Learn To Build A Campfire

There is nothing better than kicking back in front of an outdoor fire after a hard day’s adventuring, kicking back in your camping chair, with your supper cooking in a pot and a cold beer in hand. But to get to this idyllic scenario you need to get your fire blazing. And if you think it’s just a simple case of flipping a match against a pile of sticks, then you’re in for a cold and hungry night ahead.

Knowing how to build a campfire is a skill that will never let you down and means you’ll always have warmth as well as food when overnighting out in the wild. So, if you think you’re a little lacking in the campfire department, then let us get you fired up. Follow our easy step-by-step guide to building a campfire and you’ll soon be lighting a fire like the ultimate adventure Scout.

people arounf a campfire

Prepare Your Site

First things first – make sure fires are permitted where you are camping. This isn’t just about protecting the environment but also to keep you and other campers safe. Some campsites will have fire rings for you to use but if you’re going a bit more on the wild side, then it’s down to you to pick the perfect site.

Ideally, you need to opt for a spot that is a good distance away from trees and branches, as well as from tents, shrubs and other flammable objects. Also go for a place that’s shielded from gusts of wind.

To create your campfire, you need to dig a fire pit which needs to be on bare dirt so if you need to clear away any vegetation, do this first. Your aim is to create a circular pit a few inches deep. Use the dirt you have removed to create a ‘firewall’ around the edge of the pit. This dirt can also be used to put out your fire should you need to act quickly in an emergency.

Gather Your Fuel

There’s no fire without wood so you now need to collect your campfire fuel. You’ll need three kinds – tinder, kindling, and firewood. Tinder is your ignition; kindling is your quick-fire powerhouse and wood is your long-burn fuel.  A good idea is to bring your tinder with you so you can ensure it’s bone dry – lint from your clothes dryer is a good bet. Otherwise, use dry leaves, bark or wood shavings. For kindling look around for dry twigs or small branches, no more than the width of a pencil, and for your ‘fire food’ go for branches that are around the width of your wrist. Any bigger and you could smother your fledgling fire.


Lay And Light Your Fire

How you lay your campfire will affect the way it burns. One of the easiest is in the ‘tepee’ shape. With the wood creating a tall triangle shape, the air can easily flow and feed the flames.

First, gather your tinder in a loose bundle and place in the middle of your fire pit, then stack some kindling wood over the tinder – this gives a structure to the core of your fire but lets the air in and the fire breathe. Now add some of your firewood against your kindling with spaces in-between to create a strong tepee shape that will direct the flames upward from the center. Keep a reserve of your kindling and firewood to feed the fire later.

Feeding Those Flames

When packing for your camping trip, make sure you include a fire starter along with the big stuff, such as your sleeping bag, cooking stove and large camping tent. Matches or a firelighter will work well, but make sure you pack them in a bag to keep them dry. Otherwise, you’ll be needing to work with flint or sticks to create a spark, and that’s a whole different ‘how to’ guide!

Carefully light the tinder, making sure the fledging flame is well shielded as you gently add more tinder until it really takes hold. As soon as it kicks in, stop adding more tinder and allow the flame to start taking in the kindling. Keep watch as the kindling goes up and starts to lick around the firewood – you now have your fire!

As the fire burns, the wood will disintegrate, so keep gently adding new pieces of firewood to the fire in the tepee structure to keep it going.

campers in the night

Putting It Out

Enjoying the fruits of your fire-laying labors is one thing, prepping to put those flames out is another. Never go to bed with a fire still burning, it must always be stone cold. You have to remember that a fire’s embers will burn for quite some time after the flames have gone out.

When the time has come to say goodnight to your campfire, start by sprinkling water to put out the flames and dampen down the embers. You’ll need to keep sprinkling the water over the embers – stirring the mushy ash can also help to make sure you’ve caught them all, especially the ones underneath. Now leave for a while – once the ashes are cold, you can retire to your sleeping bag, rest assured the campfire is safely out.

Leave No Trace…

This is the ultimate rule for anything you do outdoors. When it comes to your campfire, if you created your own firepit you will want to leave it as near as you found it. In the morning before you leave camp, scoop out the ashes and spread them around the campsite before patching up the ground. Use the dug-out dirt you stashed at the edge of your fire pit to fill the space, then smooth over so it’s almost as if you and your fire were never there.

Now you can walk away, knowing you have passed the test as the ultimate campsite Firestarter!


  1. How to Build a Campfire – wikiHow
  2. How To Build a Roaring Campfire – The Art of Manliness