How To Build A Campfire: A Guide

The campfire is one of the oldest and most loved traditions of getting out into the wilderness, and it can have so many benefits when done right. Knowing how to build campfire means that you and your camping party will have access to a source of comfort, warmth, and heat to cook your meals, boil your water, and keep you safe.

Campfires and camping go hand and hand, however, there are many of us out there a little unsure about the correct way to build our own campfire. With our tips and tricks, though, you’ll have all of the knowledge you need to successfully start a campfire no matter where and when you go camping, so you can enjoy the benefits of its warmth and heat.

The Best Types Of Wood For Building A Campfire

Just as important as knowing how to build a campfire is knowing what type of wood is best. The wood you use will determine how easily the fire starts and how long it keeps burning, so keep a lookout for seasoned wood that looks as though it’s been laying around for more than one season.

Starting Camp Fire

This will ensure it has the right amount of dryness and moisture to help it to burn better.

Ultimately, the best type of wood is a hardwood so keep an eye out for madrone, live oak, hickory, walnut, and fruit trees. Hardwood can usually burn for longer than softwoods, but there are some exceptions. If you can’t find a soft wood then try to find some fir, but only branches that have also been seasoned.

There are three types of wood that you’ll need to build a fire, especially if you aren’t using a Firestarter agent. These are:


This consists of dry leaves, forest duff, twigs, and needles. This will be used to get the fire started in the very early stages and create the first heat.


Wood uses for kindling is typically an inch around and made up of small sticks, and this wood is used to grow the fire from the initial stages and turn it into flames that you can then begin to grow.


These are larger pieces of wood and their purpose is to keep your fire burning through the night and so they need to be quite thick in diameter.

How To Build Campfire

There are a few different methods that are popular with campers when building a fire, but one that is always reliable is the log cabin method. Follow these steps to build your log cabin style fire and then you can begin the lighting stage.

Starting Log Fire

Make the base of your structure by placing two larger pieces of wood parallel to each other and with enough room in between for the fire.

Grab another two pieces of wood and turn them 90 degrees away from the first two so that they lay on top make a squared shaped.

Grab a large amount of your tinder and place it inside the square that you’ve created.

Continue to add layers of larger pieces of wood around the fire around the perimeter as you get smaller with each layer. Ensure that there’s enough space between the logs so that oxygen can get in and help to grow the fire.

Complete the setup by placing another layer of kindling and tinder mixed together on top of the square.

Once the campfire is set up, you can now start the fire. As one of the ten essentials that you should take camping according to the REI, you should always have waterproof matches on hand. There may be times when you’re in an emergency situation and find you’re without them so there are a few other ways you can try to start a fire.

Some campers have successfully started fires using friction based fire making methods or using a lens to get heat from the sun. However, these methods can take time and skill to learn so you should be practicing them at home if you ever intend to use them outdoors successfully.

The Importance Of Low Impact Fires

As campers, we should always do everything we can to adhere to the Leave No Trace policy which includes starting low impact fires only as required. When you’re out camping, the easiest way to do this is to use a fire ring that’s been previously started by someone else or set up by the regional parks service.

Campsite Fire Ring

When you’re in the back-country areas where fires are permitted, a fire ring should only be used in the case of an emergency. If you do need to make a fire ring then you should dismantle it as soon as you’re done so you don’t tempt others to use it after you.

Fires can have devastating effects on the wilderness and the animals who live there, so it’s essential to always follow safety precautions and camp ethically at all times.

An Essential Camping Skill

Just as important as learning how to build a campfire is learning how to properly extinguish it, and this needs to be a top priority for the camper.

Leaving a burning fire poses serious harm to the surrounding wildlife and wilderness, as well as other campers, so you need to pour water over the fire, stir the ashes, and then pour another lot of water on top to be sure it’s completely out.

Fire can have so many benefits for us when we’re in the outdoors, provided we are following ethical camping guidelines and only making fire for the right reasons. By respecting the principles set out for campers by policies such as Leave No Trace, you can ensure you’re maintaining the outdoors for many future generations of campers to come.