How to build a perfect campfire is one of the most fundamental human survival skills with the potential to make or break a camping trip. Campfires are a place where stories are shared, warmth is felt and delicious hot camping food is made. Campfires are a means of safety and comfort but also bring people together, sitting and watching flames dance until they burn out.
The act of building a campfire and trying to get it to light can be frustrating and make you want to give up if not done correctly. That moment, though, when you begin to see smoke and then flame gives you a rush and you soon realise why you were doing it.
Maybe you already know how to start a fire but want to learn a better way to do it. Well, to save you from sitting in the cold and eating un-toasted marshmallows, we’ve written you this article on how to build the perfect campfire.
Step 1 – How to Build a Fire Pit
The first thing you should really think about when choosing the location of your fire pit is whether anything nearby could catch fire. Try to choose any area away from bushes or easily flammable objects. The last thing you want from your camping trip is to be all over the news having burnt down a forrest, because you didn’t know how to make a fire pit.
Try to find some stones or rocks and use them to circle your fire pit. This will help to keep your fire contained, in one space. If you can, start to dig a shallow pit in your circle as this will help to keep flames protected from the wind.
Step 2 – Gathering Wood
What type of wood should you use on your campfire? To build a successful fire, you’ll need to find three types of wood.
These will be small twigs or can also be dry leaves. This should be easy enough to find lying on the ground. However, if the ground is wet or snowy, you should still be able to find dry wood inside standing dead trees or branches. Cut them down into small pieces. Other sources of tinder are dry grass, mouse or bird nests or any form of dry fluff.
This is larger sticks or twigs, but under an inch in diameter. You can break off small branches or there will often be kindling lying around on the ground. These will really help when you’re starting to think about how to start a fire.
These are larger pieces of would, such as the picture above, which will burn for a while. You’ll probably need an axe or saw to build a collection of pieces like this.
Step 3 – Building the Fire
The most traditional and simplest type of fire is the ‘tipi’. Start by placing a pile of tinder in the centre of your fire pit. Make sure that the tinder isn’t too compact; you’ll maybe need to ‘fluff it up’ a little bit so that air can move through it.
Next, with some of your kindling, build a tipi around your tinder. The idea is to create a structure which will contain the flames but also let air through. You don’t want to place all your kindling around your tipi to start the fire, just enough to get it going.
Start to add more kindling around the downwind side of your fire pit, leaving an opening on the other side which will allow you to set the tinder alight. TIP: As fire needs oxygen to burn, make sure you leave some space between your tinder and kindling.
Add two pieces of fuel wood (in parallel) at opposites sides of your tipi, then place two more pieces of fuel wood on top, bridging the gap. Make sure that you still leave a gap so that you can light your fire.
Step 4 – How to Light Your Fire
Ignite the fire with a lighter or match in several places. Keep adding small amounts of tinder until the kindling catches fire.
As the fire starts to gain momentum, keep an eye on the fuel wood. As the kindling burns, add more fuel wood until it ignites. Keep feeding the fire with fuel wood for as long as needed.
Step 5 – Find Your Marshmallows
Pick up a long thin stick and stick the marshmallow on top and toast. For best results, don’t hold the marshmallow directly over a flame; try to find hot smouldering wood.