How To: Build a Great Campfire

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The leaves are changing and every day is getting closer to campfire weather! Our favorite! Unfortunately, campfires aren’t always the easiest to start or the safest for the environment, so here’s all you need to know on how and where to light up!

1) Picking out a spot: Try to always find an existing fire ring. These are usually located by a circle of stones or rocks and ash. Also, look for areas with a lot of fire wood available.

2) Find your fuel: Look for pieces of wood no bigger than your wrists that have already fallen off trees over a wide area around your camp. Never cut down trees or remove live limbs for your fire! Collect enough fire wood for the size fire appropriate for your group, and for the amount of time you want it burning.

3) Initiate the flame: You have several options here from primitive to high tech! Pick whatever you feel most comfortable using.

  • Gerber edition fire starter: This will give you a super quick spark! They’re reliable and lightweight but can prove to be a real challenge if the materials you are trying to light are damp with moisture – starting a fire with one or two strikes is harder than it looks!
  • BIC mini lighter: Will give you a guaranteed instant flame, but also doesn’t work awesome with some damp
  • Waterproof Matches: These may be “old school” but with low probability of failure, they are good to have as a final backup option.
  • WetFire: Super small and individually wrapped, Cabela’s say, “WetFire tinder is the best fire-starting material available in the world, and it even burns longer when it’s wet. It burns at over 1,300 degrees, yet cools instantly.” WetFire is also odorless and nontoxic which makes it a great option. A pack of eight can be purchased for under $10.
  • Zippo Cedar Fire Starter: This option is slightly larger but one puck allows you to start four fires since it is scored evenly to break apart. It even works when wet! If your wood is pretty dry to start with, you can always use less to get it started so you can have more for the next night. It is also created with all natural recycled materials. You can pick one up from REI for $1.95.
  • Cotton: Another cheap and readily available options to take with you is a small amount of cotton balls. While these don’t last long, they will give you a quick flame, and if you have enough dry kindling, this can be a great option to jump start the fire!
  • Homemade: There are many options that you can actually create with household items and will give you the upper hand when starting a fire. There are loads of options online – usually using some combination of lint, egg cartons and wax – and most are much cheaper than buying an “official” fire starter.

4) Let it burn out: Don’t overdo the wood so the fire burns out. When it begins to die down, watch till all wood turns to white ash and there is no danger of the fire spreading. Never leave the fire unattended until you’re sure it’s 100% out!

5) Pack it out: In the morning after the wood has burned, grind down the coals and soak everything with water. You can then scatter the remains over a large area away from camp, or pack it out if you’re close to a river. Scatter all unused wood around the area, and pack out all litter from the fire (s’more remnants :-)).

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Now you know how to make a safe and Leave No Trace happy fire, you need to know what to cook on it! Check out our yummy campfire recipes HERE!

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