When you hear the term camping, what comes to mind?
The image of camping I get is sitting in the dark, watching the flames of a roaring campfire dance against the night sky.
For millions of years humans have gathered around fire for warmth, light, and entertainment. Campfires are almost as old as man himself.
In today's world fire is mostly reserved for camping or burning brush in our backyards.
If you have never started a fire, it's not complicated - but does take some practice to get it right.
Your first step should be to gather all necessary materials. Proper preparation is the key to building a fire. You can't just throw a bunch of logs in a pile and hope they'll burn when you put a flame to them. You will need an ignition source (such as a lighter), tinder, kindling, and fuel.
Every good fire starts with tinder. Tinder takes to flame easily, but won't last long. Some common examples of tinder sources include dry leaves and grass, small twigs, seed fluff, and pine needles.
Tinder burns quickly. In order to keep your fire going, you will need to move to a more sustainable fuel source. However, you can't just jump to large logs or you'll smother your small flame.
Kindling should ideally be a 1/8" - 1/2" in diameter or roughly about the size of a number 2 pencil. You will want a few handfuls of kindling to really get your fire going before moving on to your larger pieces of fuel. If you have trouble finding dry kindling you can process down larger logs into smaller pieces to get to the dry center of the log.
The last thing you will add to your fire is your fuel wood. Fuelwood should roughly be about the size of your wrist or slightly larger. If the fuel is too large it will take a long time to catch. You can add larger logs after you have established your fire.
A few pieces of advice to consider when collecting firewood. Make sure to collect wood that easily breaks and makes a clear snapping sound. This means the wood is dry. If the wood bends this means the wood is either wet or green. Starting a fire with this type of wood will be incredibly difficult.
Also burning dry wood aids in making a smokeless campfire. Collecting standing or hanging dead wood is often more fruitful than collecting wood from the ground. Try collecting these pieces first.
Stack your kindling
After you have collected all of your firewood and have your combustion source you will need to stack your kindling to burn efficiently. The three most common fire lays are the teepee, the log cabin, and the lean-to.
1. Place your tinder in the middle of your fire pit
2. Arrange your kindling in a teepee style around your tinder. Start with your smallest pieces and layer the kindling working your way up to your largest piece of kindling. Also, make sure to leave a small opening to allow air to pass through.
3. Light your tinder source. Because heat rises, your lit tinder will work its way up to your kindling eventually igniting it.
4. At some point, your teepee will collapse. When this happens, begin adding your fuelwood pieces until your fire is fully established.
1. Begin by taking a large piece of kindling and driving it into the ground at roughly a 45-degree angle.
2. Place your dry tinder under your piece of kindling.
3. Begin leaning pieces of kindling on your support stick.
4. Light your tinder.
1. Build a small teepee fire lay
2. Begin stacking fuelwood at right angles to form four walls around your teepee fire lay.
3. Continue adding pieces until you have a cabin or pyramid shape.
4. Light that sucker up and watch it burn.
Extinguish your campfire
Once you are done with your campfire you should properly extinguish it. A properly extinguished campfire will be cool to the touch with no heat coming from it.
To properly extinguish your campfire:
1. Allow the fire to burn down to nothing but ashes
2. Pour an ample amount of water on the ashes. If you do not have water you can add dirt to smother the fire.
3. As you pour water onto your campfire stir the ashes with a stick to ensure that all embers are extinguished.
4. Stir ashes and embers until the fire is cool to the touch.
5. Be sure to practice no trace camping and disperse your extinguished ashes around your campsite. Alternatively, you can bury the ashes.
Starting a fire and building a great campfire isn't difficult but does require some practice to get right. Follow the steps above and you'll be building awesome campfires in no time at all.