Starting the Ultimate Campfire

Men sitting by campfire at night

You've had an amazing day out in nature. You've been hiking through some gorgeous terrain, witnessed some incredible views, and met some fascinating wildlife while having a memorable time with your camping buddies.

However, you're back at your campsite and the sun has begun to set and the temperature is starting to fall.

It's time to make a campfire.

Campfires are where some of the best memories are made on a camping trip, whether it be sharing stories, roasting marshmallows, or playing some music while keeping warm by the comfort of the crackling flames.

Sometimes making a world class campfire can be a challenge, as some camping destinations tend to have conditions that are a little less friendly towards getting a roaring campfire going at your campsite.

Let's have a look at some pointers to ensure you'll have a memorable fire on your next trip. 

Lay Down The Foundations

Just like everything exciting in life, a fire needs a stable foundation to truly grow and prosper while keeping the conditions safe and warm.

First things first, keep safety in mind at all times, the last thing you need is the fire getting out of control and starting a bushfire! Have something on hand that you can extinguish the fire with easily if it becomes necessary to do so.

Many campsites these days have designated areas where you can start a fire, and if they are available I would definitely recommend starting the fire there.

If you're in a situation where none of these are available, you’ll want to observe what kind of terrain you're dealing with. Try to find a spot that is flat ground, predominantly dirt, with little or no grass/dead grass, and at least a few meters away from things that can burn such as trees, chairs, and bushes.

Can’t find a spot like this?

You can always dig your own with a camping shovel and create a dirt patch for your fire and keep a perimeter around it with dirt and rocks.

Make sure everything flammable is cleared from your fire pit before moving on to the next stage.

Firewood!

The best types of fires are the ones that employ the skills and talents of three different types of wood to create a roaring, warm campfire.

These three types of wood are called kindling, tinder (not the app), and fuelwood. 

Tinder

These are the guys that will get your fire started. Every campfire needs a solid foundation of tinder to get the show on the road, so make sure you get yourself some top-quality tinder.

It is categorized as things that burn easily but are done quite quickly.

Tinder is mainly comprised of items such as dry leaves, bark, wood shavings, pine straw, dry grass, or paper.

Grab a large amount of tinder before you start your fire. Like, a lot. Think of how much you need and add more. And more again. You're probably going to use a lot more than you think and you can never be too cautious when it comes to the supply of your fire-starting materials.  

Kindling

With our helpful friend tinder getting the party started, we're going to need somebody else to come in and keep things going, as tinder burns quick.

Now, the kindling is the stage before we move to the big leagues. It's extremely important because if you just go throwing impressive logs onto the fire straight away, all you'll do is squash your tinder and you'll be back where you started. Cold and ready for a warm hug.

The best kindling to use will be small dry sticks about the size of a straw. You should have a nice burning base of tinder by the time you use these.

Make sure there is no moisture in these, if they snap easily that's a great sign that they are dry. 

Fuelwood

You've made it this far? Congratulations! If you've used the previous two correctly, you've got a good fire burning.

Now the last type of wood you'll need is called Fuelwood. These are the pieces of wood that will burn for a comparatively solid amount of time depending on the size and type of wood.

Try not to grab the absolutely massive chunks of wood that you may see in fires in the movies or in fireplaces at home. They take absolutely ages to catch alight and may put your fire at risk of going out if they don't catch.

Look for the ones that are thick as your arm initially and build from there once the fire gets strong enough to support the bigger ones comfortably. 

Construction

Now for the exciting part, it's time to start building the fire!

There are a few different methods that you can use to build a fire. I'm going to share with you some of the timeless classics that have been proven again and again to keep campers warm and chatting the night away. 

Teepee

Arguably the most famous method of starting a campfire. You've probably seen this style everywhere from movies, photos to your very own campsite. And the reason why it's so ubiquitous is that it's very, very effective.

Start with a nice solid base of tinder and align your kindling in a teepee formation to get the fire going.

Once this is done and the fire has gained some momentum you can start gradually adding bigger and bigger logs until your fire is roaring.

Stack more to taste and sit back and enjoy.

Fire on brown wooden stick

Log Cabin

This one is another super effective lay which makes starting an maintenance an absolute breeze. It also generally lasts for quite a long time.

To build the Log Cabin simply stack your wood as if you were building a log cabin with two pieces of thicker wood parallel to each other next to the central kindling and tinder base.

Lay another two pieces of wood parallel to each other on the other side and continue until you are satisfied with the structure.

Light your central kindling and let the blaze begin.

The Platform

The ingenious design of the platform essentially takes the Log Cabin and turns it upside down to create a lay that is fantastic for cooking.

The difference between the two is that instead of having a teepee formation at the base to get things going, you have it at the top. This then travels down to make a bed of coals which travels through the wood constantly refilling itself.

A bed of coals is perfect for cooking, so remember to bring some potatoes or marshmallows to keep you well fed before you hit the hay.

Packing Up

So you've got an amazing fire burning and you've kept yourself warm spinning tales and playing acoustic guitar with your friends and family all night.

Great job, I'm proud of you.

Now it's time to pack it up and leave the space as you found it. Don't fall asleep without properly tending to your fire first as this comes with all sorts of risks such as forest fires, flora, fauna, and lives at risk - you get the picture.

Try and wait for the flames to burn down before you start with the extinguishing process. Spread the coals as much as you can around the fire with a shovel or other implements. Just dont use your hands!

Slowly douse the fire with water, sand or dirt. Try to not to pour any of these on in one go, it's much better to do it slowly as it allows you to evenly distribute the materials across the fire to ensure that it doesn't ruin the pit or leave potential for later reignition.

After doing this, hold the back of your hand above the ashes. If it's still warm, it needs to be doused further. If it's cold, you're all done!

Red and gray coals