As a girl camper from way back, I can honestly tell you that building a campfire is a fine art to many. It’s easy to build a better campfire by following a few basic steps but be careful or you’ll end up as the designated campfire builder at your next campout! Just follow these easy tips and you’ll be all set!
1. When you’re packing for your camping trip be sure you remember the right tools! Pack waterproof matches in a zip lock bag or plastic container – an old pill bottle works great! If you’re not sure you want to try lighting matches, take a handheld lighter. Bring fire starters with you: a small bunch of dried sticks from your hard tied with twine, or an empty toilet paper roll stuffed with dryer lint work great! You can also purchase fire starters in the camping section of most discount stores too. Always bring more than you think you’ll need… a backup is always a good idea!
2. Safety First! Choose the perfect location for your campfire. If you’re in a designated camping spot, there is most likely a campfire ring to use. However, if you’re boondocking, be sure to choose a location that is sheltered from the wind, and not too close to trees or tall grasses. Be sure to designate your fire circle by making a ring or rocks or large logs so you have a visual on the area where your campfire belongs. This way you can take immediate action should a spark leave the circle, or the fire starts to spread. And, most important – always have a large bucket or two of water just outside the perimeter of your fire!
3. Plan Ahead and stockpile your fuel. Imagine taking the time to build a beautiful little fire, and then not having the wood to fuel it. Make sure you have enough wood on hand to not just build the fire but maintain it. When you’re choosing your firewood, if you are permitted to gather wood at your campground, be sure to choose dead, dry wood and not soggy, wet or moldy wood. Keep your fuel stacked a safe distance from your fire circle.
4. Firewood Basics! There are three types of wood that you’ll need to build a better campfire. Those are tinder, kindling and wood. Tinder is thin and will burn quickly; this lights a fire and helps it ignite the kindling. Think little twigs and sticks, or even pinecones. Kindling will be thin twigs and sticks. You can usually gather small dry sticks in the campground, but you can also use a hatchet to slice small pieces of thicker wood into kindling. Wood is much larger and takes longer to catch fire but burns for a long time. Many campgrounds ask that you not bring firewood into the campground but require that you purchase it there. Be sure to check ahead of time before heading to your local store to buy bundled wood.
5. TeePee or Log Cabin – my personal favorites! When you’re ready to build your campfire, take time to arrange the tinder, kindling and wood so that it will light quickly and burn efficiently. You can choose to make a TeePee style campfire by arranging three of your medium-sized pieces of wood into a teepee shape, then doing the same inside the TeePee with your tinder and then kindling on top – all under the three main TeePee shaped logs. Don’t make it too tall, as this style fire can send sparks flying. For a traditional Log Cabin fire, choose about eight nice pieces of wood and stack them Lincoln log style… build a little tinder and kindling stack inside and light it up! You can tuck your little fire starters inside your tinder and kindling to help get it started. Add more wood to your fire carefully as it burns – and enjoy!
You did it! You built a better campfire! Now it’s time to enjoy one of my favorite parts of camping… sitting around the campfire and sharing stories, songs and S’mores! Hopefully, it will be one of your favorite parts too… and you’ll be known for your amazing fire building skills!