Campfire Basics

One of the challenges of being outdoors is starting a campfire. These ideas will help you start that sure fire that will cook your meals and warm your heart. There are many ways to start a campfire. Some may be fun for younger (and older) campers and can also be used in times of emergency.

Camping is a fun summer activity that most of us enjoy. But one thing is essential for every camping trip – a campfire. If you don’t know how to build a safe and proper fire, your trip will most likely be cut short. Fire building is a skill that may save your life. There’s also no substitute for the cozy warmth of a campfire.

Before you decide on a campsite, find out what the fire regulations and recommendations are for the area. It is always wise to go prepared to cook on a camp stove and, where permitted, to use your campfire for a delightful social atmosphere. For building the fire, select a spot at least 15 feet from trees. Fires built over roots are dangerous because the fire can follow the roots back to the trees or bushes and cause fires larger than you want. Never build a fire directly under branches or near dry grass or weeds.

If you are not building your fire in the metal rings provided in most campgrounds, use large rocks to enclose the fire. Always be aware of wind speed and direction. Sparks can travel great distances and smoke can annoy your neighbor.

Never leave a fire unattended, and always have a bucket of water and a shovel near the fire to extinguish it in case it gets out of control. Put out your fire completely by drowning it in water.

Now that you know the basics of caring for a fire, you need directions on how to construct a fire pit. The keyhole fire, named after its shape, is one of the most common fires used today.

The keyhole is the best design for both a campfire and a cooking fire. It is the most efficient to use in cooking since there is a constant supply of fresh coals that you can rake in when the temperature drops. Build the fire in the circle area and draw hot coals for cooking from the circle into the lower part of the keyhole. The keyhole can also be formed using bricks to provide a stable place for a grill.

4 Ways To Start A Fire

Now that you know how to construct a fire pit here are 4 simple ways to get your fire started quickly.

  1. Matches: The most common method of starting a campfire is to use matches. They can be protected against moisture by dipping them into either paraffin or fingernail polish. After dipping the matches, place them in the grooves of a piece of corrugated cardboard to let them dry. Keep matches in a waterproof container.
  2. Cardboard Egg Cartons: An easy and fun way to prepare good tinder at home is in cardboard egg cartons. This is my favorite way. I make them all the time. I save all my cardboard egg cartons and my lint from the dryer and it takes care of all my fire-starting needs. Save the lint from your dryer and fill the pockets of a cardboard egg carton with the lint. Then set the egg carton on a section of the newspaper. Next, heat paraffin wax in a double boiler and pour the wax over the lint. Each time you need a fire starter, break off a pocket of the egg carton. It will burn for 10 to 15 minutes. Cotton balls soaked in paraffin also make good fire-starting materials. Enjoy starting your campfire with whatever method you choose!
  3. Newspaper: Another method of starting a campfire uses newspapers. Roll several newspapers tightly until they are 4 inches in diameter. (ecology catalogs sell a nifty device that tightly rolls newspapers into logs.) Tape around the outside to hold the paper log together, and cut it into 1-inch sections with a band saw. Then place the rolls of paper in melted wax, letting the paper absorb as much wax as possible; remove and place on paper to cool.
  4. Steel Wool and Battery: An easy and dramatic way to start a fire is to use two flashlight batteries and a strip of grade 00 or finer steel wool. Cut or stretch a piece to about 8 inches in length. Align two good flashlight batteries on top of each other in an upright position (as if they were placed inside a flashlight). Hold one end of the steel wool strip against the bottom of the lower battery. Carefully rub the other end of the steel wool across the “nub” of the upper battery. As soon as the steel wool sparks, place it on tinder or other burnable material and slowly blow on it.

Roughing It Easy

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Caution: When melting wax, use a double boiler so that the wax will not ignite. It has a low combustion point. When the sections are ready to use, merely pull out about 10 inches of the center and use it for a fire starter. At times when tinder is not available, uncoil the center of the newspaper, light it, and let the whole roll burn. Small pieces of newspaper can also be rolled into smaller rolls, tied with string, and dipped in wax.

Recycle lint from your dryer and use it to make a fire next time you are outdoors.
Use an old scrap of cardboard to told you matches.
Sometimes tinder is hard to find in the outdoors. Use this DIY egg carton and dryer lint fire starter.
Summer nigths are best spent around a camp fire, but sometimes getting that fire started can be difficult. Dian Thomas has a solution! Make these easy DIY Fires starters out of household items! Learn 4 easy ways to ignite your summer evening!