add more wood as needed to keep the campfire going.

When you are done with your fire make sure you put it out completely and safely. You do not want to be the careless person that starts a massive forest fire.

Do you have another way to make a fire? Let us know how you build your fires in the comments below.

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Justin is an IT Professional, focused on cloud, mobile, and infrastructure management and security with his consulting business, as well as chief bottle washer for this website. In addition to NextCampsite.com, Justin also runs and writes for the technology infrastructure-focused blog OddJobsInTech.com, and the mobile device-focused blog EnterpriseMobileDevice.com.


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