A fire is the heart of many time-honored camping traditions, but building one — and actually getting it going — can be an intimidating, sometimes frustrating task. This surefire method will produce long-lasting flames without the need for fire-starters, lighter fluid, or gasoline.
Before you begin, however, confirm that fires are permitted at your campsite and use only a designated fire pit. Clear the area of flammable material, check that there are no low-hanging branches above the pit, and have a bucket of water or a mound of dirt handy to extinguish your blaze in case it gets out of control.
- Tinder: Small scraps of twigs, bark, or pine needles that burn quickly.
- Kindling: Pencil-thick sticks and small branches.
- Firewood: The main fuel for your fire, these pieces should range from about 3 to 8 inches in diameter.
- Dirt, mold, and fungi are signs that your wood is too wet to burn. Dry pieces will break easily.
- If your fire pit is damp, use a sheet of aluminum foil as a dry base.
Gather dry tinder, kindling, and firewood. If you’re foraging, collect only fallen pieces. If you buy firewood, make sure it’s local — wood from more than 50 miles away may introduce invasive insects.
Place a few handfuls of tinder in the center of your fire pit and use kindling to create a tepee above it that’s roughly 10 inches in diameter. Leave gaps between kindling to let air circulate.
Light the tinder with a match or a lighter and blow at the base to build the flame. As your fire gains strength, add firewood, starting with thinner pieces and working up to the thicker ones.
Extinguish the fire, ideally once it’s begun to die, by sprinkling water or dirt over it and stirring the ashes with a stick. Repeat until cool to the touch. Don’t leave the pit unattended until the fire is completely out.