Campfire offers warmth and comfort. It helps you cook food and also safeguards you from attacks by wild predators. Most people often believe there is not much of a difference between starting a fire and setting up a campfire. Though a campfire has its roots in a fire, the two do not mean the same thing or function identically. Knowing what a campfire is and how to set it up is essential to manage the flame and also douse it when you’re done. If you are new to campfires and have no idea how to set it up or the different techniques to build it, keep reading.
Get the Basics Right
To set a campfire that’s manageable and which truly serves the purpose, there are certain campfire basics you need to be aware of.
First, it’s imperative the site of the fire is away from trees, bushes, and any other kind of vegetation. The fire must be set on bare ground – that is devoid of grass, particularly dry grass. If there is no bare spot in sight, you can make your own by getting rid of vegetation in the spot chosen for the fire. Next, prepare the fire bed. Do this by amassing dirt in a spot so that a platform can be formed that is about three inches thick.
To build the fire, you would require three kinds of material: kindling, tinder, and fuelwood. Tinder catches fire quickly and easily. You would need it to set the fire rolling. Tinder basically comprises wood shavings, dry grass, and various other materials that can quickly burn. The tinder should be dry for it to serve its purpose.
Compared to tinder, kindling is thicker and heavier and is used for keeping the fire going until you could add the large fuel logs. It comprises tiny branches and small twigs that are usually as thick as a standard pencil. The kindling must also be dry for the fire to catch up easily. Bend the twigs to ascertain they are dry enough. If the twigs do not snap when bent sharply, it means they are not dry enough.
Fuelwood is the woodblock that you would need to keep the fire burning. You do not require large fuelwood for a great fire. Even branches that are no thicker than the diameter of your wrist would do the job. Unlike tinder and kindling, fuelwood could afford to be slightly on the damper side since the heat would dry it out. But you should still be primarily seeking dry fuelwood for the fire because wet fuelwood can generate a significant amount of smoke.
The Different Campfire Building Techniques
There are different methods to create a campfire. The following are the easiest and quickest ways to light things up in the woods.
A tipi campfire, also spelled tepee or teepee, is a fire setup most campers are familiar with – even if they don’t know it by name. A tipi is a pretty basic arrangement and is known for the warmth it generates. In fact, it’s your starter fire setup – atop which you could build other types of campfires. Usually created for warmth, it could also be used for cooking purposes. The robust flames it generates help with boiling water and some basic cooking.
To make a campfire the tipi way, you would require lean logs, alongside tinder and kindling. However, before you could start the fire, ensure the surface for the fire is flat. The region should be a low-wind zone too. If the conditions are windy, a windbreak is a must-have. Like always, assess the area for fire hazards, such as trees and bushes before you start setting things up. A flat surface and an area free of potential hazards are required for pretty much every campfire building technique featured on this list.
The lean logs should be set against each other in a way that they end up creating a pyramid. But before that place a solid amount of tinder right at the center of the ring. The kindling must be positioned over the tinder bundle in a circular pattern. The tips must come together like an Indian tepee’s poles. Be extra cautious while you go about things to prevent the kindling sticks from flipping over before the tinder completely burns out. Ensure there is an opening to light the tinder and also to facilitate free airflow. Add more kindling so that the fire develops easily.
Add fuel logs to create a big tipi frame. Set light to the tinder at the tipi structure’s bottom to begin your campfire. This setup would ensure flames have an upward spread. Over time, the fuel logs would completely catch fire. You may build a tipi before lighting fire or place the logs strategically after having set the fire. To maintain the fire, keep adding fresh wood pieces at regular intervals adhering to the tipi fire arrangement. A tipi burns down pretty well, leaving behind a solid bed of coals.
Also called the crisscross fire, log cabin fire is a solid setup for getting started with a campfire. Not to mention, it’s almost perfect for cooking – thanks to the strategically placed logs that can support your cooking pot or pan’s weight. Also, the fire burns at a relatively slow pace, which helps you control the fire and also your cooking.
The fire’s criss-cross build basically entails medium to small-sized wood that could be burned to create some basic cooking fire for frying or boiling purposes. Often, a log cabin fire serves as the base for larger campfires.
To make the fire, start with setting up the foundation for the cabin. The cabin’s size is in direct correlation with how large you want the fire to be and how long you want it to go. The log cabin usually is square feet in space. Before creating the cabin, ensure you clear any rocks, leaves, twigs, etc. from the spot.
The wood pieces used should be of similar (if not identical) thickness. They shouldn’t be more than an inch or three centimeters in diameter so that they catch fire quickly and easily and the burning is seamless and swift too. The wood used for the cabin’s base could be thicker or bigger than the ones used on the top.
The cabin you create could be a complete square or have a pyramid-like structure. However, make sure the top of the pyramid is not too sharp or pointed. The structure should ideally have a slight inward taper. You would need a small bunch of kindling and tinder to light the wood cabin. You may combine a log cabin with a tipi fire. A tipi could be positioned in the middle – a log cabin can then be built around it.
Also referred to as Indian fire, star fire is the ideal fire arrangement when you do not have a lot of fuel to spare or you need fire for shelter. The fire is low-maintenance and long-lasting. Such a campfire will not create a large roaring fire. It works great for people who are not necessarily looking for the largest fire possible.
To set up the fire, you need to create the right base. Preferably dig a hole with sides sloping inward and position your logs into the hole so that gravity pulls in the wood and helps keep the fire under control. Not to mention, the hot coals would accumulate in the pit, coming in extremely handy during the cooking process.
The fire process begins with some basic kindling. Once the kindling gets going, you may make the ends of various logs come in contact with the fire. Start with at least three wood pieces, which can be as thick as your arm. You may even place the logs first and then create the starter fire. Thanks to kindling, you would need only a single match to set the starter fire rolling.
You can control how much wood the fire ends up consuming. If you want a bigger fire or increased warmth/heat, you can push in the branches into the epicenter of the fire. Pull out the branches for the opposite effect.
A star fire is ideal when wood resources are low. It also helps cook one-pot meals, which include boiling, frying, grilling, and stick cooking. Add additional pieces of wood if you’d like to create the flames needed for some high-intensity cooking or some increased warmth in general.
Since a star fire entails a small pit, you would need to douse it with water as the wind blowing may not be able to completely put the fire out. If you let the campfire to extinguish by itself, it would eventually do so, but the time taken would be much longer. It’s also not safe to let the fire put itself off on its own.
Lean-to fire is a campfire method employed when the wind is a major factor in the region. For the fire, a large piece of wood is positioned perpendicular to the flow of wind so that the consistent flow of gusty air doesn’t put out the fire. The technique usually entails multiple wood sticks leaning onto a large foundation log. However, at times, a medium-size stick could be used. This fire technique could serve as the base for different cooking fires or may serve the purpose by itself.
As mentioned before, the lean-to method is ideal when the surrounding air is extremely worked up. In such high-wind areas, a large and thick log could be positioned against the wind. The log would be the shelter to the fire sitting near its base. If you cannot find a big log, angled sticks may do the trick too.
To set the fire up, begin by placing the angled sticks or large log that the fire would be leaning against. Place tinder in the sheltered region, and quickly follow it up with some kindling. Create a heap of small twigs and kindling leaning against the large wood piece. Atop the tinder and kindling, you may place bigger wood pieces. However, make sure there’s proper ventilation so that the fire continues to burn.
Once you have set things up, light the fire. Do so at the cave-like area’s entrance. Once the tinder is set on fire, the other pieces of wood and twigs would catch fire eventually. The fire can be maintained continually by adding new wood pieces to it.
Also called upside-down fire, platform fire comprises a base framework of big logs laid adjacent to create a solid base. Since it’s a pyramid-like structure, the base comprises the bigger and thicker wood pieces. With every stack of logs placed perpendicular to the level below it, the wood thickness and size marginally decreases.
While you’re creating the pyramid, you are also making some space in the center to place and ignite some kindling. Based on the size of the flames you want, you can decide the number of logs to use or how large the pyramid should be. To set it up, lay some logs (at least three) on the flat surface. Then position three more logs over the already placed logs perpendicularly, and so on. There should be at least three levels to the platform setup. Once done, you may set the blaze at the top after, of course, having placed some kindling.
When you look at it, there is not much of a difference between a platform fire setup and a log cabin. However, unlike a log cabin, the platform fire is not cut out for cooking alone. Also, the fire starts its journey from the top. With the log cabin, it’s at the base’s center. With burning taking place at the top and moving downward, the fire sets up a flat, solid platform of coals to place your pans and pots for cooking.
A good campfire experience doesn’t stop with having set up the logs and set them alight. You must also responsibly extinguish the fire when the party is over or when you don’t need the fire anymore. Abandoning the fire when you’re done is not just a waste of resources but it’s unsafe too. You need to have someone watching the fire at all times because you just never know when the flames start to act differently. Most importantly, the campfire you created shouldn’t leave behind a mess or spoil the environment of the place.