A campfire can be both enjoyable and essential, whether a family camping trip or a survival situation. With enough willpower and experimentation, almost anyone can start a campfire. Several proven methods can increase the chances of success. With the proper preparations and procedures, one should be able to have a big campfire going in no time.
When building a campfire, the first order of business is choosing a suitable location. A flat, open area away from highly combustible trees, such as pines, is best. When building a campfire, it is essential to clear the area of fallen leaves, brush, and twigs to avoid a wildfire. A rounded pit should be dug to the desired size, as this will direct the heat from the campfire upwards, making it easier to light heavier wood.
The second step in building a campfire is to collect kindling. Many household materials work exceptionally well, such as old newspapers, pizza boxes, etc. If not available, dry leaves, bark, and small twigs will work just as well. The more flammable materials should be placed at the bottom, and small sticks and twigs added, working your way up. Kindling should be placed in the area designated for the campfire.
Then larger sticks should be gathered and used to erect a pyramid. A rough cone shape should be created around the small wood by leaning the larger wood towards the center. This will ensure that the heat from the budding campfire will be used efficiently. An opening must be left so that, when the time comes, the pile of kindling in the center of the pyramid is accessible to light the campfire. Ideally, several openings should be left so the kindling can be burned in several places.
Before lighting the kindling, additional firewood must be collected. Enough should be stored nearby so that it is not necessary to go for food in the forest after dark to find enough wood to maintain the campfire. In addition, large branches and logs should be gathered to be placed on the fire once enough embers have been established. These will burn longer and require less attention once they catch fire.
The last step in starting a campfire is, of course, lighting it. Just about anything that produces flame can be used; lighters and matches are most readily available. Kindling must be lit in several places, and it may help blow lightly on the pile if necessary until it ignites. As the kindling burns, it should take the larger wood from the burning pyramid. Once the pyramid burns enough to collapse, larger wood logs can be added as the fire grows.
Using kerosene, gasoline, or any other combustible liquid is not recommended to start a campfire as it can cause severe burns. Before leaving the area, campers should remember to extinguish the campfire. The pile of embers and ashes can remain hot for several days, so it should be sprinkled with water. Without water, the fire may be smothered by dirt.
Commercial campgrounds are ideal for those who want to make a campfire. More often than not, some fire pits may already exist, left behind by the campers who visited before you. But if you've gone to a non-commercial area for camping, you'll need to start your campfire from scratch.
Check whether a license or permit is required in your area before lighting a campfire. Ask the neighborhood support supervisor about this. In addition, you can speak to a United States Forest representative if you are camping on state property or a logger if it is commercial. Once the formalities are in place, it's time to check factors such as the weather and the condition of the area. Humidity and wind are just some of the aspects you need to consider. By taking care of this, you can arrange for proper materials that will allow you to build your campfire.
You first need to know to start your campfire on relatively flat ground. Always remember that it's a standard procedure to ignite your campfire 20 feet from your tent as the minimum distance. You should keep the same distance from any other combustible structure as well. However, take precautions to protect your camp from any gusts of wind that may suddenly blow in your direction. Take this step as a safety measure against any flying sparks and embers, which can be a potential cause of the fire.
Once you have found the camping site of your liking and chosen to have a campfire, a question arises: How to select the wood for a campfire? First, you must know how to choose the wood that will be the ideal fuel for your fire.
A good wood for keeping warm is referred to as "hard" wood. This is because it burns for a long time, producing good embers and maximum heat. In addition, these woods have a high calorific value.
The following species are notable hardwoods:
But be careful; choose kindling or crate to light your wood fire. These so-called "soft" woods will help you start the fire because they produce more flames and easily ignite the hardwoods. One can also use "medium-hard" woods that ignite more quickly and have a high calorific value. These include the following:
Generally, in a campfire, the embers are what heat, not the flames. However, the fire will tend to blacken the bowls and burn the marshmallows or other barbecue if you plan to cook on a campfire.
It's all about the moisture content in the wood. The less water there is, the higher the wood's calorific value. Dry wood has a humidity level of around 20%, unlike green wood, whose humidity is approximately 35%.
You can pick up such wood at the foot of trees or on dry paths. Dry wood is identified because it snaps clean. Unlike green wood, which will tend to bend, dry wood easily breaks. If you can't break it due to its thickness, trust the wood's sound when you hit it against a tree. Also, the wood should ring hollow.
Be careful, however, not to choose rotten wood. It is easily identified because it is very moist and light.
If it's wood that you chopped yourself, wait at least two years for it to dry out before burning it.
It would be best if you chose woods of the following three different sizes:
Twigs: the thickness of a pencil; they will be used to start the fire by covering the newspaper. They are mainly used to make flames.
Intermediate wood: the thickness of your wrist; this wood ignites above the twigs and allows the beginnings of embers and good flames.
Heavy wood: the thickness of a good log, it is cut with a saw. You will add this wood in a third step. This is the one that will allow you to make good embers and heat yourself.
Some woods are toxic or harmful to burn. For example, we can cite the chestnut and most thorny trees that explode when burning. It can be hazardous.
On the other hand, avoid chipboard, treated, or painted wood because they are toxic.
Moreover, it is damaging to the environment.
This step needs no explanation; if you have a lighter or match with you all the time. Without these sophisticated tools, a Firestarter is a good alternative. You just hit the flint to create a spark, and you are good to go.
Worse comes to worst, though, when all of the above isn't available, you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way… well, the prehistoric way. Plenty of YouTube videos teach you how to build a campfire from scratch.
If you want to learn more about these techniques, even if they are the historical techniques of starting a fire - from a survival and preparation point of view, they are neither very practical nor realistic.
Overall, there are four practical and effective methods for starting a campfire:
It's really a simple calculation; 10 of these lighters kept in waterproof pockets and you'll never run out of fire. You still need to take care with waterproof carrying because if they get wet, it will take considerable time to dry, which can be the optimal solution for most campers. You can easily buy a dozen of these lighters and put them everywhere including your home, vehicle, or in your EDC. These lighters seem to be an extremely profitable precaution given the little investment it represents.
Zippo lighters have the advantage that they are waterproof. Only the slot between the body and its cover is not waterproof so a piece of tape can make it perfectly waterproof. Even if a Zippo gets wet, you can dismantle it and it can be used again. It just costs a little more than the basics. Moreover, you need to purchase its gasoline, stones, and spare wicks. The major advantage of the Zippos is they're guaranteed for life.
A little less techy than a classic magnifying glass but not much more effective. It weighs no less, is expensive, gets damaged over time (especially rust), takes time and energy, and requires extremely volatile and flammable fuels.
Some people prefer them to BICs, so let's compare them to the BIC lighters in terms of features, etc. Matches cost a little more per ignition, and they are less resistant to water (a BIC may take time to get dry, but matches cannot be reused once they get wet); they take more space and weigh about the same. Afterward, they may be a little better to use to light your campfire, but ultimately, the difference is not worth it.
Knowing how to put out a fire is as important as knowing how to light it. When you leave your bivouac to hit the road or go to sleep (unless someone is in charge of keeping watch), it is essential to take all the necessary precautions to ensure that the fire is well extinguished and is no longer a danger to its surroundings. To do this, we advise, when possible, to let it burn until it goes out naturally, then water it and the surroundings until the ashes are cold, then disperse them. To put out a still lively fire, you will have to hose it down several times and proceed in the same way, ensuring that everything has become cold and that there no longer exists the slightest flame or the tiniest ember.
If you have a campfire while camping, cleaning up the site afterward is essential. Leaving behind rubbish and half-burned logs is unsightly for other campers, and it's not good for the environment. So, when you clean up your campfire site, stamp on any cans and put them in your trash, and take them back home. Also, it's wise to thoroughly dampen the area before leaving to ensure the fire is completely out. By taking these simple steps, you'll respect the environment and other campers who may come after you.
Burning foil in campfires leaves behind a nasty scar that takes a long time to heal. The leftover foil can take years to decompose when campers don't clean up their campfire pits after using them. In the meantime, it leeches toxins into the ground and water. This runoff can contaminate local streams and rivers, harming wildlife. It also creates an eyesore in the wilderness. So, when you're done cooking over your campfire, be sure to clean up any foil that may have been left behind. A little effort now will help preserve the beauty of the wilderness for future generations.
A campfire can be both fun and helpful. It is easier than you think to start a campfire, but choosing the right spot and gathering suitable materials is crucial. Look for a flat, open area away from trees that can easily catch fire. Collect kindling such as old newspapers, dry leaves, or small twigs. There are four ways to start a fire: with a BIC lighter, Zippo lighter, Fire steel, or classic matches.
Knowing how to put out a fire is just as important as knowing how to light it. In the end, ensure the campfire is completely out before you leave by letting it burn out naturally and then watering the area until the ashes are cold.