How to Build a Campfire
One of the best parts about camping is sitting around a roaring campfire underneath the stars. There are few activities more relaxing than sitting with friends or family watching yellow, orange, and red flames kiss the night air. Hours can be spent just sitting around the campfire telling stories, sipping hot chocolate, or roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. For children on a camping trip, building and sitting around a roaring campfire is one of the most memorable activities.
A roaring fire can make a camping trip unforgettable and building one isn’t too difficult. Of course, there are some tricks and tips you can follow to make a campfire worth snapping Instagram-able pictures around. Here are some tips and tricks to build the perfect campfire for your next outdoor adventure.
1. Check the forecast
Before building a campfire, it is advisable to check the weather forecast. Wet or damp ground can make it difficult to build a good fire. In addition, you may not be able to find dry kindling or wood to burn. If the weather is a little damp, you may bring along cardboard, newspaper, or other items that can help you start the campfire. Dryer lint also makes a good fire starter.
2. The fire bed
When camping in a national park or designated camping area, the last thing you want to do is start a forest fire. Many campsites have designated campfire beds allowing you to build your fire. If you are building your own fire bed, make sure you find a bare spot and dig away the earth and plant life. It is important to move away dry plants, wood, and grass. Also, build the campfire bed away from trees, bushes, and other plant life. The fire bed should be dug into the ground with the lowest point being the center of the campfire. Finally, be sure to make sure there are no burn bans in effect.
3. Add stones for control
A campfire can get out of control very easily. It is essential to pay attention to the fire once it is lit. However, before ever lighting the fire, if there is no fire ring you should gather up medium-sized stones to encircle the fire bed. This will prevent the fire from spreading.
4. Gather the wood
First of all, if you plan to gather firewood in the area make sure from the park ranger that it is permissible. Otherwise, you may need to bring your own wood.
You will need three types of wood to make a roaring campfire. The three types of wood needed are tinder, kindling, and fuel wood. Each provides something different to make the fire warm and cozy. Tinder is used to start the fire. It catches fire quickly and burns easily allowing larger pieces of wood to burn. Dry leaves, dry bark, wood shavings, dry grass, and some fluffy fungi are all good materials to use as tinder. You can also bring tinder from home such as newspapers. Having dry tinder can be the difference between starting a campfire and going without.
The second type of wood needed is kindling. Kindling is smaller pieces of wood that catch fire from the tinder and help light the larger longs. Kindling consists of small branches and twigs. Be sure that the kindling is dry otherwise it won’t catch fire. It is good for the kindling to snap easily. This is a sign that it is dry.
Fuel wood is the final piece of the puzzle and is the larger logs that make the fire burn hot. Often, campers believe that fuel wood has to be large pieces of wood. However, if the logs are too big, they take a long time to catch fire. Try to find logs that are big but not too large. You don’t have to build the stereotypical campfire shown in Hollywood films.
5. Building the fire
There are three different option to laying the wood and building the fire. You don’t just throw everything on a pile, light a match, and hope it burns. There is a system to it and sticking to the process ensures you have a beautiful, warm campfire.
The first option for building a fire is the teepee method. You essentially build a teepee of kindling around the tinder. Outside the kindling, you place the larger fuel wood in the same teepee shape. This allows the fire to burn from the inside tinder outwards to the fuel wood. It also makes the fire burn for a significant amount of time.
A lean-to campfire is a second option. To build a lean-to campfire, place a piece of kindling in the ground with the end of it pointing in the wind. The kindling stick should be at a 30-degree angle. Then, place tinder under the support stick and more kindling around the tinder nest. Add further pieces of kindling against the piece that was placed into the ground. After building another kindling layer, light the tinder and the campfire should burn big and bright.
The final campfire method is the log cabin. Start by building a small teepee with tinder and kindling. Next, take the larger pieces of fuel wood and place them on either side of the teepee. Now, alternate laying fuel wood around the teepee like you are building a house out of Lincoln Logs. Continue layering the log cabin until it looks sufficiently stacked with fuel wood. Now, light it on fire and enjoy the warmth of a great campfire.
You will need to continually add firewood to the campfire as it burns. It is important to gather up enough firewood before nightfall. Searching for firewood can be treacherous in the dark.
6. Extinguishing the fire
A campfire must be put out thoroughly. A little ember can cause an entire forest to burn to the ground. Extinguishing a fire is a process and it isn’t as simple as throwing a bucket of water on top of it as you leave the campsite.
It is recommended to spend about 20 minutes putting out a campfire properly. When extinguishing the fire, sprinkle – don’t pour – a bucket of water over the fire to put out the glowing embers. Use a shovel or stick to stir the ashes as you sprinkle water over the top of it. After sprinkling and stirring, put the back of your hand near the fire to ensure that it is no longer hot. Keep stirring and sprinkling water until it feels cool.
Now that the ashes are cool, pick them up with a shovel and spread them around the campsite. Finally, take the dirt and plant material you moved to dig the campfire bed, and replace it. Filling in the campfire bed allows you to leave the site as you found it.
Now, you are ready to build a campfire and enjoy a night below the stars. Just remember these tips to have a great time while roasting marshmallows.