Do you like the great outdoors? Do you like the idea of camping but have little experience doing so? Wondering how to properly start a fire at a campsite? Learn some campfire basics here that will improve your next excursion into nature and make you look like a natural at a campsite.
Preparing a proper firepit
If you are at a campsite without a pre-made firepit, you can make your own safe version in just a couple of steps.
- Clear out an area about 10 feet in diameter, clearing out all sticks, leaves, and loose grass
- Dig a pit in the earth about a foot deep (this will keep the fire contained and prevent it from spreading).
- Circle the pit with rocks
- You are ready to make a campfire
It is a good idea for safety to always have a bucket of water and a shovel nearby and ready when you are making a campfire.
If the fire breaks containment, you will have the necessary means to contain it before it can spread.
When you are done for the night, you can douse the flames with water and cover the coals and embers with soil to prevent the wind from reigniting embers in the fire area and spreading flames in the night
Building a proper campfire
Go fetch some firewood! Will any wood do? Not necessarily; you’ll want to gather three kinds of catalysts to fuel your campfire:
This isn’t a dating app, kids. Tinder is what will ignite your campfire and form the base of it. Tinder catches fire easily but burns fast.
- Material like dry leaves, dry bark, wood shavings, dry grass, and dry pine needles make for good tinder.
- You can even bring your own tinder in the form of dryer lint or homemade char cloth.
- Homemade char cloth is any cloth made from 100% plant fiber that has been charred but not burned It is commonly used when employing flint and steel to make a fire in order to catch a spark. That spark then grows into an ember that can then be transferred to a tinder bundle and blown into flame.
Follow the instructions listed here to make your own homemade char cloth: https://www.twineagles.org/char-cloth.html.
- Kindling refers to any sticks less than 1” in diameter.
- These sticks are what initially feed the flames and grow the fire.
Fuel or Firewood
- These are larger branches, logs, and other pieces of wood that go on once the fire has been started and is burning strong.
- Firewood should be dry and stored upwind of the fire to avoid catching accidentally.
- Loosely pile your tinder at the center of the fire pit.
- This is the core of your fire and will start the other material burning.
- Arrange your kindling according to your needs for the fire.
Arranging your kindling
Cooking over a campfire: For cooking over a campfire, you want hot coals. There are easy methods to arrange your kindling in order to produce more hot coals.
Teepee method: Stack your kindling like you are constructing a tent. The kindling should make a conical shape with a wide base merging at the top.
Lean-to method: Drive a long piece of kindling into the ground at an angle over the tinder. Then lean smaller pieces of kindling against the longer.
For a longer lasting fire that burns slower, use one of the following methods for stacking your kindling:
Criss-cross method: Cross the kindling over the tinder in an X pattern.
Chimney or log cabin method: Make a square of your kindling by surrounding the tinder and stacking at right angles, piling vertically.
Building up your fire
- Ignite your fire using matches, a lighter, or flint and steel (taster’s choice).
- Carefully add more tinder as the flames begin to grow.
- Blow lightly on the tinder where you lit it.
- Fire needs oxygen to grow, so gentle breath will help the tinder to combust.
- Add a bit more kindling once the fire catches in the manner you’ve laid it out.
- Steadily add larger pieces of firewood to the flames once they are burning steadily.
- Get the s’mores ready and break out the guitar, you have yourself a campfire!
Extinguishing your fire
When you are done for the night with your campfire, follow these simple steps to ensure the fire is extinguished completely and the area remains safe from forest fire:
- Allow the wood to burn down completely to ash if possible.
- Pour water on all the embers, not just the red ones, until you can no longer hear a hissing sound.
- If you do not have water handy, bury embers in dirt or sand.
- Scrape any remaining embers off logs with your shovel.
- Continue to add water or sand/dirt until all remnants of the fire are cool.
- If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave unattended and is a risk for forest fire to start.
Check out these online resources for more tips on how to make a safe and enjoyable campfire: