How to Build a Camp Fire

How to Build a Campfire

Building a campfire is a basic skill that's important for anyone planning to spend time in the great outdoors. It's easy to build a campfire safely and quickly when you have the right materials, and a fire comes in handy for heat, cooking, light or a distress signal.


Regardless of the size fire you build, clean excess leaves and pine needles from an area two to five feet in diameter. Sudden sparks can be dangerous if there is combustible material near the fire.

If you're planning a daytime cooking fire, choose a sheltered spot with no overhanging limbs. You never know what could drop in unexpectedly to your simmering pot of chili. This fire can be small, as it won't be used for a long period.

Evening and overnight fires are larger and should be positioned after setting up the sleeping area. They should provide maximum heat without being dangerously close to sleeping bags.


Set out a fire ring of rocks to contain the fire, and use flat rocks to provide a place for utensils if you will be cooking. A V- or U-shaped configuration of rocks, with the open end facing the breeze, encourages a draft to keep the fire burning consistently. Use only dry rocks, as wet stones can explode when exposed to the high heat.

Collect firewood, kindling and prepare tinder. Tinder is shavings from fine twigs and pine needles. Do not use leaves, as they can float and cause fires. Use dry, seasoned wood whenever possible.

Organize your fuel by size and set out near your fire for ease in starting and maintaining the fire. Make sure it is far enough away from the fire to avoid sparks igniting the wood. Have a shovel and a bucket of water available for emergencies.

Build a campfire by preparing a bed of tinder next to a short, three to six-inch diameter stick. Lean pencil-size twigs over the pile and ignite the tinder. As the tinder flames up it will ignite the twigs quickly and you can begin to add larger sticks of kindling.

Position your body to shield the fire with your body or use a windshield of a jacket or other gear when lighting your match. Another alternative is to light a candle in a cup and use the candle to ignite your tinder.

Leave No Trace

Make sure to completely extinguish your campfire and return the site to the condition you found it. Douse the pit with water, and scatter the remains and cover with dirt.

Creating a safe and comfortable campfire takes a little skill, some practice and a good deal of patience. Just remember to bring plenty of matches or a butane lighter so you don't have to resort to a flint and steel striker like your ancestors.


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