Starting a campfire and how to make a campfire

Starting a Campfire: Steps on How to Build a Campfire


A campfire is a dreamlike, luminous, and kinetic natural force, which has for many years served the purpose of being a centerpiece for many backwoods gatherings. This is why starting a campfire is very important.

Nothing should interrupt a camper from spending a glorious night beneath the stars around a campfire. The gradual process in this article is to guide you on how to build a campfire, which will make a city-based person to appreciate this long-standing practice of the wild.

This article gives a step-by-step detailed explanation on how to build a campfire successfully, and also fire etiquette tips, either for backpacking or car camping.

Steps Involved in Starting a Campfire

Research and Preparation

Your homework has to be the first thing to do. You have to prepare your site well even before you strike a match.

Are Campfires Even Allowed?

Before erecting your beautiful, roaring, and big fire, you have to find out if campfires are permitted in your campsite.

For a variety of reasons, they could be prohibited. It could be due to archaeological issues, weather, or dry season. Ask from the ranger station or look around to check for posted signs.

You can now go to the next step by checking the fire danger level. Forego building a fire, if the fire danger level is high (yellow). You can see this at the ranger’s station or on posts on the road.

Starting a campfire - Preparation
Photo Credit: Mike Erskine/

Check The Weather Condition

Please always be heedful of the condition of the weather, even if campfires are permitted in your campsites.

A little campfire can be hazardous in the presence of high winds or storm; this can be very disastrous. You wouldn’t like your identity to be revealed on the TV as the person who set up a forest fire at a national park.

It’s better to take a break from the burning of wood if you observe that there is a chance of the weather becoming windy.

Build Your Fire Bed

There are several appointed places for fire rings or fireplaces, in case you are camping in a developed campsite or city.

Try to construct your fire in those places, because it reduces the influence of your fire on the environment and contains your fire. While on wild camping, you should still use an existing fire bed. Always have a shovel and a bucket of water close to you, in case you lose control of your fire.

The next step is to analyze the campsite before you erect your fire bed. The campfire should be located 10 feet away from things that can catch fire easily such as overhanging tree branches, dead grass, or your tent. Naturally, fire is unpredictable; so it’s better to be completely safe when starting a campfire.

In the absence of a patch for your fire bed, you can build your fire bed on bare earth using a shovel to dig the earth. Ensure to remove all grasses and plants when starting a campfire.

You can now finally set up a ring of rock around the fire area; make it the same size as your fists. The rocks should be well spaced to allow a free end to end circulation of air at the bottom of the fire. Wet rocks can introduce moisture into the fire, so they should be avoided.

Step 2: Time to Gather Your Wood

There are three major materials needed when starting a campfire: fuelwood, tinder, and kindling. These materials will guide you on how to build a campfire.


A standard campfire begins with good tinder. Though, it catches fire easily but burns out very fast. Materials like wood shavings, dry bark, dry grass, and some fluffy fungi make good tinder. As a smart camper, you can decide to bring along your tinder either as homemade char cloth or dryer lint. It is exceptionally important to bring your very own tinder when everything is wet outside. Tinder doesn’t catch fire when wet.


Since tinder burns out quickly, something will be needed to keep the fire burning for a longer period. You can’t begin with big logs of wood. Branches and small twigs make up kindling. Just like tinder, kindling won’t burn easily when wet. If all your branches and twigs are wet, use a pocket knife towhit away their wet bark.

Fuel Wood

This is fuelwood and it is what makes your fire to keep burning very hot.  A lot of people believed that fuelwood has to look like a very big log of wood, but thenit doesn’t necessarily have to be big. If you are using big fuelwood, it will take a longer time for it to catch fire. Make use of branches that have the same size as your forearm or your wrist when starting a campfire.

Where To Get Wood

With the above information so far, now, the next step to take when starting a campfireanswers the question of how do you go about gathering the wood that you need to build acampfire? For beginners, don’t go for branches, not even the dead ones. Go for woods that easily snap. The dead branches are used by wildlife and birds to make their nest and for other purposes.

Ensure to always go for fallen woods when starting a campfire. If you use wood that is bent before breaking, it’s too “green”. All you will get using such wood is smoke and no flames at all.

As a beginner, gather more wood than you think you can ever need when starting a campfire. Wood such as kindling and tinder burns easily. Try to gather twice as much wood than you will be needing.

How to build a campfire-gather enough wood
Photo Credit: Luis Figueroa/

Note: Always gather wood that breaks and snaps easily when collecting your wood for building a campfire. You will achieve the best results when you make use of dry wood; bent woods are always “green” or wet. All you get is smoke when you go for such kind of wood. Fuelwood can be a bit damp. Though the fire will dry it up, it’s still not the best option to use when starting a campfire.

Gather two times as much kindling, tinder, and fuelwood than you will be needing. Kindling and tinder make starting your fire very easy. You will be taken aback at the rate at which these catch fire.

Step 3: Lay Your Fire

 It might be surprising to find out that there are a lot of ways on how to build a campfire.

The term used for the layout of your wood is “Fire lay”. Some popular ones among these fire lays are:

  • Teepee
  • Log cabin
  • Pyramid
  • Lean-to

Teepee Fire Method

This is a very simple method of laying fire when starting a campfire. The first thing to do when starting a campfire is to put your tinder at the center of your fire bed. Using your kindling, create a teepee around your tinder.

After the kindling must have been set, still in the teepee shape, begin toaddsmaller fuelwood around. This method of laying fire is the most popular and easiest pattern of laying a fire.It lights up easily and it’s a very good method of cooking.

Ensure to stock up enough fuel, because this method is time-consuming and requires lots of fuel.

Steps Involved

  • Put the bundle of your tinder at the center of your campfire.
  • Create a teepee using some kindling, directly above your tinder bundle.Create an opening on the side of your teepee to allow air circulation from one end to another. This gives the fire enough air needed to blow the flames into the kindling.
  • Keep adding kindling to the teepee, kindling of pencil-sized of twigs.
  • With your fuelwood, around your kindling teepee, form a large teepee structure.
  • Put a match beneath your tinder. This directs the flame up to the kindling and then to the fuelwood.
  • The teepee structure will fall eventually and at this stage, you can now begin to add some fuel logs.

Log Cabin Fire Method

This method is always considered when you want a long-lasting campfire. Firstly, you start by placing your kindling and tinder at the center of the fire bed.Next, at the sides of the kindling and tinder pile, you can add two fuelwoods, they should be placed parallel to each other.

The next thing is that you add on top of the previous logs, another two logs again, but it should be arranged to form a square shape. Repeat this process until the pile is 3 or 4 logs high

Steps Involved

  • The first thing on how to build a campfire is to start by creating a small teepee lay.
  • Basically, this is similar to Lincoln logs, but a larger version, you will burn them when you are done.
  • On each side of the teepee, place a large piece of fuelwood.
  • Look for a smaller piece of fuelwood and place them across the first group of the fuelwood, parallel to the other sides of the teepee.
  • To form a pyramid or cabin shape repeat the laying of shorter and smaller pieces.
  • Light it up.

Pyramid Fire Method

The pyramid fire method is also called the “upside-down” method. Rather than starting a campfire with smaller twigs, you begin by adding bigger ones, then later you add the smaller ones.

At the base of the fire bed, begin to lay down your bigger logs of wood, placed next to each. The next thing is to add the next layer of wood, the wood should be arranged in the opposite direction.

Repeat this process for about 3 to 4 times until the pile is high enough. Finally, you can now add a small teepee of kindling and tinder at the top of the pile. The moment you light it, the teepee begins to burn and will burn down the pyramid.

This fire lay method is the best choice and doesn’t require much time and attention.

Lean-To Fire Method

Lay a large log on the ground. The next thing is to place the kindling at an angle 30-degree on the log.Put the tinder at the base of the kindling.

After this, feel free to add another layer of kindling, this time around, you can add bigger ones.

Steps involved

  • Dig a long piece of kindling in the ground about an angle of 30-degree, with the end of the stick point into the air.
  • Beneath the support stick, place a tinder bundle.
  • Around the tinder nest, arrange your small pieces of kindling.
  • Place the kindling of small pieces against the piece stuck into the soil. Use the pieces of kindling to add another layer.
  • Finally, light the tinder to burn.

Step 4: Light Your Fire

Now, your beautiful wooden structure is set for the task ahead. It’s best to light your fire with matches because it will be difficult to make use of lighter to light the tinder structure.

Ensure to light the tinder in the middle of the built-up structure. Immediately you light the tinder, fan the flame gently. This will help to keep your fire burning.

Step 5: Keep the Fire Going

Now that your fire is up, you have to continue adding to it to keep the burning consistent.

As the fire keeps burning, continue to slowly add wood to the fire. The addition of too much wood at once can cause smothering of fire, thus, putting it out.

This is not a means of trashing your waste. The addition of wood and papers to the fire is to keep it burning. Materials such as plastic wrappers, aluminum foils, cans, and the rest should be kept in a trash can.

Finally, always attend to the campfire. To prevent the unexpected from happening, always have someone to watch over the fire.

Step 6: Putting Out Your Fire

When you are done with your fire, you have to put out the fire completely. You can follow these guidelines to put out your fire for good.

Start early.

You can spend a longer time than expected in putting out a fire. You should put out your fire 20 minutes before leaving the campsite or before going to bed.

Sprinkle, don’t pour.

Always place a bucket of water close to your campfire for safety purposes. This serves as fire extinguisher when you want to put out your fire. Sprinkle the water on the fire, do not pour to avoid the pit from being flooded. It could be useful for you some other time, or for another camper. This will reduce the stress when next you are starting a campfire


Stir the embers and charcoal as you sprinkle the water, using a shovel or stick. By so doing, the ashes will be properly wet. In the absence of hissing noises and steam, you have completely put out the fire.

Touch test.

Don’t dip your hand into the ashes. All you need to do is place your hand close to the ashes to feel the heat, if the heat is still high, continue adding water and stirring.The moment you feel the ashes are cool, you can stop adding water.

Dispose the ashes.

You won’t want the next camper to go through difficulty when starting a campfire because the fire bed has old ashes. Pack out the ashes out from the fire bed and you can spread it over the campsite. If you created your fire bed, ensure to leave the land the same way you met it. Replace the sod and dirt you dug up.

Related Questions

How do you make a good fire? To keep a fire burning consistently, you begin by adding kindling such as tiny pieces of wood or dried twigs, and good tinder, such as dry leaves and newspaper. The next thing is to add dry firewood to keep it burning. Make sure your fire is well ventilated from every angle.

Can you use olive when starting a campfire? Any oil used  in the kitchen will serve for this purpose. You can make use of Vegetable oil, canola, or olive oil to wet the papers and then light the fire.

What does a campfire symbolize? The campfire serves the following purposes: warmth, to cook, a beacon, an apex and or insect predator deterrent, light, and for a psychological sense of security.


The knowledge and ability on how to build a campfire and to control it was a big event in the history of mankind.Starting a campfire and making use of it to cook has given man a means of survival as protection against predators, colder climates, and consumption of varieties of foods.Up till today, building a fire is still very important in the outdoor.

Leave a Reply