When we think about camping we usually think about the campfire. After all, a good fire will be the difference between having a comfortable night out or a bad one. There are also a number of extra benefits that come with lighting a fire such as keeping animals away, cooking, warmth, and signaling.
So, how do we build the perfect campfire?
1. The Ground
The first thing you need to do is to prepare the ground for the fire. The last thing you want is to light a little fire for warmth but end up igniting so much more.
It is important to understand that many private campsites don’t allow on-site fires so be sure to check before you go. If they do allow fires then the ground is usually already prepared.
You will want to remove any old ash and charcoal from the area and clear the ground for around 8 to 10 feet of any dead or dry vegetation. From the center of where you want your fire built, dig about 4 inches into the dirt.
2. Gather Your Supplies
In almost all cases, everything you need for starting a fire is already around you. There is three sections that we need to be gathering:
- Tinder – this is what will initially take the flame. It is small and can be anything such as wood shavings, wadded paper, cardboard strips and dryer lint.
- Kindling – the next size of wood you need is for the kindling. This is usually made up of dry twigs about the size of a pencil.
- Fuel – finally we need our fuel wood to keep the fire burning. Start with some that are about as thick as your wrist. You can even use whole logs later on or split them with your ax.
The kindling is not usually too much of a problem but both the tinder and the fuel, there will need to be more gathered than you think you’ll use.
3. Build Your Fire
The final step is to put it all together and get it burning but you have many different types of fire that you can build and each has their own pros and cons.
- Teepee – form a teepee from some of your kindling over a bunch of tinder. Start adding progressively larger kindling to the teepee until you’re ready to start using your fuelwood. This too will be built in a teepee structure.
- Lean-to – start by sticking a long, sturdy branch into the ground at a 30-degree angle. After placing some tinder under this support stick, start adding smaller kindling around it. Next, begin laying larger kindling against the kindling stick to form the lean-to. Add a second layer of kindling.
- Log cabin fire lay – if you need something more long-lasting then the fire lay may be the better option. Start off with a small teepee build, then lay two pieces of fuel fire on either side. Place another two logs on top of these, creating a square. Keep building until you’ve got a cabin-like structure, then add some small kindling to the top.
Extinguish the Fire
We all have common sense. We all know that we should never leave a fire unattended but when that fire is a campfire and we’re ready for sleep, what do we do? Consider the following:
- Sprinkle (don’t pour) water – you don’t want to flood the firepit. Stir the coals as you sprinkle the water to make sure they all get coated.
- Once the hissing stops – hover your hand over the coals to feel for any heat. It is not safe to leave until the heat stops.
- Clean up – the last step is to always leave the area how it was when you found it. This involves taking away your rubbish and clearing up any ashes from the fire.
It doesn’t take long to properly extinguish a campfire but it can save so much in damages and loss of life.