Fire is one of the basics that you will need when you will be camping. Do you know any campfire building techniques? Campfire is essential to cook your meals, to generate warmth, and for some lighting.
It will also scare away wild animals from your campsite to guarantee your safety.
As a camper, you will, therefore, have to build it and this article highlights several campfire techniques that you should know. While technology has an impact on how we camp at night, building fire still remains the same.
Of course, you may not be rubbing stones against each other to create sparks as there are lighters and matchsticks for that purpose, but the other aspects of building a campfire still remain the same.
Learning how to build it will make your camping seamless. Go ahead and see the basics of building your campfire like a pro.
Campfire safety rules
Before we take a look at the techniques that you should know when you are out there camping, you should, first of all, understand some basic campsite fire safety guidelines.
Starting a campfire will help you accomplish a lot of things but if you are not careful you may start a raging fire at the park or in the woods.
Consider campsite fire rules
Campsites usually have designated areas for starting a campfire and you should stick to these areas when lighting it up.
If you are camping in a general area without the rules, there are a few guidelines that you should follow to ensure your safety and others.
First of all, the site where you plan on setting it should be away from bushes, trees, and other vegetation. You should set it on the bare ground that is free of grass and especially dry grass.
If you cannot find a bare spot to set it up, you can create your own by clearing the vegetation in a certain area.
You will then have to make the fire bed. You can do this gathering dirt in one area to form a platform that is about 3 inches thick.
How to build the campfire?
Here are a few things that you will need to build it and methods to do it.
Gather your wood
To build your fire, you will need 3 types of material: tinder, kindling and the fuelwood.
Tinder catches fire easily and you will need it to start your fire seamlessly. It basically includes dry grass, wood shavings, and other materials that burn fast. Make sure that the tinder is dry since a wet one won’t work.
Find out how you can make your own fire starters with dryer lint.
Kindling is heavier and thicker than tinder and it is used to keep the fire going before you add the big fuel logs. It consists of small twigs and tiny branches that are about the width of a standard pencil.
The kindling should also be dry or your fire will not catch up easily. The twigs should snap when bent but if you find out that they bend without breaking, then they are still too wet to be used.
This is the wood material that will keep your fire burning. Fuelwood doesn’t have to be big for it to make a great fire. Branches with the diameter of your wrist will work just fine.
Fuelwood, unlike kindling and tinder, can be a little bit damp as the heat will dry them out but this is still not ideal.
Wet wood creates a lot of smoke and that is why you should avoid it at all times. Meanwhile, if you don’t have dry wood available you can still set up a fire using wet wood.
6 Methods of Laying the fire
There are different methods to lay your fire. I will discuss the 3 common types.
1. The Teepee fire lay
I am sure that you know this type of campfire already as it is the most commonly known. The goal is to build a log fire in a pyramid shape. Here is the procedure for setting it up.
- Place the tinder at the center of your site.
- Form a teepee with the kindling above the tinder bundle. Make sure to leave an opening on one of the sides for lighting the tinder and to allow the air to flow freely.
- Add more kindling to make it easy for the fire to develop.
- Create a large teepee frame by adding fuel logs to your kindling teepee.
- Light the tinder at the bottom of the teepee structure to start your campfire. This design directs flames up the structure and the fuel logs will eventually catch fire.
Here is a video that explains how to set up a fire with the teepee fire lay technique.
2. Lean-to fire lay
With his method, you will put a log to the ground and lay sticks, and branches on it. The method works this way:
- Stick some kindling into the ground at an angle with the ends in the direction of the wind.
- Place some tinder underneath the kindling.
- Add more pieces of kindling around the tinder nest.
- Light the tinder and let it burn.
- Add fuelwood progressively.
This is a simple way to make your outdoor fire. The firing technique is good for windy conditions as the log will block the wind to suffocate the fire at the beginning.
The place when the tinder burns is great for the airflow to increase the burning fire.
Hint: Place the log in the direction when the wind is blowing so it will stop the wind from putting down the fire. If it starts to rain you will find the article about keeping the fire burning in the rain useful.
3. Log cabin lay
This is another common method for laying a fire that is good for cooking. You can accomplish it in the following steps.
- Create a teepee lay as explained in method 1 above.
- Get larger pieces of fuelwood and place them on the sides of the teepee.
- Find smaller fuelwood and lay them on the initial set of fuelwood at a right angle.
- Continue adding shorter and small pieces of fuelwood to the structure to form a pyramid.
- Light the tinder to start the fire.
The fire will burn slowly and the logs will support your cooking pot or a pan. The benefits of it are its easy ignition, grows way faster than any other type of fire, and demands very little maintenance.
4. Inverse campfire
This self-feeding campfire is perfect if you are going to sleep at night and want to stay warm from it.
You won’t need to wake up in the middle of the night and add some firewood on because you won’t have to. Here is how to build it:
- Place the biggest pieces of logs to the bottom.
- Put the second layer of logs on the first layer in the opposite way than the first layer so they will crisscross
- Put the smaller fuelwood as a third layer
- Get some tinder and put in on the top of the third layer
- Put sticks around the tinder making a teepee
- Light the tinder
The campfire will have enough airflow to come to the fire from the bottom as you crisscrossed the logs. It will burn from the upside-down, from small sticks to larger logs.
5. Sideway campfire (Swedish torch)
This method is good for wet ground and for cooking. You will need a chainsaw for it. Follow the next steps to build it:
- Make a cross on the flat side of the log with the chainsaw (make cuts that will go to the half of the log) so you get 4 sections
- Grab some tinder and sticks and put them on the log with the cut sections
- Start a fire
This is a pretty simple method to start a campfire. While the sticks will burn they will fall inside of the log where the fire will spread. This kind of fire is great for cooking because you can put a cooking stove on top of it.
6. Dakota fire hole
The US military uses this firing method to stay warm outside. It will only be visible to your eyes as the campfire will be burning inside the hole. Here is the whole procedure:
- Dig a small hole about 2-3 feet deep and 1.5 feet wide with the shovel or other tool
- Dig a smaller hole close to the previous one (it doesn’t need to be as big as the first one)
- Both holes should be connected so this means that you will have to make a tunnel
- Make a fire. Put some sticks laying on the ground, one to each other. This is a platform where the fire will be burning. Now you build a traditional fire using one of my previous methods (log cabin lay, teepee, lean-to fire lay, etc). Light the fire and add dry materials to it so it will start to burn.
Hint: The bigger the fire you want to build, the bigger the first hole must be. The bigger the tunnel, the more air will flow to the fire to burn and sustain it.
Which firing method to choose?
One of the skills that you ought to learn as a camper is how to light a fire.
This article highlights some of the campfire building techniques that you should know while being exposed to outdoor elements and wild animals.
You can try all six of them and use your favorite on camping or backpacking trips in the future.