I am here to teach you the best techniques to have an efficient, long lasting, and safe fire building experience.
Facts About Campfires!
Educated guess when humans started using Campfire!
Campfires could have been built by Australopithecus robustus and Homo erectus about 1.5 million years ago in the caves of South Africa ( Levin, 2005).
How hot are campfires?
Most campfires will start around 572 Fahrenheit. This all depends on the type of wood that you use. Then once the gases inside the fire gets going, the temperature will get to 1,112 Fahrenheit. Lastly, once the wood turns into ashes and charcoal, the temperatures will be around 2,012 degrees Fahrenheit ( Gabriella, 2018).
What are campfires used for?
Here are some interesting ways a campfire can be used from what I learned from Boys Scouts.
- Light source
- Story telling
- You can boil water to make the water safe to drink.
- Smoke signals for search & rescue.
- Dry wet clothes
The four steps to build a campfire.
(Step 1. Build fire bed)
Always think safety when building a fire or even being around a fire (McKay & McKay, 2019).
A fire bed is fundamental for fire safety because the fire bed will help keep the fire contained in a safe designated area which overall greatly prevents a fire from spreading out of control(McKay & McKay, 2019).
First, we need to find a designated area that you can build a campfire safely at. Most forest preserves or national parks will have designated fire bed. You need to remember while at these parks, you need to read the rules before building a fire. They are strict about it. But if you are camping in area that lacks fire sites and can build your own campfire lawfully. Then you can make your own fire bed.
Always build away from bushes, trees, and any plant materials. You want to build your fire bed on bare earth if possible (McKay & McKay, 2019).
Also, do not build your fire next to any tents or combustible items (Priest & Simo).
If there are not any bare areas that you could use, you can make your very own.
Second, you want to dig and rake away any plant material that could catch on fire easily like bark, branches, and dry grass. Once you have made a bare area, you need to build your fire bed.
To build your fire bed, create pit by digging into the ground 3 to 4 inches deep right in the middle of the area you cleared out (McKay & McKay, 2019).
Here a tip I leaned from boys’ scouts. You want your fire bed to be the size of median to large circle.
Step 2. Gather your wood!
You will need to gather tinder, kindling, and fire wood.
Tinder consists of fungi, dry grass, dry leaves, and dry bark. You can also bring lint from your dryer to use as tinder. Tinder can easily catch on fire (McKay & McKay, 2019).
Here are some photos below of tinder. Once you have your tinder together, best to make a bird nest. This is not easy.
Next you will need kindling to back up the tinder you collected because tinder burns fast. Kindling will prevent your flame from burning out easily.
Kindling consists mostly of two things. Small twigs and branches!
The key thing to remember that twigs and branches should have the width of a pencil. Also, if there are only wet twigs and branches around you. You can use handy dandy pocketknife to whittle the outer layer away (McKay & McKay, 2019).
Lastly, we have firewood. Also, known as fuel wood because firewood is the main fuel for your fire.
This wood will keep your fire burning hot and alive for a while. Firewood looks like logs or branches that is as wide as your forearm or wrist (McKay & McKay, 2019).
Tips to memorize before gathering your wood!
Make sure that all your burning material is dry because Water and fire are not your friends!
Next, if your wood is green or bends easily this means the wood is wet. Then you want wood that will break easily because some wood can be extremely hard to break.
Lastly, you can never have enough of kindling, fuel wood and tinder because everything could burn fast.
Seven woods that are good for burning!
Step 3. Lay your fire: (Two diverse ways)
You want to take your tinder and put the tinder in the middle of the fire bed like in the photo.
Then you want to build a teepee formation with some kindling right above your tinder like in the photo.
Remember to leave an opening in the direction of the wind because this will let your fire get the much-needed air to help with the flames blow onto the kindling.
Next, you need to add more kindling to the teepee. You will work your way up with the kindling. The kindling will be the size of “pencil sized twigs.” Then you want to make an even larger teepee structure by using firewood around the kindling.
Lastly, lite up the Teepee with your choice of fire starter. Catch the tinder on fire that is in the middle of the campfire because this will direct the flames to go up.
Here are two last things you need to remember!
First, your teepee structure will fall. You can add more fuel logs right away before the whole fire stops burning.
Second, if there is not any wind presented, this type of fire will not be as efficient without the wind.
First, get a long piece of kindling. Then stick the kindling in the ground at a slope of 30-degrees like in the photo above. Make sure the end is pointing towards the wind.
Next, you want to get some tinder and place the tinder right underneath the “support stick” like in the photo.
Then you will need some small kindling pieces that will go around the tinder nest.
Fourth, you need to place some small kindling right against stick that is stuck in the ground.
Then add another layer of kindling but make sure the pieces are bigger this time.
The last step is light the tinder with your choice of fire starter.
What Can You Use to Start a Campfire?
Here are three different methods you can use to start a fire if you do not have a match: Bow Drill, Batteries and Steel Wool, and Flint and Steel.
Bow Drill method
Batteries and Steel Wool method
Flint and Steel Method
Step 4: How to put out your fire correctly and rebuild the land
You need to understand why one needs to put out a fire correctly. 60,932 wildfires started one year because of humans which burned 4 million acres (Gabriella, 2018).
You must put out your fire all the way and correctly. Then you need to rebuild the land so you can leave no trace.
Here are the steps to put out a campfire correctly!
First, you want to start early if you want to put out a campfire. The process can take around 20 minutes of your time (McKay & McKay, 2019).
Second, you need some water to put out the campfire. I highly recommend you use a bucketful of water or two. If you are camping right next to a river, ocean, lake, or stream, you can get some water but never take your eyes of the campfire.
I recommend 1000 ft is a safe distance to leave you campfire for only a few minutes but remember a fire can start anytime. only takes one little spark to start a wildfire.
I highly recommend collecting some water before starting the campfire because you will not have to leave your campfire behind.
Third, when you put the fire out with the bucket of water, you want to sprinkle the water onto the embers, charcoal and firewood until the fire is completely burn out.
Do not pour the water onto the fire because others might want to use the fire bed after you.
Also, while you are sprinkling water over the embers and charcoal, you should use a longer stick or shovel because this will help to make sure everything gets wet and will cut off oxygen.
Just keep moving the stick or shovel around various parts of the campfire. If, you are doing this correctly, you will not see any more steam (McKay & McKay, 2019).
If there is not any water around you will need to use a shovel. Use the sand or dirt that is around you. Bury all the embers and charcoal with the dirt (Munoz, 2018).
Remember, a fire can start underneath the dirt or sand. You want to take a shovel and keep moving everything around to cut off any oxygen that could be left over.
Next, you want to make sure that you cannot feel any more heat from the fire. You want to use the back of your hand near the ashes but do not touch the ashes. If you do feel any heat, repeat the whole entire process until there is not anymore heat (McKay & McKay, 2019).
Then, you need to leave the land in the original condition or better. If you made a fire bed, you want to clean that up. Scoop up all the ashes and put them into a bag. You can spread the ashes nearby because ashes are good for the ground but only if you have not used any manmade chemicals.
Now, patch up the ground. Replace the dirt with new dirt and sod. If there was leaves all around the area, take some and try to copy the land around you. Here a before and after photo below. Can you guess what this person did incorrectly?
Thank you for reading my blog about fire building. I hope you learned a lot.
Priest, Simon. Effective Leadership in Adventure Programming. Human Kinetics. Kindle Edition.
AllOutDoor. (2015, February 13). Chart: Type of Woods to Burn for Camping. Retrieved from Alloutdoor: https://www.alloutdoor.com/2015/02/13/chart-type-woods-burn-camping/
Average Midwest Outdoorsman. (2016, May 22). How To Start A Fire With A 9V Battery & Steel Wool. Retrieved from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNY9wgWYXjo
Foster, R. (2015, May 3). How to Build A Campfire. Retrieved from Summercampsecrets: https://summercampsecrets.org/2015/05/03/how-to-build-a-campfire/
Howcast. (2010, July 20). How to Make Fire with a Bow Drill. Retrieved from Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETzcTwxLx3M
Kirtley, P. (n.d.). HOW TO LEAVE NO TRACE OF YOUR CAMPFIRE. Retrieved from Paul Kirtley’s Blog: http://paulkirtley.co.uk/2011/how-to-leave-no-trace-of-your-campfire/
McKay, B., & McKay, K. (2019, September 17). How To Build a Roaring Campfire. Retrieved from Artofmanliness: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-build-a-roaring-campfire/
Munoz, G. (2018, April 26). How Hot Is a Bonfire? Retrieved from Sciencing: https://sciencing.com/hot-bonfire-8770.html
PSKOOK go. (2018, September 11). PSKOOK Flint and Steel Striker Kit. Retrieved from Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ARDE_WAis8
Scout Society. (n.d.). Fire Portal. Retrieved from Scoutsociety : http://www.scoutsociety.org/repository/fire-knife-axe/fire.html