The campfire is a beloved and integral component of any camping trip. The fire is the centerpiece of every outdoor excursion and brings those around it together in the form of stories, laughs, memories, and even s’mores!
To make sure your campfire is a crowd pleaser, follow this guide to create a safe, and reliable fire.
Use a Fire Ring
When visiting a campground, make sure that you are building fires only in the designated fire rings, or fire places. Fire rings are very important for keeping fires contained, and under control. Usually surrounded by stones and kept at a safe distance from trees and bushes, fire rings are generally the safest blueprint for campers who are new to building fires.
If your camping trip is in the backcountry and fire rings are not already set up for use, you will need to make your own. Ensure that you are selecting a site that is a safe distance from trees, bushes, and other plants. Your fire bed should never be on grass (especially not dead grass). Make sure that you pick a spot on earth. If you cannot find an area like this, build your own by digging out plant material and creating a platform. After you have done this, gather dirt into the centre of your cleared area. Try and make the platform (or barrier) about 3-4 inches thick.
Gather Fire Wood
The most crucial step of building a fire is getting stuff that burns. After you establish the base, begin gathering your fuel. You will need three types of materials in order to do this successfully. These are tinder, kindling, and firewood.
Tinder includes twigs, dry leaves, needles, or dry grass.
Kindling is small sticks that can be gathered in the forest area around you.
Firewood is large pieces of wood and what keeps your fire going after the other materials have started the flame properly.
If you are visiting a campsite, make sure you are using local firewood. Nearby stores often sell wood, or you might be able to purchase from the campsite you are visiting. Some campsites may even restrict wood brought from elsewhere to keep the area clear of any troublesome insects. Make sure you find out if this is the case before you visit the site. A dedicated firewood carrier can help transport your firewood to your camp.
Whether you are in the backcountry or in a campsite, it is very important that you use dead, or downed wood. Never cut down live trees or branches. This is because live tree limbs will not burn, and you could either kill or weaken a growing tree that is home to many animals.
Build the Campfire
There are many ways to lay a campfire. People have their own personal preferences but here are three of the most common and effective ways.
Campfire Method 1: Teepee
Begin with a small cone of kindling that surrounds a pile of tinder that is placed in the centre of the fire ring. Leave an opening on the side of your teepee that the wind is blowing on to ensure that the fire will get the air it needs to blow onto the kindling. Keep adding more kindling as it is burning and finally create a larger structure with fuel wood. As the fire burns and the wood collapses, continue to maintain a cone as well as you can with other logs.
Campfire Method 2: Log Cabin
Place two larger pieces of wood parallel to each other with a bit of room in between them. Next, put two more pieces across them just like how a log cabin would be formed. After this, place a handful of tinder into the square. Keep adding more layers of wood until you have reached a manageable height. Once you have done this, finish your creation with a layer of kindling and tinder at the top. Make sure you leave space between the logs so that they still are getting plenty of oxygen.
Campfire Method 3: Lean-To
Place a big piece of firewood in the fire ring, lying on its side as the windbreaker. Next, lean smaller pieces of firewood against it, along with kindling and tinder in between. A lean-to fire lay is the best structure to create a fire on a windy day.
Light the Campfire
Once the preparation is done, light the tinder with a match or a lighter. After lighting it, blow lightly at the base of the flame to provide oxygen. This will increase the intensity of the flame and continue to ignite the wood. As the fire continues, add more kindling and wood to keep it burning for as long as you want.
Put out the Campfire
Always make sure that if the campsite that you are staying at has specific guidelines to cleaning up the fire, you follow them. If not, the best way to put out a campfire is to pour water on it from a safe distance with your body away from the flame. Pour the water slowly and continue until the fire is reduced to ash.
You don’t want to leave the next camper a messy fire ring. Make sure that after it cools down, you extract the charcoal pieces left over, crush them up, and scatter them in the forest around you.