6 ways to safely build a campfire

6 ways to safely build a campfire
6 ways to safely build a campfire

Whether you need it to keep warm, to cook food or just to create a good atmosphere, fire is essential to any stay on a camping area. If you've never done it before, the process can seem daunting. The main thing is to prepare with the right equipment and know what it will be used for so that you can choose the best type of campfire that will meet your needs.


Method 1 of 6: Prepare for a campfire

Build a Campfire Step 1

Step 1. Bring fuel

To start a good campfire, you need to start with fuel (small materials used to start a fire that ignite easily). It should be dry, which is why it is recommended that you bring it from home rather than picking it up at the campsite. You can use various household items as fuel, for example:

  • wood chips;
  • wadded newsprint;
  • cardboard;
  • wax;
  • lint in the dryer;
  • commercial fire sticks.
Build a Campfire Step 2

Step 2. Collect kindling

To maintain your fire, you must add more consistent materials to the fuel. Kindling is larger than fuel, but not so large that it will smother the flames of the fire. Look around your campsite for small branches and twigs that you can use.

  • Choose twigs and branches with a diameter of between 0.5 and 1 cm, or about the width of a pencil.
  • Like fuel, it is important that your kindling is dry. If there are wet areas on the twigs and branches, use a pocket knife to carefully trim them.
Build a Campfire Step 3

Step 3. Collect firewood

In order for your campfire to produce beautiful flames, you need to add larger pieces of wood. These materials, commonly known as firewood, can be between 0.5 and 12.5cm in diameter. You can use whole logs or split large pieces of wood into smaller pieces.

  • Avoid breaking tree branches for use as firewood, otherwise you risk damaging the trees on the campsite. Instead, take the pieces that have already fallen.
  • Look for firewood that bends or breaks easily. This way you will know that it is dry enough to burn in the fire.
  • Do not use oversized firewood, as it will take much longer to ignite.
  • If you're not sure the wood is the right size, compare it to your wrist or forearm. They should be roughly the same size.
Build a Campfire Step 4

Step 4. Don't forget the fire starter

Once you have the proper materials to start your fire, you will need something to light it. Consider including a fire starter in your camping gear so you can light your fire easily. Regular matches are great for starting a fire, but it may be best to use a lighter.

You can also use a ferrocerium wand as a camping fire starter. Also known as a flint flint lighter, it generates a spark that will allow you to ignite your fuel

Method 2 of 6: Create a spark

Build a Campfire Step 5

Step 1. Make sure campfires are allowed

Before starting to build a fire, it is important to make sure that fires are permitted in the area. Look around your campsite for signs that will usually tell you if fires are prohibited. You can also ask a ranger or the site host if you can start a fire.

  • Don't assume campfires are allowed just because there is a ring of fire on your campsite. It may be intended for use with a camping stove, but not with an open flame.
  • In some cases, there may be fire restrictions that limit the types of fires you are allowed to start. Make sure you understand what materials you are allowed to use for your fire.
  • Campfires may be prohibited at certain altitudes, in areas affected by drought and which are extremely dry, or when winds are very strong.
Build a Campfire Step 6

Step 2. Choose a location for your fire

Some campsites have specially designed fire rings for building a fire. However, if you are camping in an area that does not have this kind of device, it is important to choose the right place to turn it on. Make sure the location is at least 3m away from tents, shrubs, trees and other flammable objects.

  • If your campsite has a ring of fire, it may contain ashes from a previous fire. Push them outside the ring to make room for your fire. If the ashes are completely cold, you can also place them in a plastic bag so you can dispose of them properly later.
  • Make sure the location you choose is protected from gusts of wind which can not only make ignition more difficult, but also help spread the fire if the flames get too large.
Build a Campfire Step 7

Step 3. Clear and dig the spot

It’s best to have a campfire on bare earth, which is why it’s best to clean up the area you choose. Remove dead leaves or other vegetation to create an area of ​​2 to 3 m of bare soil. Then dig several inches in the earth to create a pit to contain the fire.

  • Keep the soil you removed near the fire. You can use it to smother the flames in an emergency.
  • You can arrange the removed soil in a mound around your fireplace to act as a firewall. Placing large stones around the pit can also help isolate the fire.

Method 3 of 6: Make a teepee campfire

Build a Campfire Step 8

Step 1. Place fuel in the center of the fireplace

As with most campfires, a tipi fire begins with a base made of flammable material. Gather your materials and place them in a bundle in the center of the fireplace.

To make it easier to stack the fuel, you can lay it on a piece of dry tree bark

Build a Campfire Step 9

Step 2. Create a teepee with kindling and firewood

Once you have placed fuel in the center of the fireplace, gather your kindling and use between 5 and 6 pieces to create a cone-shaped teepee around it. Then add a layer of firewood to create a larger teepee around the first one.

  • Push smaller branches and twigs into the ground to keep the teepee in place.
  • Start with small pieces of kindling then add a second layer with larger pieces.
  • Make sure you leave an opening in the tipi so you can start the fire when you are ready to do so. Place the opening on the side of the tipi where the wind blows, so that the fire receives the necessary air to stay lit.
  • Leave room between the pieces of wood when laying them out to allow air to flow through.
  • Keep a supply of kindling and firewood on hand after building the teepee. You may need it later to fuel your fire.
Build a Campfire Step 10

Step 3. Ignite the fuel

Now that the teepee has taken shape, it's time to light the fire. Place a match or lighter under the fuel to light it. The structure of the teepee helps the flames move upward so that the kindling catches fire first, followed by the firewood.

If the flames do not switch from fuel to kindling and firewood, you will need to relight it to start your fire

Build a Campfire Step 11

Step 4. Add kindling and firewood if needed

As the fire burns, the teepee structure will eventually collapse and fuel the fire for some time. However, the flames may start to go out after a while. At this time, add kindling and firewood to keep your fire going.

A tipi fire is ideal for cooking, as it burns constantly for a shorter period of time

Method 4 of 6: Build a lean-to campfire

Build a Campfire Step 12

Step 1. Plant a piece of kindling in the ground

Start preparing your fire by planting a long piece of kindling in your fire pit at a 30 degree angle. Then, form a bundle with the fuel and place it under the lean-to.

  • Although kindling is usually made from thin sticks, you can use a small or medium sized log as a shed.
  • Make sure that the end of the kindling you are planting in the ground is facing the wind.
Build a Campfire Step 13

Step 2. Add smaller pieces of kindling

Once the lean-to and fuel are ready, start placing extra pieces of wood in your fireplace. Choose pieces of wood smaller than the lean-to stick and place them against the fuel and lean-to.

  • As you arrange the kindling around the lean-to and fuel, you will create a tent shape.
  • Once you have laid out a first layer of kindling around the lean-to and fuel, find larger pieces of wood and place them on top to form a second layer.
Build a Campfire Step 14

Step 3. Ignite the fuel

Once you have finished building the lean-to, you can start your fire. Use matches or a lighter to ignite the fuel. When it starts to burn, kindling will eventually ignite and create larger flames.

Build a Campfire Step 15

Step 4. Add more kindling and firewood

Once the kindling begins to ignite, you can add more pieces of wood to fuel the fire. If it's not as wide as you want it to be, you can throw some wood on it to help it gain volume. Start with one piece and add more only if you are sure the fire is not wide enough.

A shed fire is ideal for cooking since it does not burn for too long, but remains stable when lit

Method 5 of 6: Make a log cabin campfire

Build a Campfire Step 16

Step 1. Create a small teepee above the fuel

To light a log cabin fire, you need to create a device similar to the teepee fire. Center your fuel in the fire pit then use kindling to create a teepee around it. Be sure to start with smaller pieces of wood, then add a second layer of larger wood.

Your teepee doesn't have to be as big as if it were a teepee fire. Usually 2 coats of kindling is sufficient

Build a Campfire Step 17

Step 2. Place 4 pieces of firewood around the teepee

Collect 4 pieces of firewood that you will place around the teepee. Take the 2 larger pieces and place them on opposite sides. Then place the 2 smaller pieces on the other sides to form a square with the wood. Make sure that the small pieces rest on the 2 larger ones.

Leave an opening facing the wind in the side of the structure so that you can reach the fuel when it is time to start the fire

Build a Campfire Step 18

Step 3. Continue layering firewood

On the 4 pieces of wood that form the base, lay smaller and shorter pieces of wood in the same pattern. The goal is to create a cabin-like structure around the original tipi.

The process of laying wood around the teepee is similar to building Lincoln Log toys (you probably remember it if you already have it)

Build a Campfire Step 19

Step 4. Finish with the lightest kindling

Once you've built the firehouse, place some of your lightest kindling on top to close off the structure. Use a match or lighter to light the fuel inside.

  • For best results, light the fuel on multiple sides.
  • Until the outer walls of the cabin catch fire, continue adding kindling inside to fuel the fire.
  • A log cabin campfire makes for a fire that lasts longer. It is therefore the best choice if you need heat for an extended period.

Method 6 of 6: put out a campfire

Build a Campfire Step 20

Step 1. Start early

You are required to put out campfires as you start, and the process often takes longer than you think. To avoid leaving smoldering ashes behind, allow plenty of time to get it right. Allow at least 20 minutes to put out the fire to make sure it is completely extinguished.

You should never leave a fire unattended, which is why you should put out your own when you go to bed at night. Make sure you have half an hour before you fall asleep to put out the fire

Build a Campfire Step 21

Step 2. Spray fire with water

Even if you're tempted to throw a full bucket of water at the flames to put them out quickly, this isn't the best way to put out a campfire. Instead, start spraying it slowly with water, using only the amount needed to soak the embers.

Pouring water on your fire is a bad idea, as it will flood the fire pit which will then be unusable when you or someone else wants to start a fire later

Build a Campfire Step 22

Step 3. Stir the embers

When you pour water on the fire, you need to make sure that it reaches as many embers as possible. To do this, use a shovel or stick to stir the ashes and embers while watering them. Make sure you bring the embers up from the bottom of the pile so they don't smolder underneath.

You will know that it is no longer necessary to pour in water and stir the embers when you no longer see steam and hear no more hissing

Build a Campfire Step 23

Step 4. Test the heat with your hand

To make sure the fire is out, you need to check that it is no longer producing heat. Place your hand, palm up, on the ashes. If you do not perceive any heat, the fire is extinguished. If you still perceive any, the fire is not extinguished and you should not go away. Keep pouring water and stirring the ashes until no more heat is given off.

Repeat the hand test as many times as necessary to make sure the fire is cool. Prevention is better than cure

Build a Campfire Step 24

Step 5. Remove the ashes

Once the fire is out and cold, you will need to remove the ashes from the fire pit or ring so the next camper does not have to dispose of it. Use your shovel or hand to scoop up the ashes and place them in a plastic bag before disposing of them.

As you walk away from your campsite, start spreading the ashes on the ground to get rid of them


  • Pay attention to the rules of the campsite regarding the supply of firewood. Some sites do not allow you to bring wood, as it may contain invasive species. In general, it is best to buy local wood for your fires.
  • When you go camping, it is recommended that you bring several fire starters. If your matches or flintlock are wet, they may no longer work. The electronic lighter is a good option since you just need to turn it over and tap it against the palm of your hand to remove moisture. Waterproof matches, available at most camping supply stores, as well as ferrocerium sticks will also do the trick.
  • Do not burn synthetic waste. Take them with you when you go.
  • Leave the site in better condition than before you arrived. If this is an established campground, leave the ring of fire, but clear out the ashes and all surrounding garbage. If you're the first to camp there, scatter the rocks in the Ring of Fire, freshen up the vegetation, and make sure all traces of your presence are gone.
  • If you are moving to a site that other people have used before you, use leftover charred wood. They will burn up in your fire and they will reduce the amount of logs you need to collect and burn.
  • If your fire does not ignite, it is probably because you are using fuel that is too wet or too large to ignite.
  • If you are lighting a fire in rainy weather, be prepared by bringing a “makeshift candle”. Roll up a piece of newspaper (7.5-10cm) and dip it in melted paraffin. It will keep you dry in humid weather and it will help you slightly moisten your firewood.


  • Fires sometimes attract curious animals. If it is rare that they enter a clearing with an open fire, they can observe it from cover and memorize the "strategic places". Keep your food away from where you sleep, preferably in a bag suspended high enough above the ground. You will be surprised at how cunning raccoons and bears can be.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended. It can get out of hand very quickly.
  • Always have a bucket of water handy by the fire in case of an emergency.
  • Never try to contain a fire with your hands. You could easily burn yourself.

Popular by topic