How to Make a Campfire – Everything You Need to Know

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When it comes to camping, nothing beats sitting around a campfire. It is the best part of the experience. You sit around and gather up the warmth it has to offer. You snuggle, roast food, gaze at the stars, and tell stories, all while bonding with your friends. It is an enriching affair that you cannot get anywhere else. In this article, you will learn how to make a campfire.

Set the Groundwork

Before anything else, you must be sure to clear the ground area. Doing so guarantees safety. Nothing is worse than being the bozo to start another wildfire. Protect the natural world by removing any brush, leaves, or flammable material that could catch light by being next to your fire.

If you are in a camp ground, there is usually a designated area specifically for fires. Find one and make use of it. If that is unavailable, consider digging a hole. It helps to keep the fire contained. Your fire should be on bare earth. With the ground cleared, place a layer of dirt 3-4 inches thick. Your campfire will be on top of this.

Gathering Wood

No campfire is complete without firewood. It provides the foundation for the warmth and heat we are looking for. There are distinctions between different woods that need to be made.

Tinder is the wood that will catch light easily. It is the starter flame that will get your campfire really going. Ideal tinder is newspaper, dry leaves, grass, wood shavings, or lint. In short, it catches quick. If it is wet outside, you cannot find readily available tinder, so you must be sure to bring your own.

Kindling is the wood that transitions your small flame into the healthy fire we are aiming for. It provides the fuel for intermediary step from small flame to campfire. Usually, it is about the size of a small tree’s branches.

Firewood is your primary fuel. It is the foundation for a great campfire. Aim to gather wood that is about the diameter of your forearm or wrist. Massive logs do work, but they take a while to burn and catch light.

Helpful tips

  1. Collect double what you need. Wood burns quickly, so do not be surprised when you run out. If you want your fire to last a long time, then bring plenty to keep it going.
  2. Dry wood burns the best. This is the kind of wood that snaps with ease. It does not bend, but cracks. Wet and/or green like wood will cause smoke. Firewood can be a little damp, but not too much so.

Placing Your Wood

There are a number of ways that you can arrange your camp fire wood. Each one brings its own benefits and drawbacks because, believe it or not, all campfires are not created equally.

  • Tepee, this involves leaning kindling, firewood, and tinder up against itself to form a cone-shaped tepee. Below the top of your cone is where the core of your heat will be. You place tinder in the center, then kindling and then your firewood on the outside.
  • Pyramid or log cabin, lay two pieces of firewood next to each other. Then lay two pieces of wood on top of those pieces perpendicular to the bottom logs. Then repeat the process for another pair. Two to three layers in this manner suffice. Place kindling and tinder in the center. As the fire burns, the top layers will fall into the core of heat.
  • Lean – to, in a lean to, one piece of firewood lies on the ground. Pieces of kindling are laid on top of it. The pocket of space between the ground and wood is where your tinder will go. A lean to is perfect for small spaces and areas without much room.

Sparking Your Campfire

Once you have placed the wood, you are now ready to start your campfire. There are a number of ways that you can light your campfire.

  • Use a lighter. This is one of the most common items you can find at a grocery store or gas station. With it, you can light your tinder in no time. It just requires a quick flick of the fingers. It is simple and easy.
  • Matches are another excellent option. They come in a box that can be found near any checkout aisle.
  • Flint and steel creates high heat sparks between metals. It involves striking a piece of carbon steel with flint. Aim for high quality ones you can get at your local hardware store to make great sparks.
  • Friction with sticks. This technique is a bit more in depth and time-consuming. It involves a lot of patience and persistence. In essence, you rub sticks together at high friction to create heat.

Dousing Your Fire

After enjoying the warmth of your campfire, you must be sure to extinguish it. You do so for the enjoyment of the people who come after you. There are a number of techniques that you do to take care of it.

  • Get a head start. When it comes to snuffing out your fire, it can take a lot more time than you think. Allow at least fifteen minutes to extinguish your flames.
  • Grab a bucket of water. When putting out your flames, a bucket of water will be perfect for dousing it. Once you start, spread the water by sprinkling it. Use the water sparingly because someone will want to use it later and they do not want a damp fire bed.
  • Use a stir stick. Have you ever stirred a cup of coffee? It is one of the best ways to cool it down. The technique is no different when it comes to your fire. Grab a stick and move the dirt and debris around. Doing so exposes more surface area to the colder air, cooling it down.
  • Touch test. You know something is hot when you touch it. For taking care of your fire, the same technique applies. Lightly touch the leftover debris in a couple different places. It makes sure that, overall, your fire is completely cooled down.
  • Take care of the ashes. After any fire, you want to remove the ashes. It gives the people who come after you the opportunity to enjoy what you did. Scoop ’em and spread ’em around the land. Ash is a great fertilizer.
  • Leave it as you found it. People enjoy pristine areas. I know I do. As you finish up your clean up, take a second look to make sure you have not missed anything. When you take the bit of extra time to review your clean up, it demonstrates respect for the natural world.

A Final Word

By sitting around a campfire, you can appreciate the beauty of our natural world. You can gaze up at the night sky or have a personal conversation with a friend. Telling a story, reflecting on yourself through the flames, and eating a warm meal can all be done through the company of a campfire. Sit on your log and enjoy the dance of flames.

If you think I missed anything, have a thought, or a question, please be sure to comment below and make it known. I hope you make it a great day!


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20 Comments on “How to Make a Campfire – Everything You Need to Know”

  1. Hi, Alex!
    Thank you so much for this great How To Post!
    I’m terrible at making fire, and this skill would be very useful for me as I spent past summer at my trailer in the woods.
    I will try to use your tips next summer and hopefully will create my first campfire!! Wish me luck 🙂
    * Bookmarked this! 🙂
    – Anna.

    1. Anna, I appreciate the compliment. Knowing how to make fire is always a great skill to learn, whether at the trailer park or camping under the stars. I hope you do well with your first campfire. Thank you for sharing.

  2. These are great tips for camping. I have not been camping in a very long time . I love these tips. I am going to book mark this page because I need these tips the next time I go. So many people have no respect for there camp grounds and leave it a mess I am glad you made it a point on telling everyone how to.

    1. I appreciate your thoughts Crystal. It is nice to hear that you will bookmark this page. Whenever I write a post, you will find that I cover all my bases. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. You have no idea how many times I’ve been camping and wanted to look up the perfect steps for building a campfire, lol. THANK YOU! I’m saving this and bookmarking it! Very easy to follow. Thank you!

    1. That is a great compliment Eric. I appreciate it. It is important to know proper campfire management. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. I think everyone in their lives must start a campfire at least once. There is something primal about it and its also mesmerising once your relaxing in front of the flames.

    Great tips Alex. I’ve learned so much from this post and now itching to start a campfire.

    1. You are right Vince. There is something very primal about a campfire. It captivates a person. I am glad to know that this article had an impact on you. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. Very interesting and very educational article on making a campfire. I have never been camping besides in the back yard. Setting up a tent and starting a fire with whatever. My son is a year old now and this is definitely something I want to do with him when he is older. I love the outside and I can tell he does also. This will help me get started making campfires so when he is old enough, I’ll be more than ready.

    Thank you for this article. It was very interesting and helpful to me.

    1. It is wonderful to hear about the relationship between your son and you Otis. That is phenomenal. Taking children camping is a rewarding experience. I appreciate that this article had a positive impact on you. Thank you for sharing.

  6. It’s funny how when you’re camping, everything you think you know goes right out the window. Really obvious things – like clear the ground under your tent, and have water near your fire – it’s SO easy to forget! Thanks so much for the great list and reminders, so we all stay safe out there in the woods.

    1. Yes Penelope, people often forget the most basic steps when camping. They forget the obvious. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  7. Hi, Alex! I enjoyed your article! Thanks for these great tips! Now I want to go camping. 🙂
    I like that you respect natural world, nature. Many people don’t. I love nature, and I would love to go camping. Now I even know how to make a campfire.
    Thanks! I am looking forward to reading more articles from you!

    1. It is nice to hear you enjoyed the article Linda. I appreciate that. Whenever you go hiking outside, you must be kind to nature. If you respect and take care of the wilderness, then it lets other people enjoy what you have. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Its surprising how difficult creating a fire can actually be. I fondly remember the amount of times I’ve needed to create one and its taken me nearly an hour to do so each time because the weather wasn’t good or the wood wasn’t dry enough.

    This article is great because it provides the best of both occasions, like what you need and what to do when creating a fire. Very helpful Alex!

    Thankyou! I shared your post too.

    1. You are right Jeremy. It can take quite a while to make a fire if you are unprepared. I appreciate the compliment. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  9. Hi Alex – This is a great article and the instructions for correct construction and extinguishing techniques is just what I was looking for. Your thoughts on taking care of nature are really reassuring. I bookmarked your site so that I can come back and read more. Thanks for a great post!

    1. Hey Nick, whenever you make a fire, it is important to manage it with care. Otherwise, a small flame can turn into a roaring blaze. I appreciate that you will bookmark my site. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  10. Thanks for all of the helpful tips on campfires. This changes my thoughts completely, as I would have just stacked up what was available in any fashion. Your article also points out the need to plan on taking the right items with us for this adventure, i.e., shovel, bucket, fire starter. My concern would be wanting to build one after a rain. Any thoughts on that?

    1. Hey Tanya, it is nice to hear that your view on making fire has changed. People assume it is simple, but there is complexity to it worth noting.

      When it comes to building a fire after a rain, it is going to be wet outside, so you will have to bring your own tinder, kindling, and firewood. Outside materials will be less readily available. If you put anything damp on the fire, it will create smoke or extinguish it. In general, it is safer to have a fire outside after a rain.

      Thank you for your question and I hope you make it a great day!

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