There are four important steps to follow when building a campfire: preparation, building, maintenance, and extinguishing the fire. Each step is equally vital to the process of safely enjoying a campfire – miss just one detail and your plans could go up in smoke—or worse.
1. How to Prepare a CampfireAs with all things in life, preparation can make or break everything. The first thing anyone planning to build a campfire should do is check with local fire restrictions. This information can likely be found on your county’s website, and will tell you if conditions are too dangerous for a fire. Always follow local laws and restrictions and ake sure to check with the campground for any other guidelines.
You’ll also need a shovel, a bucket, access to a water supply, and your preferred method of starting a fire.
Choose Your LocationChoosing the right place to build your campfire can be just as crucial as any other step in the process. If you’re at a campsite or somewhere else with a premade fire pit, use it! If not, you’ll have to build your own. Make sure there’s at least 15 feet between your chosen site and anything flammable, like trees, bushes, and tents. The best spot to start building a fire is dry, bare dirt—if you don’t have that, clear out all debris in a 10-foot radius. Other things to consider include low hanging branches, wind speed and direction, and rain.
3 Types of Firewood to Use
- The first type of firewood is tinder, and sometimes it’s not even wood at all. Tinder is the part you’ll light first to get your fire started, so it can be anything that catches fire and burns quickly and easily, from dry leaves and grass to moss, bark, or small twigs. If you’re worried about finding dry tinder at your campsite, or if you just love planning ahead, you can bring things from home to use as tinder—like old newspaper, cardboard, wood shavings, or dryer lint.
- The second type of firewood you’ll need is kindling. These are small sticks that you will use to build the starting shape of your campfire. Serving to bridge the gap between a tiny bundle of burning tinder and a raging inferno, kindling needs to be able to catch fire easily and keep burning for a while, so make sure to keep them to about an inch around.
- The third and final type of wood needed for a campfire, fuel wood, is likely the image that springs to mind when you think of firewood: logs cut down to a couple feet long and split into quarters. You can often buy pre cut fuel wood from campgrounds or other stores, but you can always gather and cut your own. Once your campfire is built and burning, you’ll use these logs to keep it going strong for as long as you need.
Now that you’ve got everything you need, it’s finally time to start building the fire!
2. How to Build a Campfire
Building a Teepee
3. How to Maintain a CampfireNow that you’ve got a campfire burning, you may think that it’s finally time to sit back and relax. You would be woefully wrong, though, as maintenance is an imperative aspect of campfire safety. Even with all of its wonderful uses, fire is still very dangerous and accidents can happen in an instant. It’s crucial to stay vigilant and never leave a campfire unattended. Also keep in mind to never leave children or pets alone with a campfire. Keep a watchful eye on the weather—a sudden change in wind speed and direction can prove disastrous.
As the initial Teepee burns, start adding larger and larger pieces of wood until your campfire is the size you want. Keep it small and under control, and add more fuel wood as necessary. Stick to only burning firewood, as putting things like bottles, cans, or trash in a fire can be dangerous. Keeping all that in mind, you can now safely enjoy the fruits of all your hard work and preparation.
4. Extinguishing the CampfireWhen it comes to upholding campfire safety, your job isn’t done until the very last embers of your extinguished fire are dead and cold. Properly extinguishing a campfire is perhaps the most critical step to safely building a campfire. Leaving behind any remains of a fire could prove cataclysmic—if your leftover hot embers get blown off into the forest, there may soon no longer be a forest. Make sure to be extremely thorough in this step. It takes time to do things right, so give yourself at least 20 minutes to extinguish your campfire before packing up and heading out or turning in for the night.
The best way to make sure your campfire is completely out is to let it burn all the way down to ash. If you’re pressed for time, though, you can start a bit early. Grab your bucket and slowly start pouring water into your fire pit. Be careful not to pour too much or too fast, as flooding a campfire will make it unusable. Next, take your shovel and use it to stir in dirt with your soupy, ashy, muddy mess of a fire pit. Once it’s nice and mixed up, hold your hand above the fire pit to feel if it’s still hot. If you feel any heat at all, grab your bucket and repeat the whole process. Don’t stop until your pit is completely cool.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time for you to get out there and build some campfires of your own. Keep these guidelines in mind and you can expect to enjoy warm, safe, and fun campfires for the rest of your days.