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How to Build and Light a Campfire in 8 Simple Steps

I enjoy writing about experiences from my own life so that my tips may help others.

My campfire at Amphitheatre Lake in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

My campfire at Amphitheatre Lake in Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada

Building and lighting a campfire is an essential skill for any outdoors enthusiast. It is a great way to stay warm in the wilderness and can also be used for cooking, providing light, and creating a sense of camaraderie with fellow campers. Building a campfire is not as difficult as it might seem. With knowledge and the required materials, you can have a campfire up and running in no time. Here are eight simple steps for building and lighting a campfire:

1. Be Prepared

When camping in the great outdoors, start by checking the local fire restrictions to ensure that campfires are allowed in the area. If so, then begin by having the proper materials on hand. You will need some matches (or a lighter), newspaper, kindling, and dry wood. Most campfires will have bundles of wood available for you to buy, but it is wise to check before you go. You will also need a hatchet to chop the wood into smaller pieces for kindling.

Bundles of fuelwood and a hatchet

Bundles of fuelwood and a hatchet

2. Clear the Area of Flammable Materials

When considering fire safety, keep all combustible materials from the campfire area before lighting. This includes flammable liquids such as lighting fluid and propane cylinders.

Although tempting to use gasoline to start a campfire quickly, it isn't a good idea from a safety perspective. Only proper lighting fluid should be used when considering a fire starter, and it should never be put on an open flame to avoid personal injury. If using a lighting fluid, apply it to the wood and then move the container a safe distance away before actually lighting the campfire.

3. Gather Some Kindling

Start by going in search of some kindling for your campfire. This is a great activity that kids love to get involved in. Kindling is a mixture of small slivers of wood, sticks, or twigs that are usually found very easily within a few meters of the campsite area. Kindling burns very quickly than larger pieces of wood, and will be the foundation of your campfire. Gather as much as you possibly can; the more you get the better chance you have of lighting your campfire and keeping it lit.

4. Gather Sticks and Twigs

Next, gather some sticks and smaller pieces of wood. Look for dry pieces of wood that are a bit larger than kindling, and will help to get that campfire going nicely. Never cut sticks off trees, instead look around the campsite for dry sticks that are lying on the ground. Also, use your axe to split down the large pieces of wood into some small, manageable pieces. Having a good supply of sticks and thin pieces of wood will encourage your campfire to burn and prepare it for larger pieces of wood.

Gather different sizes of wood to build a teepee

Gather different sizes of wood to build a teepee

4. Gather Fuelwood

Gather your larger pieces of wood. Ideally, you want to build a stack of larger pieces of wood that will keep the fire burning long enough. Firewood should be stacked a few feet away from the fire pit. Be sure to keep your wood as dry as possible at all times.

5. Build a Teepee

Before you strike that match, you will need to assemble your fire pit correctly. Begin with a small teepee of tinder in the center of your firepit. Place some balled-up pieces of newspaper in the center of the pit. Take your kindling and stack it into a “teepee” shape around the newspaper.

6. Ignite Your Campfire

In my opinion, the easiest way to do this successfully on the first attempt is to strike a single match and then hold it carefully in place at the base of the kindling. By shielding any wind as much as possible, the newspaper and kindling should light very quickly, and a gentle blow to the newspaper will encourage it to catch fire.

7. Add More Kindling

If required, add more kindling to the teepee formation until it starts to catch nicely. At this stage your will want to add your smallest sticks and slivers of wood to the outside of the stack, at a 45-degree angle, allowing enough oxygen in the center of the teepee for the fire to survive. If you drop sticks onto the top of the pile then your fire will most likely go out very quickly.

8. Add Fuelwood

Gradually add larger pieces of firewood: As the smaller pieces of wood start to burn without the assistance of any more newspaper or kindling, then your campfire is ready to receive some larger pieces of firewood. Gradually build up your fire around the outside with some larger pieces, again blowing gently on the fire will encourage the fire to catch the wood. Now you can enjoy your campfire, adding more fuelwood as needed until you are ready to extinguish it.

A successfully built campfire

A successfully built campfire

Summary

A correctly built campfire is an essential ingredient for a successful camping trip. Campfires are not only great for keeping warm or cooking delicious meals, but they are also the perfect central gathering place for telling stories and toasting marshmallows. There’s something about gathering around a crackling fire that just makes camping complete. If you’ve never lit a campfire before, then follow these simple eight steps. Understanding the basics of building and lighting a fire outdoors will come in useful before you head off for your next camping trip.

Sources and Further Reading

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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© 2011 Louise

What tips can you share for lighting your campfire?

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on February 15, 2012:

Hi Rolly, what a great tip! I have never heard of that method for starting a fire but it sounds very effective. I will definitely try that out. Thanks so much!

Rolly A Chabot from Alberta Canada on February 14, 2012:

Great Hub and loved all the information... Yet another inexpensive and great way to have an effective fire starter. Take a paper egg carton, fill it with dryer lint and shredded paper. Melt wax and pour it in. Let harden and when you are ready to start a fire slip one in under your wood. light it and in no time rain or shine you will have a roaring fire. I always carry a few in my backpack. They last for years.

Hugs

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on October 23, 2011:

robyna,

A.A. Zavala,

Maralexa,

stephaniedas,

Thanks everyone for all your great comments! I just added another photograph to this hub...check it out! I took the picture two weekends ago on a weekend trip to Kamloops, British Columbia. We found a beautiful quiet lake and built a huge campfire; it was quite spectacular :)

Cloverleaf.

Stephanie Das from Miami, US on October 21, 2011:

Great hub, very well-written and engaging. Congrats on getting hub of the day! Personally, I just douse the wood with lighter fluid and toss a match in, but I guess this isn't exactly the safest way to do it!

Marilyn Alexander from Vancouver, Canada on October 21, 2011:

What a fabulous hub! How clever to include your accolade in the title. It looks really good. I have picked up a number of points from your hub, Cloverleaf, including how to write a good hub, using Amazon capsules, and keeping your paragraphs short and 'punchy.'

I also gain value from your comments section in your hubs.

Many thanks. Voted up and awesome!

Augustine A Zavala from Texas on October 21, 2011:

That you for this informative article on how normal people should start campfires. I find the simplest way to start fires, for me, is to work in the garage or on a car with my father. Most of the time I don't even get burned. Thank you for sharing.

robyna from Michigan, USA on October 21, 2011:

Thanks! Ha! About as good as SEO driven writing can be. :) Yours was more interesting!

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on October 21, 2011:

It's my pleasure, Robyna! I thought your hub was awesome and am delighted to provide a link to it. Have a great day.

Cloverleaf.

robyna from Michigan, USA on October 20, 2011:

Thanks for adding my "Find the Best Tents for Camping" link! I'll create a link list and return the favor. :) -Robyn

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on September 16, 2011:

Hi Dream On,

You're so right about those nasty bugs. Sometimes it's good to get a bit of extra smoke to keep them all away from me (because I'm like a mosquito magnet). Glad you enjoyed this one and thanks for your kind words.

Cloverleaf.

DREAM ON on September 15, 2011:

I never built fires until recently I now have a fire pit.I learned the hard way.Sticks can look dry but if you had rain the other night it still won't light.I love the long lighters that with a few clicks get the fire going good.Great job on hub of the day.There are something very special about a little flame that flickers in the night with people all around.The bugs stay away.That is what I like the best.

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 23, 2011:

Hi gay4greek, I appreciate your upbeat and positive comment thank you so much!

Cloverleaf.

gay4greek from New York on August 23, 2011:

This is super cool! I haven't been in a camp before, 'cause I'm afraid of a lot of things (animals, insects, NOT HAVING FIRE for warmth!) but with this hub, one of the things I'm scared of is solved! Cheers! :)

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 19, 2011:

DzyMsLizzy, That's a great point about checking campsite regulations, they do vary from site to site. I'm happy you enjoyed the info, thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments!

Cloverleaf

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 19, 2011:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day! Good job!

I love camping, and yes, knowing how to build a campfire properly and safely is of prime importance.

Be sure and check the campsite's regulations concerning open fires: in some areas they are just plain not allowed, and in others, the rules may change depending upon season and weather conditions.

It is not necessary to have a giant roaring blaze to enjoy roasted marshmallows, either--a mistake many rookies make.

Thanks for sharing such useful information. Happy camping!

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 19, 2011:

carolp, I see that you have written lots of travel hubs so I will be sure to check them out. Thanks for reading & commenting on my hub.

Carolina from Switzerland on August 17, 2011:

I like Campfire. It is romantic. It was unforgetable and we had lots of fun as we travelled East Canada for 4 weeks with an RV and we stayed in different excellent Campinggrounds. Drop by and read my hub about our RV Tour in Canada. We made Campfire almost every night. Thanks for sharing.

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 17, 2011:

maxravi, thanks for your comment. Camping is a great time to create fond memories with friends :-)

Ravi Singh from India on August 17, 2011:

I remembered we had it last summer, campfire.It was a wonderful time for all of our friends.thanks for your tips.

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 16, 2011:

ktrapp, hope you have a great time enjoying your fire pit this weekend!

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 16, 2011:

Field of Flowers how good to see you! What is pudgy pie? Never done that one LOL. Maybe you could write a hub about it :-)

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 16, 2011:

Denise, you say the kindest things! I never expected any of this :-) Your support means a great deal, it's been a busy couple of days and I'm still dead set on completing my challenge, just hope I can make it!

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 16, 2011:

Naomi's Banner, yep time to pack that camping gear and enjoy the outdoors.

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 16, 2011:

J.S. Matthew, so kind of you to drop by. I am very excited by how well received this information has been! I hope you and your children enjoy many more s'mores around the campfire :-)

Kristin Trapp from Illinois on August 15, 2011:

This is really good information. We have never been able to get a successful fire going in our patio fire pit and now I know to place things in a teepee style as well as to add the sticks and wood in stages. Thanks so much. I can't wait to try this out this weekend.

Carol Kluchesky from Midwest, USA on August 15, 2011:

Hi Cloverleaf congrats on the hub of the day... way to go! I love to go camping and have a fire. Watch the flames, look up at the stars, have smores ... pudgy pies... oh yes... to be camping now!

By looking at the picture of the fire, is that a pot roast in foil I see over on the side? hahaha!! :-P

Have a great day!! :-)

Denise Handlon from North Carolina on August 15, 2011:

Look at you, Cloverleaf! Woo hoo Congrats on the hub of the day. Sweet. :) (BTW really cool topic. I love campfires and you did an awesome job).

Naomi's Banner from United States on August 15, 2011:

Great Hub! Now to build that camp fire. Oh the days....love the camp fires.

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on August 15, 2011:

Congratulations on being selected for the Hub of the Day!

This is such an informative article to explain something that I take for granted! Great Job! I grew up in the Boy Scouts so making a fire was something I learned very early in life. My parents have 3 fire pits at their house (a little obsessive, I know!) and I had no idea that my children didn't know how to build a fire! This summer was a great opportunity for me to share this with them and the s'mores that followed were certainly bonding! Great Hub! Voting Up and sharing!

JSMatthew~

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

Miss Mellie, thanks for your kind words.. as a good scout always says: "I promise that I will do my best"!

That's a really neat tip about the pine cone. I'm glad you stressed just one though, I bet it could get a bit scary if you threw on a handful.

Have a great day,

Cloverleaf

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

Hi David, you should try it - camping can be great fun! Take some bear spray with you though :-)

M.S. Ross on August 15, 2011:

Cloverleaf, I dub thee an Honorary Scout! That is precisely the most effective means of starting a campfire, and I'm so glad to see that you included the information about not adding more kindling directly onto the top of a smouldering fire. That's a common mistake which quells fires by stifling oxygen flow.

Here's another tip: for stubborn fires that just don't want to catch, add a (that's singular!) dry pine cone atop your bundled paper in the center, then surround the bundle with teepeed sticks. The volatile oils in the cone catch fire quite quickly! Don't use more pine cones, unless you want a large--and possibly out of control--campfire. Congratulations on your Hub of the Day accolade!

David Morales from Modesto, California on August 15, 2011:

i've never been camping and I am warming up to thought of going just because you made it sound fun really, the reason why I have not been is because the outdoors and I well let's just say the lions and tigers and bears oh my.

But I will follow you hope you return the favor. Awesome Hub! I can learn from everyone being my first time.

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

Hi Thelma, your encouragement means so much to me. Thanks!

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

zahidalam, thanks and have a great day :-)

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

50 Caliber, you make a great point here, practice makes perfect! Thanks for your vote up.

Thelma Alberts from Germany on August 15, 2011:

Very informative hub. Voted up and thanks for sharing. Congratulation for the hub of the day as well.

zahidalam on August 15, 2011:

Its a awesome hub I really impressed by it.

50 Caliber from Arizona on August 15, 2011:

A very important lesson to learn then practice in the rain and snow until you are proficient as one day it my save a life. I carry flint and steel in my pocket every day.

great hub voted up, 50

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

Movie Master

Sunshine

RoughOutline

RTalloni

Applecsmith

Thanks for all your supportive comments, I'm very flattered. What a great community spirit we have here on HubPages!

Carrie Smith from Dallas, Texas on August 15, 2011:

Congratulations on being the Hub of the day! This is a very informative and well written article. Thanks for sharing these tips.

Voted up and useful.

RTalloni on August 15, 2011:

Nice outdoors living tips! With fall around the corner this is timely info. Congrats on hub of the day!

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

Joe, excellent comment I appreciate it.

EducationCoop, thanks for stopping by!

RoughOutline from England, UK on August 15, 2011:

I love doing outdoors stuff, so this is a really helpful hub for me, thanks!

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on August 15, 2011:

Kudos to you for Hub Of The Day!!! A very informative hub...well done cloverleaf! :)

Movie Master from United Kingdom on August 15, 2011:

Hi Cloverleaf, great hub and congratulations on 'Hub of the Day'

Zach from Colorado on August 15, 2011:

Good hub. Having lit plenty of campfires, I know that this is a great way to start fires. If the kindling is wet or hard to light, a pre-made firestarter can come in handy.

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 15, 2011:

Peter, you're absolutely right! Thanks, much appreciated.

Charmike, I haven't tried it, waterproof matches always seem to do the trick but it might be a good investment if you are out in a very remote area.

Jacqui2011, thanks so much, it's all about having fun!

EducationCoop on August 15, 2011:

I can see this info coming in handy in the future. Great write up!

jacqui2011 from Norfolk, UK on August 15, 2011:

Very interesting hub. I have never lit a campfire before (being from Scotland - its always raining!)but you make it sound like so much fun. Congratulations on being chosen as hub of the day.

Michael Kromwyk from Adelaide, South Australia on August 15, 2011:

Have you tried the Bear Grylls fire starter? I am considering buying one.

PETER LUMETTA from KENAI, ALAKSA on August 15, 2011:

A good technique will save your life in the bush. Very basic and simple instruction, Thanks for the HUB and congrats on the HUB of the day,

Peter

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 11, 2011:

Hey Hyph, you're absolutely right. I wouldn't want to spend hours figuring it out - best to get it done quickly and then crack open a cold beer!!!

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 11, 2011:

Very informative indeed. Many folks these days have never built a fire. Knowing the technique could save a life in time of trouble. Thanks Cloverleaf!

Louise (author) from Calgary, AB, Canada on August 09, 2011:

Hi tsmog, I agree! And I love the smoky smell from them...

Tim Mitchell from Escondido, CA on August 09, 2011:

cool! Campfires are or can be greatly significant - fellowship, storytelling like ancient times, and , , ,

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