How to Build a Campfire

Camping just isn’t camping without a campfire. The smell, the warmth, the dancing flames, the crackle, the glowing coals, the taste of campfire cooked meals, the friends, the songs, the stories, the sound of crickets and of course the yummy smores. Campfires provide a connection with nature, a time of reflection and a feeling of peace.

Enjoy your next campfire!

  • Clear area of all debris/avoid area with overhanging branches
  • Construct a fire ring surrounded by rocks
  • Have a bucket of water, shovel and a fire extinguisher nearby and ready to put out a fire
  • Gather wood and stack in separate piles away from fire area. Do not use green or freshly cut wood.
    • There are three different kinds of wood needed for a successful campfire
      • Tinder – small twigs, wood shavings, dry leaves or grass, dry needles, bark or dryer lint. This should start to burn immediately with a lighted match.
      • Kindling – small sticks 1″ around or less
      • Fuel – larger wood that keeps the fire going
  • Elements required for a fire to burn properly. When one of these three things are removed, the fire stops burning. Example – Water cools fuel below ignition point, dirt cuts off the oxygen supply.
    • Fuel- material that will burn
    • Heat – enough heat to bring fuel to ignition
    • Air – to provide oxygen to burning process
  • Start with a couple hands full of tinder loosely piled in the center of your fire ring.
  • With your back to the wind and match protected by the cup of your hand, ignite tinder with a match. Discard used match into the fire.
  • Slowly add more tinder. You may need to blow softly at the base of the fire.
  • Once the tinder has fully started to burn, slowly add some smaller pieces of kindling. Keep close together but allow space for air.
  • Gradually increase the size of the kindling you add to the fire.
  • When you have a good fire going , add the fuel one piece at a time as described below. Allow for adequate air flow.
  • Types of Fires
    • Tepee Fire – good for quick cooking since the heat is concentrated in one spot. Lay the fuel over your kindling like a tepee.
    • Crisscross Fire – good for a long lasting fire with a lot of coals. Excellent for a campfire. Lay the fuel over the kindling in a crisscross pattern.
  • Safety with Fire
    • NEVER build a fire near tents or other flammable items.
    • NEVER use flammable fluids to start a fire.
    • NEVER leave fire unattended.
    • Build a fire only as big as you need.
    • Make sure to completely extinguish fire.
      • Scatter ashes or embers out.
      • Sprinkle with water. Stir with a stick. Repeat.
      • Drench charred logs.
      • Repeat until everything is cold.
  • Check out the Smokey Bear website
  • Check out these Home-made Firestarters

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5 Replies to “How to Build a Campfire”

  1. Nate,
    I have never heard of such nonsense as scattering ashes!!! Leave No Trace says “if there is no fire ring, then don’t start one”. NEVER scatter ashes. Jorge is 100% correct.

  2. Great tips on how to build a fire.
    This info is so helpful because a campfire is
    fun but also can be dangerous too.
    Thanks for post!

  3. 1.lots of tender
    2.biger fire wood you well need this after the fire gets lit
    3.the you want to get some paper and a match
    4.then light the paper put it gently in the fire
    5.then add the bigger wood when the fire is complete

  4. Jorge,
    If you knew anything about camping and and the current codes (rules), you would know about the Leave No Trace doctrine that that has been taught for quite a while now. If you are camping in a area that HAS set fire areas there no need to scatter the ashes just make sure the fire is out by being able to put your hand in the ashes with out feeling heat. However, if you are backpacking or there are no set fire ring, one must Leave No Trace. In other words, put the fire out and scatter the ashes and ring and make it look the same as before you got there.
    Look it up. This is taught by the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Forest service.

  5. 1. DO NOT “scatter” a fire or its remains! Duh! Some fools/er, tenderfeet will throw or shovel or “scatter” supposedly cold ashes and embers into the woods! Duh!

    KEEP all ash and embers INSIDE the g.d. fire ring and by “scatter” you mean rake the ash/coals/bed of the fire flat and then DROWN WITH water or cover with dirt….

    A fool city slicker I know shovelled ash into the woods, thinking duh the great wilderness is but a dumping round and uncivilized…the ash smoldered, got into the roots of a huge pine tree, smoldered for days, travelled a half acre, burned and exploded pine trees from the inside and caused a serious forest fire…..

    A gun is always loaded. A fire is NEVER out…

    Fire–a wonderful servant, a terrible master!

    You need to amend your otherwise excellent advice as per above.

    Also, advise tenderfeet that green wood will SMOKE as well as be difficult to burn…..

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