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How to Build a Campfire

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A good campfire doesn’t happen; there is an art to building a campfire correctly. It takes the right tools, the right fuel, and a bit of practice to build a campfire correctly.


All good fires start with the right combination of heat, fuel, and oxygen.

For the heat, you will need waterproof matches or a lighter (or if you want to go, caveman, you could try some flints or a bow drill to start your fire).

If you are collecting rather than buying your fuel, you may also need other tools, such as a handsaw or hatchet and gloves.

Campfire Safety

Fire safety starts with making sure you have permission to burn and it ends with properly extinguishing the fire before you leave.

This means making sure it is completely out, so make sure you have plenty of water handy to extinguish the fire.

Preparing Your Fire

You will need a dedicated fire pit with a ring, either at a commercial campsite or created in the wilderness. It requires at least ten feet of clearance around it. Among other things, this means you tend needs to be at least ten feet away.

Before you start, you will need to either purchase or gather wood fuel. If you gather it, look for dead branches on the ground.

In many places, cutting dead branches from a tree is illegal. It can also kill the tree if done wrong.

Building Your Fire

There are various methods to structure your campfire. However, they all require tinder to start the fire, kindling to grow the fire, and wood fuel to make it a long-lasting fire.

There are five basic styles of a campfire. You build a campfire by laying out wood in one of the following patterns before you light the tinder.

  • Teepee Campfire: Shaped like a teepee.
  • Lean-to Campfire: Uses a large log as a windbreak, then creates a lean-to by angling kindling up against it on one side.
  • Log Cabin Campfire: Shaped much like a small log cabin. It’s a square of wood at least six inches
  • Pyramid (Upside Down) Campfire: Stacks wood up from large pieces to increasingly small ones. The tinder goes on top instead of underneath. Hence the name.
  • Star Campfire: Your stereotypical Western movie campfire with large logs laid out like the spokes of a wheel.

If you are camped in a very wet area and cannot find dry fuel, a Pyramid Campfire is going to be the best solution. As the tinder on top burns, it dries out the layers below until they are suitable to use as firewood. It is also a long-lasting fire. It can burn for up to seven hours.

The Lean-to Campfire is well suited to inclement weather. It helps shelter the fire from the wind.

The Star Campfire and Teepee Campfire are both well suited to do a little cooking.

The Log Cabin Campfire is more fuel intensive than the others.


Do not start a fire if you aren’t prepared to fully extinguish it before you leave. Do not ever leave a fire unattended. Always put safety first.