How to Start and Maintain a Campfire

how to start and maintain a campfire guide

If camping is a hobby you wish to pick up, there are many things you need to learn. Essential camping knowledge includes how to set up a tent, use a sleeping bag, cook outside, and finally how to start a campfire. Your tent and sleeping bag usually come with a manual to help you set them up, and with this article, you now also have your own fire-making manual. Here are the steps you need to follow to set up a campfire successfully.

1. Create a Fireplace

Your fireplace is the dirt pit you use to set up your fire. It should be contained, dry, and as far away from trees, grass, and weeds as possible. If your camping ground is full of grass or weeds, you might have to dig up your fireplace to remove the weeds. Ensure you build the fireplace on top of sand or mineral soil, and avoid healthy soil as the heat could destroy it. Additionally, if your camping facility has designated fire pits, grills, or fireplaces, make sure you use them; there is no need to risk anything catching fire.

2. Gather Your Wood

Once your fireplace is ready, it is time to move on to the next step, gathering your materials. There are 3 basic materials you need to start a fire. 

  • Tinder

Tinder is the dry leaves, wood shavings, and fungi that you use to start the fire. It is usually a dry material that catches fire and burns fast. You use tinder only to ignite the flame; however, you need kindling and firewood to keep it going strong. You can find materials to use as tinder on your campground, or you can make your own and keep it with you. Homemade options for tinder include dryer lint and cotton coated in petroleum jelly. There are also some readymade firestarters available in camping tools stores. Keep some on hand in case your campground is wet.  

  • Kindling

If you are still a newbie, don’t make the mistake of adding firewoods directly after the tinder; otherwise, you will kill your fire. According to the yard specialists at, kindlings act as a bridge stage between the ignition and fire burning stage. They are small twigs and branches used to keep the fire going for a bit after the tinder is ignited. They are usually the size of a pen, and they burn fast. Kindlings have to be dry, the same as tinder; however, if your campground has only wet twigs and branches, use a knife to peel the first couple of layers of the branch away. This way, it turns into a dry branch. 

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  • Firewood

Large firewood like apple, maple, aspen, and so on is the base of any campfire. Upon adding your tinder and kindling, add your firewood to your firepit a couple at a time. To ensure you have enough wood to last you a while, gather at least double the amount you think you will need. Wood burns faster than you think. So, it is better to be prepared in advance. You don’t have to use dry wood as fuel wood; however, ensure the couple you add after the kindlings are as dry as possible to help your fire light up.

kindling wood for fire

3. Use a Fire Building Technique

If you would like to avoid tending to your campfire, there are a few techniques you need to learn:

  • Cob Cabin Technique

This technique creates a large fire quickly, and it doesn’t need much tending. All you need to do is set up two large logs at the bottom of the fireplace, then set a couple more in the opposite direction, and then add tinder and kindling in the middle. Next, add small logs on top of the structure again and add extra tinder and kindling and light it up. Now, watch as the fire show begins. 

  • The Pyramid Technique

For this technique, all you need to do is add large logs at the bottom without leaving spaces between them and then set up a pyramid-looking shape of smaller logs as you go up. Finally, on top, pile the tinder and kindling and set them on fire. The fire will slowly go through each layer of smaller shaped logs until it reaches the large ones at the end.

4. Extinguish the Fire

Generally, you should extinguish your fire using water; however, that doesn’t mean you can just dump water all over the firepit and leave. Unlike what you might think, it takes time to extinguish a campfire completely. Also, if you use too much water, you might leave the pit too damp to be used by the next campers, so take care. 

To extinguish a fire correctly, keep a bucket of water in hand and gradually pour water over the wood, steering the ashes as you go. Move your hands over the ashes to test if you feel any heat. Be careful not to get scalded as steam from fire is usually soo hot. Keep stirring the fire until no ambers are seen, and the ashes are completely cold. 

5. Dispose of the Ashes

To make it easier for the next person to use your fire pit, don’t leave the ashes inside. Gather the ashes in a bag and spread them out on the campsite. Don’t worry; they are not harmful to the ground; in fact, they will be absorbed by the soil, which is a good thing.

start a campfire while camping

Finally, if you have made your own fire pit, make sure you return everything the way it was before you leave. Restructure the ground and replace the dirt you dug up to avoid accidents in this area. Don’t forget to ensure your trash is well recycled. Burn your recyclable trash before you extinguish your fire and separate the rest into a couple of plastic bags. Ensure you label the bags and check if there is a dumpsite to throw the bags nearby. If not, you will have to take the bags home since non-recyclable trash is harmful to the environment, and campers don’t destroy the environment.

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