Building a campfire is one of those basic skills that everyone should have, even if retreating in nature is not their favorite past time. The task might sound challenging, but we assure you that it is much easier than you think – especially because you do not need to worry about finding a flame source since anyone can bring a match, a lighter, or even a fire starter kit. The best part is that this skill can be applied in all sorts of places and situations – firing up a beach barbecue, warming up your camp, or even setting ablaze a classic fireplace.
What we want to teach you, however, is building the campfire properly. This can make the whole process much easier, and you will not have to worry about keeping the flame alive for long – if you build it right, everything will work from the first try.
But before we get to tutoring, let’s start with the basic materials that you should prepare or bring alongside in order to start an easy campfire.
Campfires Made Easy: Prepare the Right Materials
The first thing you need to think about is the sources of fuel that you will need. It is best to use a combination of tinder, kindling, and firewood. Pretty much anything works for firewood – as long as you make sure it is dry. What we want to go into detail about are the tinder and kindling.
What makes good tinder? Anything that catches fire easily falls into this category – cardboard, paper, wood chips, dryer lint, pine needles, or even dry leaves and grass. You could bring these from your home or find them around your camping spot. Our personal advice is to save any junk mail you receive and use it for your future campfires – just make sure to use the junk made out of newspaper paper, also known as newsprint.
Kindling is very simple to collect – you basically need wood that is very thin and dry. Basically, any small twigs and branches will do the trick. These are very easy to find while in nature, but they might be difficult to find on, for example, the beach. To make things easy for you, you could keep a small box with the basic necessities to make an easy campfire – a flame source, tinder, and kindling is all you need. Just pop it in your bag when you expect to be making a campfire on your trip.
An extra tip that you can make use of is to bring some scrap lumber with you. For example, you can easily split a scrap two-by-four in small bits that are an ideal material to place between your kindling and firewood.
Campfires Made Easy: Does Firewood Matter?
It is a well-known fact that different types of wood burn in a different manner – some releases more smoke, others can burn for longer, and others can release more heat in a shorter period of time. However, you rarely get the comfort to choose when trying to start a campfire – typically, campers use whatever type of wood can get their hands on. If you insist on using a particular type of wood, then you might need to purchase it beforehand and bring it along the rest of your luggage.
Some of the general things you need to know about popular types of firewood are:
- Pine – inexpensive, and quick to burn. This is often the most abundant and easy-to-use wood, but it burns hot and fast. Better pack a lot, and don’t plan to cook over it.
- Oak – probably the most popular type of firewood. It is very slow-burning, making it a convenient option when you are looking for a long and hot campfire.
- Maple – dense and hard firewood, which can produce a lot of heat, while still burning for a long period of time.
- Cherry or apple wood – an ideal choice if you plan on turning your campfire into a barbecue. It releases a wonderful aroma and minimum amounts of smoke, making it the finest choice for smoking meat.
If you are planning on using firewood from a campground, make sure to make yourself familiar with the location’s policies. In many cases, it is best to go to the campground store for your firewood needs.
Transporting firewood is also something that you should consider. You do not need a special container for that – even a plain bucket will do the trick. Pretty much any broken item that resembles a container will work – for example, a broken cooler is a neat way to carry around firewood. Just make sure not to put in too many, or you risk breaking the handle.
Campfires Made Easy: Structuring the Campfire
The structure of a campfire should pretty much be always the same:
- The tinder goes on the bottom – if you are using newsprint paper, then make sure to crumble it a bit so it catches fire easily. This is the spot that you will need to light on fire.
- Kindling goes over the tinder – put as many as you need, and cross them with each other to ensure that they all catch fire quickly.
- Put the firewood on top – don’t use too much at first. In fact, even one piece is enough to easily get the fire going. Once the blaze has started, you can add more firewood.
If you happen to be reusing a fire spot, or if you have a fire pit at your disposal, then you should know that old ash can make the process easier since its temperature will go up quickly. However, make sure that the ash is not wet – if you find wet ash, you should scoop it up until you reach the dry one. If there’s none dry ash, then make sure to remove every last bit.
If you want to be extra fancy with your campfire’s structure, then you can try these arrangements:
- Tepee fire or cone fire – this shape turns to burn faster, releasing more heat. It is a good option for boiling water, heating up quickly, or cooking a meal in a hurry. Lay the tinder in a circular shape at the bottom, and then build a tepee shape with your kindling. Light the tinder, and wait until the kindling catches on fire – add firewood on top by using the tepee shape again. The downside is that eventually it starts to collapse.
- Log cabin – a popular an easy to set up campfire that burns slower compared to the tepee shape. Place two logs parallel to each other, and then two more logs perpendicular to the bottom ones on top. Keep doing this until you think your fire is big enough. Put the tinder and kindling in the middle square and light it up. This style takes a little longer to get started, but once it gets going it’s very stable and reliable.