A fire is an integral part of any camping, backpacking, hiking, or survival situation and campfire meals are always something that every camper looks forward to at the end of the day. No matter how exciting or fascinating the scenery, there is nothing like gathering around a roaring fire to share stories and cook a meal on the campfire. However, nowadays the freedom to cook over an open fire has become a privilege only available in certain restricted camping areas due to fire hazards and declining wood stocks. This calls for the utmost respect and caution from campers and it is essential to know how to build a campfire safely.
Always make sure that you have a fire extinguisher or at least a bucket of water handy. If the conditions are very windy, make use of a fire shelter to prevent sparks from flying and starting a bushfire.
Building a fire seems like a simple task, but many people struggle to build and start a fire. It is, of course, easier if you are prepared with the right materials like dry matches, but in survival camping situations you may have to learn how to start a fire without matches. Whether you are building a campfire to provide heat or for cooking, here are some handy hints to make the task easier.
How to Build a Campfire for Cooking
When building a campfire the objective is to get all the wood to turn to coal at the same time, producing an even heat with no flames that blacken cookware and provides the longest cooking time.
Before starting, take a look at the ground and choose a location for the fire. The best locations are rocky patches or bare mineral soil, well away from overhanging trees and shrubs. First look for previously established fire pits that you can use to prevent scarring the area unnecessarily.
A campfire for cooking purposes needs to be burning hot and clean. This can only be achieved with dry, seasoned wood. If you know that there won’t be dry wood available in the area, pack your own. Green branches from trees will not work and will only create smoke without any heat.
Small dry pieces of wood and other materials including dry leaves, grasses, mosses, fungus, and dry bark are called tinder as they light quickly and easily from a spark.
Kindling is the next step in how to build a campfire and consists of medium-sized twigs, sticks, and larger pieces of bark to increase the fire started with the tinder.
If you have brought your own firewood it will be in uniform-sized pieces. If you are collecting firewood you will have to make do with what is available.
Building the Fire
First spread the fire area with tinder, then place the kindling over it in layers, interchanging the direction of each layer and making sure that there are gaps between the layers for air to circulate. Start the fire by lighting the tinder and making sure that there are enough flames to light the kindling. When the kindling has taken and is burning well you can start adding the firewood, making sure that it does not smother the kindling before it can catch fire. As the first pieces of firewood start to burn well, you can continue laying the fire until you think there is enough for the size of fire required.
The best way to learn how to make a campfire is to practice until you find the right method that works for you.