For many people, learning how to build a campfire is a simple task, or so they may think. The thing is: There are many things that go into building the perfect campfire that people seem to forget or don’t know.
And this is why we wanted to write this article. Building a campfire is straightforward when you know the basic principles and some simple hacks.
So, in this article, we will talk you through 9 simple hacks that will help you become a master at building a cozy campfire. Let’s take a look:
Table of contents
#1 Understand What Your Fire Needs
One of the most important hacks when learning how to build a campfire is to know what the fire needs to survive.
To build a fire, you need three things:
If you’re missing just one of these things, you won’t be able to build your fire. If a fire doesn’t get oxygen, it will die out, just like when you put a candle out with a candle douter.
Also, if you can’t find a heat source (an ignition), you won’t get your starting flame, which means no fire.
And if you can’t constantly provide the fire with fuel, it will slowly die out until no flame or heat is left.
When you think of your fire as a baby, you use the same basic principles as the fire triangle, making it easier for people and children to understand.
Let’s take a look:
All babies need a bed to lie in, and so do fires. Creating a bed for your fire will help the oxygen flow around and under it, keeping it alive.
Another thing babies need is food, and so do fires, but here’s the thing. You can’t feed a baby a full meal straight away; it’s just too big for them.
So, you have to start small and slowly feed them bigger and bigger items. And a good campfire is precisely the same.
You need to start with smaller sticks before introducing them to larger logs. If you feed them too much too quickly, the fire will starve of oxygen, and then it dies.
#2 Find The Right Spot
This isn’t so much a hack to building a fire but more of a safety tip we think everyone should know.
Choosing the right location for your fire is vital, especially in the backcountry. Try to keep your fire away from low-hanging branches. Ideally, there should be nothing lower than 10 ft about or around your fire.
If you can find an existing fire ring to use, it’s usually a good place to have your fire because other people have already had one there.
Secondly, you need to clear the area of debris like dead leaves, sticks, or anything else you might set on fire by accident. The last thing you want to do is cause a forest fire during your camping trip.
#3 Use The Right Materials
One of the most straightforward hacks for building a campfire is ensuring you have suitable materials before you start building it.
The first thing you need for your fire is dry tinder. This is a material that is highly flammable and will take the ignition source with ease.
This could be things like:
- Dry grass
- Dry leaves
- Wood shavings
- Silver Birch peelings
- Dryer lint
- Or a fire starter
After that, you’ll need some dry kindling to help build your fire to your desired size. Small twigs and sticks are a great place to start; ensure they are dry if you want them to ignite easily.
The final part is to ensure you have enough firewood (fuel wood); having larger pieces of firewood will help the fire burn hot all night. There are different types of firewood with varying properties, and you can learn more about finding the right type of wood in the link.
#4 Finding Your Materials
We’ve discussed the materials you need to build your fire, but where will you find them?
One of the best things about building a wildfire is that you can find your own wood pretty much anywhere.
For example, if you’re looking for a tinder, you can use a handful of dried grass, pine needles, or silver birch shavings.
For kindling, you can use any stick with a diameter of less than 1 inch, which should be perfect, and your primary fuel source is any dry logs.
#5 Use The Right Type Of Fire
Many people don’t realize you can use different types of fires, which you can use for different situations.
For example, if you’re looking to stay warm, you’ll probably look at the classic tepee fire, which burns hot and is easy to maintain.
If you’re looking to cook, you might opt for an upside-down pyramid fire, which burns from the top and has a more stable base.
Choosing the right one for you goes a long way when you’re building a campfire, and if you want to know more about the different types of campfires, this link should help.
#6 Create Your Fire Bed
If you want your campfire to survive at the beginning stages, you must build a bed for the fire. A small hole in the floor where you can place your kindling goes a long way.
It helps the oxygen go underneath so you can start a roaring fire with ease, making it the perfect base of the fire.
#7 Add Your Kindling
Once you’ve built your bed and added good tinder, it’s time to get your kindling on top. Ideally, you want some very dry sticks that aren’t too thick in diameter.
Remember, the trick here is not to add too many larger pieces of wood on top of the tinder. If you put too many on top, you might starve your fire of oxygen, making it impossible to get it going.
#8 Igniting Your Fire
You can ignite your own fire in many ways, and some are easier to use than others, but it’s a good idea to be well-versed in as many techniques as possible.
For example, rubbing two sticks together to generate friction isn’t for everyone, so you might opt for a lighter instead.
Here are some other ignition sources you can use:
- Waterproof matches
- Flint & steel
- Using a 9V battery
There are many more ways of finding an ignition source, and we recommend knowing at least three methods. If your lighter fails, you might need another technique to get your fire going.
#9 Drying Wet Wood
The final hack when learning how to build a campfire is in knowing how to dry wet wood quickly.
Unfortunately, there will be times when you can’t find the dry wood you need. And this isn’t a problem as long as you can find enough dry wood to start the fire.
Once it’s started, you can leave the biggest logs at a safe distance from the open flame; close enough to pick up the heat but not so close they might ignite.
Half an hour next to a fire should be sufficient enough to safely use the logs without fear of them popping hot embers at you. Dry wood also produces less smoke, making it a more pleasant camping experience.
Jason is an outdoor instructor for climbing, camping, and kayaking who has traveled the world as a freelance writer.