Fire. Civilization wouldn’t be where it is today without this underrated discovery. Not only did it provide light, warmth, and the ability to cook to ancient man, but it also powered the industrial revolution that led to so many technological advancements we‘re enjoying today.

And even today, this primitive source of energy is still as important today as it was millions of years ago.

Especially if you are an outdoors kind of person, especially a camper, you need to learn how to build a fire.

Building a Campfire – a Few Easy Tips

Whether you’re boondocking deep in the woods where there’s no other way to cook, or camping at a modern campsite with every amenity you can find in a modern home, you need to learn how to start a fire – efficiently.

Prepare Your Fire Area

preparing the ground for a camp fire

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When it comes to making a fire, safety always comes first. Trust me, you don’t want to be the “firebug” that burns down a big patch of land – and that’s coming from personal experience. Preparing where you will make your fire is a simple 2-step process.

  1. Clear a large area that will make up your fire and sitting area. Make sure to clear off as much dead plants and flammable material as possible.
  2. Make a Fire Bed. This is the exact spot you will build your fire in. If there are some small rocks available, use them to make a small circle around your fire bed. Fill the bed with some dirt and pat it down to make a level surface

Gather the Right Kind of Wood

Now that your fire bed is ready, it’s time to get the fuel – wood. The trick with making a good fire is to use the right kind of wood, the 3 right kinds that is.

  1. Tinder. Tinder is the fast burning material like dry grass, thin dry bark, dry leaves, or anything that catches fire fast.
  2. Kindling. Kindling consists of twigs, thick dry bark, and small pieces of wood. Because tinder burns fast, you’ll need something to keep your fire going long enough for your logs to catch fire – kindling is it.
  3. Wood Fuel. This is what makes your real fire. And just like tinder and kindling, you have to choose your firewood very well. Not every dead tree will make good fuel for your fire. Hardwoods if available are the best. They may be difficult to cut into the right size for your fire but they make good, strong, long-lasting fires. And if you’re cooking on the fire, it’s also easier to regulate the heat.

How to Make a Fire (That Won’t Go Out Before the Logs Catch Fire)

For most people, the most frustrating part about building a campfire is the fire going out before the logs catch fire. That means looking for more tinder and striking another match, and sometimes, the matchstick in your hand can be the last. So how do you make a fire that won’t go out prematurely?

  1. Lay Your Fuel Strategically

This means utilizing the fire triangle: Oxygen-Heat (spark)-Fuel. The reason your fire burns fast and bright and yet ends up a fizzle is because you unwittingly remove oxygen from your fire triangle. How? By wrongly laying your fuel and thus closing off ventilation gaps that the fire needs to “breathe in” oxygen.

To properly lay your fuel you lay your tinder down and build a teepee around it with the kindling, making sure to leave small gaps. Next, lay a few logs around the kindling, starting with 2 or 3.

  1. Start the Fire

Your tinder will quickly catch fire and transfer that fire to the kindling, which in turn will transfer the fire to the wood. Once you’re certain the fire has caught on, start adding more wood bit by bit.

But before you become too excited about your fire, you have to start making plans for putting it out. No, you don’t just throw a bucketful of water on it – besides, water can sometimes be a luxury you can’t afford to “burn”.

How to Put Out a Fire – Effectively

how to put out a camp fire

Image via Cottage life

Using Water

Separate the logs gently, but make sure they’re still within the fire bed. Remember, a lone log can’t make a good fire. Once the logs are separate, sprinkle them with water. Note the word “sprinkle” here. Do this until you can’t hear any hissing from the logs or the embers in the middle of the fire bed.

 Using Sand

If your camp is in a sandy area, you can save your water by using sand to put out your fire. This method takes careful planning as you will have to wait for the fire to die down to ember level – flaming or not. All you simply have to do is smother the fire with some sand. Make sure the fire is completely out before you hit the sack.

Fire it Up!

Now that you know, not only how to build a fire, but also how to put it out effectively – fire it up!

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