Fire is something everyone looks forward to on their adventures into the wilderness. There is nothing like ending a long day in the great outdoors with the warmth of a fire. This article will show you exactly what type of wood to use, what fire structure to build, how to light your fire, and how to keep the fire burning for all night warmth. Be sure to read up on the 10 Must-Have Camping Essentials (a beginner’s guide) before heading out on your adventure!
People have been building a fire in some form or another for almost 2 million years. Even still, it can be a rather tricky task without the right supplies, experience, and knowledge. First, you’re going to need to decide what type of fire you want to build for your particular situation. Below, I’ll list the different kinds of fire and their advantages.
The teepee fire is a classic, and it is also reasonably simple to build. Start by gathering a good size bundle of tinder and laying it in the middle of your firebed. Next, you will want to gather some kindling and form it in the shape of a teepee over your tinder bundle. The teepee fire and its open circular base let in plenty of oxygen to feed the fire and help it grow. As the fire grows, you will need to apply larger sticks to keep it going.
- The teepee fire lets in lots of oxygen at the base and allows for an easily maintainable fire.
- Start by gathering a good size bundle of tinder and laying it in the middle of your firebed.
- Next, gather some kindling and form it in the shape of a teepee over your tinder bundle.
- As the fire grows, add larger sticks to your teepee to keep it going.
If you’re looking for a long-lasting fire, the log cabin fire is perfect. Start by laying 2 logs parallel on the firebed; next, you will place two logs on top of those logs perpendicular. Keep adding more logs until you have the desired height for your fire. Gather some tinder and put it into the center of your logs. Light the tinder and feed it with kindling, allowing it to grow, and catching the structure on fire. The log cabin is a perfect fire if you’re looking for longevity; as the structure burns, it collapses in itself, creating a constant feeding process allowing it to burn for much more extended periods.
- The log cabin is long-lasting and very easy to maintain with its self-feeding system.
- Start by laying 2 logs parallel on the firebed.
- Next, place 2 logs on top of those logs, perpendicular.
- Add more logs until achieving the desired height of the fire.
- Gather some tinder and place it into the center of your logs.
- Light the tinder and feed with kindling, allowing the fire to grow to catch your structure on fire.
The Platform fire and the log cabin fire are similar in structure but burn much differently. The platform fire uses more wood closer together in layers to make more of a flat surface. This fire is used primarily for cooking and ignites from the top instead of the bottom. First, lay 3-4 pieces of wood in the firebed parallel, then add 3-4 pieces on top of that perpendicular. Continue these layers until the wood is at least 3-4 layers high. Once the structure is complete, lay the tinder on top and ignite it; make sure to keep feeding your flame with small pieces of kindling until the structure begins to light from the top. The platform fire makes a relatively flat surface perfect for cooking. As the logs burn, your pan has a stable surface of hot coals.
- The platform fire is excellent for cooking meals by giving you a flat cooking surface of coals by burning from the top down.
- First, lay 3-4 pieces of wood in the firebed parallel.
- Next, add 3-4 pieces on top of that perpendicular.
- Continue these layers until at least 3-4 layers high.
- Once the structure is complete, lay the tinder on top and ignite.
- Feed the flame with kindling until the structure ignites.
The star fire is an efficient way to make a fire if you’re low on wood supplies. It utilizes whole logs that burn slowly from the ends for a long-lasting fire. To build the star fire, you will need to make a small teepee fire in your firebed. Next, you will lay logs around your fire in the shape of a star, with one end touching the fire and one end pointing away from it. The teepee fire will catch the logs on fire at the ends and slowly burn them. As the fire consumes the logs, you will need to push them more towards the center to replace the burned ones.
- The star fire is very efficient if you are low on supplies.
- First, build a small tepee fire in your firebed.
- Next, place the longs in the shape of a star around the fire.
- One side of the log should touch the fire, and the other end faces in the opposite direction.
- As the logs’ ends burn, they will need to be pushed into the fire to replace the consumed ones.
Now that you have your Structure in mind, we’re going to move to the three ingredients of a fire: tinder, kindling, and firewood. (And oxygen, of course).
Tinder is the smallest, most flammable thing you will use to start your campfire. You can gather tinder wood at your campsite or bring some with you from home if you’re worried about wet conditions. Tinder can be a wide array of things, including:
- Wood shavings
- Pine needles
- Dry leaves
- Dry grass
Some examples of tinder you could bring from home are:
- Dryer lint
- Pieces of paper
- Potato chips
- Small tealight candle
Kindling is what you put on top of your tinder to grow the fire. Kindling is usually tiny twigs and thin branches to catch fire easily. Your kindling needs to be smaller than your firewood but more prominent than your tinder. You want to be careful not to put too much kindling on at once, or you risk smothering the fire. Use the kindling to grow the fire, eventually adding the firewood slowly.
Firewood is what will fuel your fire to continue to grow. A rule of thumb is the dryer, the better. It can be challenging to get wet wood to burn, and it won’t be the same quality campfire without dry firewood. There are many different kinds of firewood, and they all burn pretty differently. Some are very fragrant, like cherry wood, and some are very dense and burn for longer, like maple wood. You also have your hardwoods and your softwoods. Hardwoods will provide you with a long, slow-burning fire with lots of coals.
On the other hand, softwoods are lower in density, making them lighter and burn for a lesser period. Softwoods ignite faster but also emit more smoke than hardwoods. Below I will list a few wood types to show some of the differences and help you decide which one is right for you.
- Cherry: Cherry wood is a very aromatic wood when it burns and produces low amounts of smoke. For these reasons, cherry wood is a favorite for smoking various meat forms.
- Oak: Oak is a favorite because it is highly available almost anywhere. Oak is the longest firewood to season, but it is also very dense and can burn for very long periods.
- Ash: Ash is a burning favorite because it has little maintenance. Ashwood burns very well and hot; it makes for a warm campfire.
- Birch: Birch is an excellent wood for campfires because it burns quickly and efficiently. Birch is a wood that can even burn decently in unseasoned conditions.
Softwoods (great for kindling)
- Cedar: Cedar puts off high heat and will give you that crackling campfire sound along with a pleasant aroma; this wood may also burn in small pieces, even in wet conditions!
- Pine: Pine is an easy lighter and will give off a nice flame and heat but burns more hastily. Pine can be great to start a fire because of its high sap content, but it can also create many embers, so use caution.
- Larch: A very hard softwood, if seasoned well, larch burns very hot. It burns for long periods and is a low-maintenance wood.
Like I said before, there are many different types of firewood, and the one you choose will depend on your situation entirely (or whichever is more readily available to you).
Lastly, you’re going to need to light your fire. Click here for an excellent video of lighting a fire using a bow drill.
Mastering something like friction by fire can be extremely challenging and time-consuming if you’ve never attempted it.
To get that fire roaring in less time, a few everyday items people can use to make fire are:
- Lighter(rechargeable windproof lighters are great)
- Flint strikers.
Now all that’s left is starting the fire. First, you’ll want to:
- Lay down your tinder bed. Avoid a very windy area or moisture-soaked ground if it has been wet.
- Add the Kindling. The kindling needs to be small enough at first not to drown out the flame but also dry enough to catch fire easily. As the fire grows, add larger kindling pieces until a good coalbed has started.
- Add the firewood. Once the kindling starts a good flame, the last step is to add the firewood. Adding the firewood too soon can drown out the fire, so be cautious.
Windy or Wet Conditions
It can be extremely challenging to get a fire going if it’s very windy or if it’s been wet out.
A few tips for getting a fire started in these conditions are:
- Strip the bark from your kindling, exposing the dry wood inside.
- Split the wood and kindling into smaller pieces exposing the dryer interior that will light much easier than the wet exterior.
- Look for trees that bear lots of sap (spruce, pine, and firs). This sap is highly flammable and will catch fire much more effortlessly.
Remember always to practice good safety habits when building fires, and have fun! With this guide, you will be building blazing campfires in no time!