Campfires can be downright magical. Starting and tending to fires has been our most beloved outdoor traditions since the dawn of humanity. Some scientists say that fires were what made us human in the first place. They gave us light, protected us from predators, and allowed us to cook food. This is why, according to scientific research, we instinctually associate fires with safety, warmth, and relaxation.
This being said, building a proper campfire can be somewhat difficult. Especially if you haven’t been thought how to do it correctly. But fear not. Our team of wood fuel experts is here to help.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about building a successful campfire, from preparation to choosing the right spot to proper fire etiquette.
Finding the Right Spot
Campground: Find a Fire Ring, Grill, or Fire Pit
When on campgrounds, only build fires in specially-designated fire rings, grills, or fire pits.
The vast majority of campgrounds in the UK will at least one of these. A fire ring is essential for lessening the impact your campfire has on the environment and keeping your fire contained to limit the risk of starting of forest fire.
Even if you do find a fire ring or a fire pit, don’t forget check with the operator to make sure that fires are permitted on the campground before starting a fire. During certain times of year, campfires can be prohibited on campgrounds, so it’s always best to double check.
When camping in undeveloped sites, it’s always recommended to check with the agency that administers the land you’re on. In many cases, you will only be allowed to start fires in certain parts of the land. In some cases, you may need to get a camping permit. And sometimes you might discover that you cannot start a fire on the site at all.
Once you get your okay from the relevant agency, it’s important to find the right site. Avoid brushy territory or areas with low-hanging branches as fly-away embers can quickly ignite a wildfire. Once you’ve found the approximate area you want to camp at, locate an existing fire ring instead of building a new one and clean it before leaving.
How to Build a Fire Pit
If the area you’re visiting does not have a fire ring, you can build your own by following these simple steps:
- Choose a spot with where the ground consists of sand or gravel to prevent sterilising fertile ground.
- Remove all flammable natural material from the fire pit to minimise the risk of starting a forest fire.
- Arrange a ring of rocks around the spot where you want to burn your fire to further prevent the risk of the fire becoming uncontrollable.
The Right Choice of Wood Fuel
When most of us think of camping, they immediately imagine the process of gathering your own tinder (twigs, dry leaves, pine needles), kindling (twigs and sticks), and firewood. However, we strongly advise against this.
Burning wet or unseasoned firewood is harmful to both human health and the environment. When wet wood matter is burned, it releases a vast amount of harmful compounds, some of which are cancerogenic.
Sometimes campground hosts will offer bundles of Ready to Burn firewood or kindling for sale, but in most cases you will have to bring your own. At Lekto, we offer several low moisture camping wood fuel options, including:
- Kiln-Dried Birch Logs: inexpensive, beautifully-burning, and easy to light.
- Kiln-Dried Oak Logs: long-burning, high heat outputting, and energy dense.
- Hardwood Heat Logs: easy to portion and smokeless.
- Swedish Torch Logs: perfect all-in-one camping solution.
Build Your Campfire
Starting a Campfire: Log Cabin Method
- Place two large logs parallel to each other.
- Place two smaller pieces of firewood on top of them perpendicularly, so that the structure forms a square.
- Fill the inside of the square with a mixture of tinder and wood kindling.
- Add several more layers of firewood around the perimeter.
- End with a top layer of tinder and wood kindling.
Starting a Campfire: Cone Method
- Make a ring of loosely piled tinder.
- Make a small cone of kindling around the tinder.
- Set the structure on fire.
- Once the cone is burning nicely, proceed to add you main firewood.
Starting a Campfire: Upside Down Method
- Place four or five large pieces of firewood side by side on the ground.
- Add a second layer of slightly smaller logs perpendicularly on top of them.
- Add several more alternating layers, using smaller and smaller logs as you go.
- Place your tinder and kindling on top.
- Set the structure on fire.
Light Your Campfire
Use a campfire match or a waterproof outdoor lighter to set light to your firelighters. They will set your tinder on fire and it will set your firewood on fire. If you are using high quality firewood or a Swedish Torch, no further steps are required.
Extinguish Your Campfire Safely
This step is the most crucial one. Even if a fire looks like it’s fully extinguished, it may still cause a forest fire once you leave the campsite.
The best way to extinguish a fire is by using a bucket to pour water over it. Repeat this process until no more glowing embers are visible and you no longer hear any hissing sounds. Do not leave the site until the ashes are cook to the touch. If they are hot (or even warm), it is best to add a little bit of extra water on top of them.
NB: Avoid extinguishing fires with sand or dirt as this will simply conserve the fire without extinguishing it.
Clean up the Campfire
Lastly, make sure to leave the campsite in at least as clean a condition as you found it.