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How to Build the Best Campfire

One of the best things about camping is the campfire. Whether you’re using if for cooking, warmth, or just gathering around with friends; the campfire is the focal point to any campsite.

Location, location, location 

Perhaps the most important part of a campfire is choosing where to build the fire. If you are camping in an established campground, there are usually fire rings already in place. Some of them even have grates for cooking! If you’re camping out in the wilderness, look for a spot where there has already been a campfire; this will impact the environment the least (leave no trace). If this isn’t an option, look for a clearing without a lot of material close by that can catch fire. You also will want to clear around your fire pit as not to burn more than you intend. Make sure your spot is away from dead trees or overhanging branches that can catch fire. You will also want to make sure not to build a fire underneath a heavy canopy as it can trap the smoke. 

Types of Campfires

Teepee fire

Teepee fire:  Best for sitting around and put out a lot of heat & light. Please note: teepee fires burn fast.

Type of campfire
Swedish torch

Swedish torch: put out a little heat and little light. Can set a pot right on top. Swedish torches use very little fuel.

Log Cabin Fire

Log Cabin fires: great for cooking on. The criss-cross pattern of the fuel will put out a steady amount of heat and burn longer than a Teepee fire.

Keyhole Firepit: The best of both the teepee and log cabin. You can build the teepee fire in the circle and rake the coals into the slot for cooking.

Lean-to: these fires are best for poor weather due to them being sheltered on one side.

Star Fire

Star fire: minimal fuel used and the slowest burner of all the fires. You have to stay on top of this one to make sure it keeps burning.

Building  & lighting the fire

Once you’ve selected your site, and you know what type to build, you want to make sure the site is completely clear of debris. We like to clear about 6′ in all directions of the fire pit if possible. Once the site is clear, dig down a little bit in a circle (about the diameter of your desired fire), and surround with rocks or stones. This will help contain any coals from rolling out.

There are 3 ingredients you will need for your fire; tinder, kindling, & fuel. Tinder can be dry pine needles, paper, dry leaves, dryer lint or cotton balls. Kindling is typically twigs, sticks, & small branches no bigger than the diameter of your finger. The last ingredient is fuel. Fuel is your larger sticks & logs thicker than 3″. Once you have all your ingredients, place the tinder in a manner so that it makers a little cave and stack some kindling around it. Light your fire in the manner in which you prefer whether it be a match, lighter, flint & steel, or a glowing ember from a friction fire starter. The tinder will light and catch the kindling. start adding more and more kindling being careful not to smother the fire. Once you have the kindling going pretty well, start adding the fuel. You should now have a healthy camp fire.

Make a “Fire Kit”

My fire kit

This is the kit I carry with me for fire starting. It consists of a UST SparkForce fire starter, and some cotton balls. All of this fits nicely into an old mint tin. I use the cotton balls to start the tinder easier. Pull a cotton ball apart so it is fluffy and surround it with your tinder. Point the SparkForce into the cotton ball and place the striker on it (like you were going to scrape it). When you pull the metal match part back, you should get a spark and ignite the cotton ball. Now just start adding tinder then kindling and you have just made fire.

Extinguishing your Campfire

The most important part of your campfire is putting it out. Failing to put out your fire properly can lead to a forest or wildfire. Always have water nearby so when it is time to extinguish your fire you are ready. It is also a good idea have water on hand in case of an stray spark. Pour water on the fire being sure to put out all the flames and stir the “slurry”. Put your hand over the now extinguished fire to make sure it is cool. You can’t use too much ware for this. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Smoky the Bear

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2 thoughts on “How to Build the Best Campfire

  1. Hi, I’m a regular visitor of your site. I find it very interesting & informative. I value your opinion & would like to hear your feedback. I’m planning on going camping with my family and am looking for a suitable camping axe or hatchet to help with the firewood for the campfire. I have been looking at some reviews & I am still unsure about which one to get. I read this review https://www.toolazine.com/the-best-axes-hatchets-for-camping-backpacking-hiking-survival-buying-guide/ & thinking to buy the one that he suggests but am not 100 confident. I maybe can go with the budget hatchet. What do you think? Is it really better to get a more costly one if I am only going camping a few times per year? Thank you very much for your feedback and thank you for the awesome articles that you share.

    1. Larry, Glad you found us!
      If you’re only camping a few times a year, a lower cost hatchet will work fine. We love the Para Hatchet by Ultimate Survival Technologies. It is small enough to pack away, yet does an excellent job. View it here: http://campgearcenter.com/product/ultimate-survival-technologies-parahatchet
      Thanks,

      Camp Gear Center

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