March 09, 2021

Top 9 Tips That Will Help You Build the Perfect Fire for Your Campsite

Building a fire while camping is not exactly easy, especially if you don’t have the proper materials to get the fire going.  Whether you are an occasional camper, a prepper, an RVer or simply want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can start a fire if need be while enjoying the wilderness in all its beauty, you can benefit from the fire-starting tips detailed below. 

Print out this list of tips that will help you construct the perfect campfire, put a copy with your camping gear and reference it before you head outdoors for your next adventure.  Without further ado, let’s take a look at the top tips that will help you build a fire at your campsite.

Fires Require Fuel, Oxygen and Heat

Combustion requires what is commonly referred to as the “fire triangle” of heat, fuel and oxygen.  With the right proportions of each of these three, you will be able to start and maintain a fire that warms your campsite and makes it easy to cook up some scrumptious game meat, s’mores or hot dogs.  So don’t assume you will be able to start a campsite fire regardless of the conditions.  If you don’t have enough of either of these three essential elements, it will prove that much more challenging to get the initial flame going.  In other words, those water-logged branches scattered around your campsite will not suffice.  Once you are certain you have the heat, oxygen and fuel necessary to start a fire, you can get your hopes up high and start building the fire, fully expecting it to burn for hours.

The Fuel Wood Matters

There is a common misconception that any old wood will suffice for a campsite fire.  However, this is not the case.  If the wood you use to attempt to start the fire is laden with water or has other moisture, it probably won’t light.  Even if such moist wood catches fire, it will prove difficult to keep it burning for as long as necessary to maintain a fire. 

A fire requires sufficient heat to dehydrate fuel that has not been burned.  As noted above, the dryer the fuel, the better.  Dry kindling burns that much better than moist kindling as less heat is necessary pre-ignition to steam away the moisture.  In other words, you will need dry tinder that is as fine as possible in order to catch the starting flame from the QuickSurvive Fire

Examples of the optimal tinder sources include wood shavings, straw, dry moss, pine needles, char-cloth and dryer lint.  However, if you are camping in the middle of the woods, you might not be able to find anything but regular wood kindling such as branches from nearby trees or pieces of wood scattered about the campsite.  Kindling burns fairly quickly so don’t use it unless attempting to ignite large and thick logs that will burn comparably long.

The Structure of the Fire Matters

The campfire structure matters a great deal.  If the structure is flawed, it will not permit oxygen to move through as necessary.  As noted above, oxygen is essential to starting and maintaining a fire.  This means it is in your interest to provide the flames with breathing room.  Some campers prefer teepee fire structures in which logs and kindling are positioned next to one another similar to a miniature lean-to with wood pushing into the ground at an angle that creates a ridgeline for fuel wood rafters complete with the lit tinder below. 

Alternatively, some prefer the pyramid structure in which wood scaffolds are crossed over one another with the wood becoming larger from the top moving on down to the bottom.  Create the initial skeleton for your fire, put down a piece of fuel wood or kindling and ensure the proper airflow is present.  Insert the tinder and add lightly-packed branches and twigs on top of and around the tinder mass.  Just be sure that you don’t pack the fire-starting material too tightly as an overly dense pile will not receive the amount of oxygen necessary to get the fire going.

Lighting a Fire Requires Close Attention to the Subtleties

The last thing you want to do is snuff out the origins of your fire by fanning the flame or blowing on it too harshly.  Very light and subtle fanning and blowing certainly has the potential to pump up the fire yet there is an art to mastering fire-starting so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it exactly right on the first try! 

You can spread the initial flame in the tinder nest to the surrounding kindling by providing a steady flow of light air.  If any small pieces of tinder fall to the sides or start to drift, carefully put them back into position with a poker stick or a twig.  If everything goes as it should, the diminutive kindling will start catching as the tinder that burns has preheated properly and generates a fuel cloud.  Continue to add kindling to create an even better flame.

Add Tree Branches in a Strategic Manner

Once heat is generated, position a couple fuel-wood branches that are thicker than the other wood you are using for the fire across the top.  Splits will also suffice as long as ample heat is generated.  Be sure to position these tree branches fairly close to one another while leaving slight gaps so enough oxygen can move through to keep the fire going.   

Balance is Essential to Starting and Maintaining Your Fire

If you succeed in starting your campsite fire, your focus will then shift to maintaining it.  Balance is necessary for keeping the fire lit.  There must be balance in the sense that the logs are not placed too close to one another.  The last thing you want is for the logs to be too close to one another, resulting in insufficient oxygen.  However, if the logs are too far apart from one another, they will not generate the heat nor intensity necessary for the fire to be maintained.  Furthermore, balance must be achieved in terms of the fuel.  If the fire is restocked too frequently, it will essentially be starved. 

Poking and Prodding Might Backfire (Pun Intended)

The challenge of maintaining a campsite fire partially lies in achieving a balance between paying too much attention to the fire and too little.  So don’t fall into the trap of prodding and poking the fire over and over again after it is lit.  Such adjustments might actually sabotage the fire in spite of your good intentions.  Resist the impulse to constantly adjust the fire after you get it lit, allow the heat, fuel and oxygen to work their magic without significant interference and you will receive ample warmth in the hours ahead. 

Do not lose sight of the fact that a fire that becomes independent of its pilot heat has the momentum necessary to continue on its own without significant interference.  When in doubt, leave the burning fire alone to continue on its own.  However, the occasional shifting of the wood used in your campfire will help.  Such strategic shifting knocks away ash that has accumulated along the surface of the wood.  If this ash were to continue to accumulate along the surface, it would eventually pile up to the point that it eliminates combustion and puts out the fire. 

Get a Head Start on the Preheating Process

Most people who succeed in getting a campsite fire going want to continue being proactive instead of watching the fire burn while doing nothing but roasting s'mores, hot dogs or the catch/kill of the day.  You can stay busy and improve the odds of the fire continuing to burn by positioning unburned wood around the perimeter of the fire’s combustion zone.  This preparation is a head start on the wood preheating process.  Such strategic positioning of wood to be added to the fire will prove especially helpful if that wood is wet or moist as the warmth from the fire will start to dry it out, setting the stage for it to burn once added.

Starting a Fire in the Rain is Possible

Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to start a fire when the skies open up, especially if the rain is light.  It will certainly be helpful to have fire starters available to expedite the starting of the fire.  As an example, QuickSurvive’s Fire Starters light fires quickly, even if it is raining or if the ground is damp.  This material is fully waterproof, safe for cooking and burns for upwards of 10 minutes at more than 750 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you don’t have QuickSurvive Fire Starters to get your fire going when it is raining or when the ground is particularly moist, it still might be possible to start the fire with dryer lint, cotton balls, char-cloth or newspaper.  However, you will need a lighter or matches to get the flames going. 

If you succeed in getting the fire started during the rain, it is imperative that you shield it from the falling droplets.  Ideally, the fire will be built below a tree or an overhang such as a conifer tree with wide branches.  However, there is a chance the flames will reach the foliage above, spreading the fire all the more so be sure to keep the flames under control. 

If the rain is particularly strong, consider stringing up a poncho or a tarp to serve as a makeshift slanted roof that stops the rain from extinguishing the fire as it builds momentum.  It will also help to elevate the fire off the moist ground when it is raining and also after the rainstorm has passed.  This can be accomplished by forming a base of branches stacked crosswise.  Gather dry branches and stage them by the fire prior to putting them on the flame and you will expedite their dehydration.

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