How to Build a Campfire even if you have never done so.
This is a beginners guide on getting started with that campfire.
How to Build a Campfire
Campfires are one of the most enjoyable reasons for going camping in the first place.
This is the place where everyone gathers around a warm fire to make both memories and meals.
Did you read my article about the Beginners Guide to Camping ?
That article has many great ideas that could be helpful for you.
Even if you have been camping in the past, there may be information of use in that article.
Starting a campfire is just part of the journey. You can find all kinds of helpful tools for campfire cooking here.
Some people ask what is the purpose of a campfire.
Just like when you light up the grill or even your stove, a campfire can help cook food. You can cook your meals, sides, and even desserts on that fire while you are camping.
Here is what else you can use that campfire for.
- Warmth, especially when it gets cool at night.
- Light for when it gets dark out.
- A repellent for insects and animals.
- A gathering spot for people.
What is the difference between a campfire and a bonfire.
When it comes to camping and campfire, there are specific norms and rules that are followed as campfires are happening often. Campfires at camping grounds have strict rules to be followed as there are many fires started as well as people coming through on a daily basis.
Bonfires on the other hand, are usually a one time thing.
This kind of a fire is less common as it is usually done for a special reason such as an event. Also, bonfire are generally larger fires that may have different uses than a campfire has.
Tips for making a campfire.
Do your preparation and research in finding out if you are actually allowed to start a campfire in a desired location, the rules specific to that location, and if you will also need some kind of a permit to do so. When you get to your specific campsite there may be a fire ring already provided that you may need to use.
Here is what you may need for your campfire.
- Knowledge about safety concerns.
Finding a location for a campfire.
After you have determined the rules for your campground or location, here is how to pick the perfect place for your campfire.
- Find a flat spot that at least 10 feet away from anything that can catch on fire.
- Your campfire should be where there is no wind, branches, or anything that can catch fire.
- Use a shovel or a rake to clear the area.
Decide on the type of campfire you will build.
A teepee style campfire is just like it sounds- a campfire that is make in the shape of a teepee.
This is an easy campfire to make that does its job however, it usually burns out sooner than other campfires do. Teepee style campfires are a popular choice for beginners.
Here is how to get started with your teepee style campfire.
- Start by placing small tinder in a pile.
- Next, use kindling that is stacked like a teepee with a central peak over that pile.
- You can build this out by layering larger kindling or sticks around this.
- It is a good idea to use rocks to encircle this to keep the fire from expanding.
A criss cross campfire is a popular and easy campfire to make.
This campfire building style involves progressively laying increasingly larger diameter wood on the fire in a square as if you are building a cabin, hence, it is also known as a cabin fire.
To build this fire you need to lay a row of sticks parallel to each other and then make a row perpendicular to that and progressively increase the size of the sticks.
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What can be used as tinder.
Tinder is what will be used to get the fire going after you light the match or flick on your lighter.
For this reason, tinder needs to be small yet, combustible.
Here are some examples of what you may want to use as tinder.
- Twigs, barks or similar items that have fallen off of trees,
- Cotton items such as cotton balls or twine.
- Dried grass or weeds.
- Paper items- stick to black and white or plain.
What is campfire kindling.
Think of kindling as the link between the tinder and the fire logs. That is, once the fire is started by lighting the fast burning tinder, it is the kindling that passes the fire on to the logs.
Here are some examples of kindling.
- Larger sticks that are about an inch in diameter and up to two feet long, depending on the desired size of your fire.
- Softer woods such as pine.
- Prepackaged kindling, which is an excellent idea as it is dry and all ready to go.
How to select firewood.
The goal when selecting firewood is for the wood to be dry. While it may be easy to find dry logs early in the season or snag what is leftover from other campsites, the wood should be dry enough to hold the flames from your campfire.
Here is what else you may want to keep in mind when selecting wood for your fire.
- Even if you are certain that the location of your campfire will have firewood logs available, bring a few of your own dry logs just in case.
- Wood from trees with harder wood (such as oak and birch) last the longest, have the best flames, and are easier to handle as there is less sap.
- Softer wood, such as pine, burn faster and emit more smoke.
- Avoid burning wood that is diseased or has mold on it (do you really want to breath that in?).
- Generally speaking, the best wood to use for a campfire is older, as dried out as possible (some folks dry their wood for at least six months to get it right!), and comes from hardwood trees.
- The worst wood to use for a campfire is wet, diseased or is from a softer wood tree such as pine.
What is a fire starter?
Fire starters are options other than lighter fluid that are used to help light the campfire.
You can find a variety of fire starters here as they are commonly used for campfire.
Why should you bring a firestarter with you?
The big answer is water, from rain, snow, or other sources.
A fire starter can make starting a fire much easier if you encounter wet wood sources.
Safety concerns when building a campfire.
Obviously, when dealing with fire, there must be caution taken to keep everyone and everything around the fire safe.
Here is what experienced campers know about campfire.
- Always ALWAYS check with the host or where you are starting your campfires to find out the rules, cautions, or other information for that day and location.
- Some folks prefer to use local firewood that can be purchased close to or at the location. However, you never know when that may not be an option.
- If there is a provided pit at the campsite, use that as it is there for a reason.
- As mentioned earlier, keep note of the wind especially its direction and strength as you probably do not want to be responsible for a spreading fire.
- Keep children and pets far away from the fire and always in your view.
- Do not leave your fire unattended and remember to put it out when you are finished.