A guy has to know how to build decent campfires. Elevate your outdoor experience by learning how to start a campfire with these 8 easy steps below.
How To Make a Campfire | Follow These 8 Simple Steps
Step 1: Scout For the Best Campfire Location
The general rule is to make your campfire at least 10 feet (3 meters) away from flammable materials like overhanging trees or your tent. Choose an area that is sheltered away from the wind but is at an appropriate distance to keep you and your surroundings safe. Build your campfire on flat ground to prevent smoldering embers from rolling away.
Step 2: Make a Firebed
Before making one, always check if your campsite has existing fire beds you can use. Use pre-existing fire pits whenever possible when camping in the wild. Of course, there will be times when you’ll have to make your own. Pick an area away from trees or plants. Fire beds are to be made on bare earth, not on top of grassy areas, especially not on dead ones. You don’t want to be the guy who started a blazing wildfire. If you can’t find an area with exposed soil, you can dig or rake away plants or grass. Stay away from dry plant material—dry grass, branches, barks—as these easily catch fire.
After clearing the area, gather soil and carefully place some in the middle of the cleared area. Create your fire bed by making a 3- or 4-inch thick platform using the soil.
Step 3: Create a Ring of Rocks
Using a ring of rock to contain the fire is a good campfire practice. Collect dry, fist-sized rocks and make a circle out of them, keeping them some inches apart to let air circulate at the bottom. Don’t use wet or damp rocks as they can fracture when exposed to heat.
Step 4: Gather Firewood
It’s common sense—you’ll want to pick up dry wood. Anything that’s green, too wet, or bends without making a sound won’t burn well or won’t light up at all. If possible, gather only fallen wood. It’s better for nature, plus these pieces burn better. You’ll need three main materials to build a robust campfire:
Tinder – This is every good campfire’s starter. Tinder burns easily and quickly. Dry bark, dry grass, and wood shavings are perfect firestarters. You can also bring dryer lint or homemade char cloth as tinder. This will be especially handy when it’s wet outside. Wet tinder will not catch fire.
Kindling – The ideal campfire hierarchy goes: tinder-kindling-fuelwood. Skip the kindling and the little flames from your tinder will die out quickly. The kindling goes in the middle for a reason. It burns up quickly but stays afire longer after lighting up your fuelwood. Small twigs and branches about the width of a pencil make the best kindling.
Fuelwood – As its name suggests, this is what will keep your fire hot and burning. Fuelwood doesn’t have to be like the thick logs used in fireplaces. Use logs that are too big and you’ll wait forever for them to catch fire. It’s best to gather wood that is as wide as your wrist and forearm and branches of different girths.
Step 5: Time To Lay The Fire
Here are some of the most common ways to lay a fire:
Tepee – Put some tinder in the center of your fire bed and build a “kindling tepee” around. Make sure to leave small gaps for air circulation. Build the tepee up gradually with smaller fuelwood. To build the tepee more easily, keep your kindling and fuelwood upright on their thicker ends.
Lean-to Fire Lay – At about a 30º angle, stick a long piece of kindling into the ground as your main support. You can also lean it against a bigger log. Place a bundle of tinder and smaller kindling underneath the main support and lay more kindling around the outside. Continue adding layers.
Step 6: Light It Up
Light up the center tinder as quickly as possible. Long-necked lighters are better than matches and cigarette lighters when lighting up campfires. Make sure to always bring one!
Step 7: Build It Up
Once your foundation is ablaze, it’s time to build it up. Watch the video below on the best method for your situation. Just remember to build up your fire slowly and steadily; use thinner branches first and work up to larger logs. If you plan on cooking, opt for a log cabin built for the best support. If not, a lean-to or tepee campfire are the easiest to build.
Step 8: Putting It Out
After all that campfire fun, you’ll have to put out the fire. Follow this simple checklist below:
Put it out early. It’s going to take you longer than you think to put out the fire completely. Start putting it out at least 20 minutes before leaving or going to bed.
Sprinkle. Pouring is a big no-no. To ensure safety, always have a bucketful of water near the campfire. When it is finally time to go, use it as your fire extinguisher. Don’t pour all the water into the fire as someone will need to use it after you. Put out the embers and charcoal by sprinkling as much water as you need.
Stir. To make sure that it is completely put out, stir the embers with a shovel or stick as you sprinkle water over them. Check for steam and hissing. The absence of both means you’re close to finishing the job.
Touch Test. Just to be 100% sure, feel the area near the ashes. If still hot, keep sprinkling and stirring. Leave only when it turns cool to the touch.
Ash Disposal. Be a respectful camper. Leave the fire bed clean for the next group. If you made your own, leave the area as to how you’ve initially found it. Scoop up the ashes and put them in a bag, then spread them out around the campsite.
Patch up your ground. If you created your own fire bed, replace the soil and sod the area you dug up.
Learn the different types of campfires according to your need from this video by 50 Campfires below:
Be a smart camper! Always research about and follow the fire regulations in the area you are camping. And as a respect to others and to the environment, always leave no trace after camping.
Do you have any manly campfire building techniques? Share ’em with us in the comments section below!