Knowing how to start a fire is an essential skill if you spend much time camping. A campfire can keep you warm, allow you to cook food, and be a place to gather after an adventurous day. Going from a pile of deadwood to a blazing fire isn’t always easy. Today, we have five techniques for starting a fire to help you look like a seasoned camping veteran.
Let’s get started!
Fire Starting for Beginners
Starting a fire can be intimidating when you’re a beginner. It doesn’t help if you have an audience of your fellow campers wanting to get warm or cook dinner. If you’re a beginner, two crucial elements are having suitable materials and practicing your technique. Knowing how to start a fire gets easier when you have the right tools and know-how to use them.
Set yourself up for success and make yourself look like a camping expert. If you do, you’ll have a roaring fire in no time!
What You Need to Start a Fire
There are a handful of things that you’ll need to start a fire. These tools may help you be more efficient with your time and energy and reduce the frustration of battling a stubborn fire. Here are some things you should make sure you have available when starting a campfire.
When it comes to building a fire, tinder is any easily combustible material. You can use small twigs, dry leaves, needles, or grass, but the key is to be as dry as possible so it can easily ignite.
It’s better to have too much tinder than not enough. If you attempt to start a fire and don’t have a sufficient amount of fuel, you’ll waste what tinder you have and will have to gather items all over again.
Kindling is a happy medium between tinder and firewood. You’ll want to look for small sticks that are extremely dry. Some of the best kindling is less than an inch in diameter. Gather a sufficient amount of kindling. You want to have enough that it can get the job done.
Firewood is a more significant chunk of wood that will take much longer to burn than kindling and tinder but generates substantially more heat. Hardwoods like oak, beech, hickory, and ash will burn for an incredibly long time but can be more difficult to ignite. Softwoods like poplar, spruce, and pine are great for getting the fire going as they are easier to ignite and are typically cheaper.
No matter what type of wood you’re using for your fire, it’s best to use seasoned wood. This is wood that has been able to sit for six to nine months to dry out any moisture inside of it. Fresh cut wood has a lot of moisture and will be more difficult to burn. It also creates more smoke than seasoned firewood.
Pro Tip: After making s’mores over the fire you built, use these 5 Simple Ways for How to Get Campfire Smell Out of Clothes.
One thing that all fires have in common is that they start with a spark. Experienced outdoor enthusiasts create a spark using friction by rubbing wood together and using a bow.
You can also use rocks to create a spark to ignite the tinder. However, the much easier method is to make sure you have multiple lighters in your RV at all times. With the flick of your thumb, you can have all you need.
Oxygen / Air Flow
It would help if you had a consistent flow of oxygen to keep your fire going. Too much wood on fire will smother it and prevent airflow from growing the fire. Starting your campfire hinges on oxygen reaching the flame.
5 Simple Ways to Start a Fire
Once you’ve gathered all of the supplies, you have a few techniques that you can use. Different circumstances call for other methods. It’s best to be knowledgeable and experience as many techniques as possible.
Today, we’re sharing five simple strategies for starting a fire. Once you get comfortable with them, you can try more advanced techniques. Let’s get started!
1. The Log Cabin
The Technique: If you ever played with Lincoln Logs as a kid, you know how to build a log cabin. Space out two pieces of firewood parallel to each other in the center of your fire ring.
Then take two additional pieces of firewood and stack them perpendicular (90-degree angles) to the bottom pieces of wood. Continue the pattern and narrow the gap between the parallel portions of wood as you add them. You can then place your tinder and kindling inside the firewood structure and ignite it.
This is a straightforward and easy-to-use method for starting a fire. The fire will burn and eventually collapse in on itself into a bed of hot coals. You can then continue to add wood on top of the fire as the fire burns. Be careful not to overdo it by adding too much at one time.
Success Rating: 8/10 – This is one of the most basic fire-building methods and is highly successful. However, it can be challenging if it’s windy and extinguishes your fire before it gets going.
If you have the appropriate supplies, you’ll be cooking hot dogs and s’mores in no time!
2. The Lean-To
The Technique: When using the lean-to method for starting a fire, you’ll lean your kindling up against a larger fire log.
Start by placing the log in the center of your fire ring. Then lay your tinder up against the log and lean your kindling and other medium-sized sticks at an angle using the ground and the log for support.
You’ll create a cave-like space for the tinder and kindling. Lighting the tinder will cause the kindling to burn, and you can then slowly add larger sticks onto the fire and work your way up to adding logs.
Success Rating: 9/10 – A lean-to fire is excellent for getting your fire started for the night or making a simple meal. They don’t require much height and make it easy to put the fire grate over the top of the flame. This is an easy method to use, especially the more you use it.
3. The Cone
The Technique: When using the cone method, you’ll start by putting several handfuls of tinder into the center of your fire ring.
Start with smaller pieces of kindling and ignite the tinder. Continue feeding the flame with pieces of kindling until you have a small healthy fire. Grab a few larger logs and stand them up on one of their ends, so the pieces lean up against each other and meet in the middle.
Start with two or three pieces of firewood and add more as the fire grows. Continue to feed the fire as necessary.
Success Rating: 8/10 – This is a highly successful method but takes some finesse. Knocking over the larger logs at the beginning can extinguish the fire and bring you back to square one.
Make sure when making the cone that the logs are stable and won’t fall over until you have a roaring fire.
4. The Pyramid
The Technique: With the pyramid method, you’re placing your largest logs side-by-side as the bottom layer. You will then add the next layer of slightly smaller logs perpendicular to the logs below them (much like the log-cabin method but spaced closer together).
Continue the pattern by adding smaller logs and sticks as you go. Place the kindling and tinder on the top of the pyramid. It’s essential to use a generous amount of kindling and tinder for this method to be effective.
Light the tinder, and once it spreads to the kindling, you can sit back and watch your fire grow.
Success Rating: 7/10 – This likely won’t be your go-to for starting a quick fire if you’re a beginner. It takes more setup before you can get the fire going. However, once you master other techniques, this method can quickly create a more significant fire.
5. The Rocket Stove
The Technique: The rocket stove method requires a bit of planning. You’ll have a large log that is round and dry. Drill a hole in the top and measure and mark the depth. Then drill a second hole in the side of the log that will meet the first hole.
Clean out the gaps of any debris, so there are two clear tunnels in the log. Stuff your tinder and fire starter into the center of the log. Be careful not to overdo it. You don’t want to restrict the airflow.
As the tinder burns, it will catch the interior of the log and burn the log from the inside out. You can even place a few small rocks on top of the log to set cookware. You’ll have the perfect eco-friendly stove no matter where you’re camping.
Success Rating: 7/10 – this is a fantastic method but is not practical for many beginners. You’ll need to come with a handful of tools that you may not want to pack and carry.
You’ll likely need to plan ahead of time to use this method by drilling holes in the wood before setting off on your adventure.
Pro Tip: Don’t get stressed out by building a fire. Instead, use a portable propane fire pit! These are 5 Reasons Portable Propane Fire Pits Are Better Than Wood Campfires.
Fire Safety Tips for Your Next Campsite
A campfire can set the perfect mood for unwinding at the end of the day. However, fires are dangerous, and everyone must be aware. Leaving logs near the fire is a recipe for disaster.
Campfires are typically low-light environments, and you or a fellow camper could trip over a log and severely hurt themselves. Always keep a clear path around the fire and remove potential tripping hazards.
You should also never leave your fire unattended. Going inside your camper or tent to grab a cooking utensil is much different than going for a walk and leaving your roaring fire unsupervised. Campground staff and park rangers might not be forgiving if they witness you being irresponsible with your fire.
This also includes fully extinguishing your fire before bed and when pulling out of your site. A fully extinguished fire means no hot coals and no potential fire dangers.
Take Your Time When Starting a Fire
Using these five techniques will help you learn how to start a fire in no time. No matter which method you use, it’s crucial to have the proper materials and not hurry.
Take your time to gather sufficient amounts of kindling and tinder. A rush typically results in mistakes, only extending the fire starting process.
What’s your preferred method for starting a campfire? Send us your fire starting tips in the comments below!
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