Did you ever build a campfire just to watch it fizzle out? Maybe your campfire never even really got started. Campfire building can be frustrating for the inexperienced. Campfires are actually easy to build and will successfully burn, even when using damp firewood – if you know what you’re doing. Building a campfire isn’t as simple as piling up a few logs and tossing in a burning newspaper or two. There are methods of building campfires for specific purposes. A campfire used to cook upon should be designed differently than a campfire used primarily for heat. The way the logs and sticks are placed determines the intensity of the heat, burning time, and spark emission.
Choosing a good location for your campfire is extremely important, especially when planning a campfire outside of designated campfire areas. A poorly chosen campfire location can cause a forest fire, so be extra cautious when deciding on a location.
When considering a campfire location where designated campfire pits are unavailable, choose an area where the ground is level. Also, when choosing a location for your campfire, be sure there are no overhanging tree branches, brush, or bushes, and be certain there aren’t any tree roots protruding through the soil. There shouldn’t be anything that could burn within at least, an 8-foot radius of the campfire location.
Prepare the ground designated for your campfire by removing anything that could burn. This includes grass, sticks, pine cones, dead leaves, pine needles, and anything ignitable. There should be nothing but damp soil beneath the campfire. Rake up any debris, and place it away from the fire. Natural debris, otherwise known as “duff” can be used to get the fire started.
If rocks are available, make a stone circle in which to build the campfire. The stones will help reflect the heat and deflect the wind. Rocks will also help keep burning firewood in place.
Choose dead wood of appropriate size to build the campfire. Dead wood burns much better than green or live wood, and there is no sense in destroying live trees. Dead wood is usually very easy to find in wooded areas. Branches and small limbs can be easily removed from dead wood using a tomahawk or handsaw.
While collecting larger pieces of firewood, collect dead sticks as well. The sticks can be made into “fuzz sticks” that can help get the fire started, especially if the firewood is somewhat damp from laying on the ground.
To make fuzz sticks you will need a sharp pocket knife. Carefully carve back sections of wood all the way around each stick so the sticks resemble pine cones. The fuzz sticks will burn easily and will help any damp wood catch fire and dry out sufficiently enough to burn.
If pine cones are available, collect dried pine cones while collecting firewood. They are also great fire starters as are dried pine needles.
Types of Campfires
If the campfire wood is damp, a cone-shaped campfire is the best choice. This type of campfire is especially good for cooking because the fire is centralized and very hot. Any damp wood will dry out quickly.
Build a cone-shaped campfire by placing small dry twigs, duff (natural debris), and fuzz sticks on the ground in the center of the cleared circle. Stack pieces of firewood around the tinder so they form the shape of a teepee. Light the kindling and debris beneath the logs, and get ready for a campfire that will definitely toast your marshmallows.
A pyramid-style campfire is the type to build when wanting body warming heat. This type of campfire is nice to sit around since few sparks are emitted, and it will keep campfire guests warm for hours.
Build a pyramid-style campfire by stacking and layering logs in opposite directions. Place five or six logs on the ground, and stack four or five logs on top of those logs as if building a log cabin. Continue this pattern of crisscrossing logs until you end up with two on top. As the name suggests, the logs will form a wooden pyramid. Place dry ground debris or fuzz sticks amongst the logs. Light the debris and you’ll have a fire that starts out slow but burns for hours.
Campfire Cleanup and Safety
Many parks and forests don’t allow campfires outside of designated locations, so always check the rules before building a campfire. Campfires should not be considered when conditions are very dry and/or windy. You wouldn’t want to be responsible for starting a devastating forest fire.
Never leave behind a burning campfire. Even if you are just leaving for a short while, a campfire should be completely extinguished. Put out a campfire by thoroughly dousing it with water. Bury any wet ashes or debris, and do your best to leave the ground as you found it. A responsible campfire builder will properly extinguish a campfire and restore the ground to its former condition – as if never having been there.