How to build a campfire - step by step guide

How to build a campfire in any weather condition

How to build a campfire - step by step guide

Building a campfire can sometimes be tricky considering different environment, weather and terrain conditions. Of course, there are certain universal rules how to build a campfire in general, which you can find useful if you find yourself in the wilderness.

You don’t even need to have a necessity of building a campfire, but it’s pretty cool piece of knowledge, and if you’re a guy who wants to look like a true manly man, these instructions of how to build a campfire anywhere, can make you look great. Of course, everyone else is invited to learn few basic steps to building a campfire, so you could use it when you go camping in the woods, somewhere else in nature, or if God forbid, you find yourself in the situation where you’ll need that campfire to survive.

These are few basic rules how to build a campfire step by step, considering different conditions, and few tips how to make it work with as little as possible tools and equipment you have. Let’s begin!

How to build a campfire

First things first

Let’s make a presumption that you’re going to have normal weather conditions, without heavy rain, few meters of snow or ony other harsh nature conditions. Yeah, we’re aware of the fact that these things can happen’, but this is a beginners guide for building a campfire.

The most important things you need for a campfire:

  • Dry fire wood (tiny branches, a bigger ones and fuel wood)
  • Something to start the fire (a lighter, matches or at least one match, fire strikers etc.)
  • A few rocks to condemn the campfire;
  • Axe or a knife (not necessary but useful)

If you’re in the wilderness it’s always useful to have an axe, but if you don’t have it, a simple picking and breaking branches will do the job. Of course if you’re in a more controlled environment, axe and sharper knife will cut your time for building a campfire. If you have pre-cut bigger wooden bricks which you can cut to even smaller pieces using the buttoning knife techniques, you have a big advantage.

An important digression: You can forget about all of these advices if a campfire isn’t allowed at your campsite. Always make sure that campfire is allowed in the place you’re planning to build one.

Here are the steps for building a campfire

#1 Collect the dry wood and few bigger rocks

If you don’t have prepared dry wood for starting a fire, you’ll need to go on a scouting expedition, or send some of your companions to do it. You need to find different kind of wooden branches, sticks and tinder. Three or four different sizes of wooden sticks and branches are perfect. The tiniest branches will be used for starting the fire, or even its peal if needed. A little bigger ones will be used to fuel already started fire, until it catches on the big sticks, while thick wooden bricks will be used for a long campfire life.

Make sure to collect the tree branches and other wooden materials that weren’t on the ground. Moist wood is the biggest enemy you can have for starting the campfire.

Also, make sure to find enough rocks to secure the campfire site.

#2 Build a campfire site

Building a campfire - proper campfire

Make sure that your campfire site is clean of any dirt, sand and other materials, and that it is on a safe distance from any wooden materials which could easily catch a fire. This usually means that your campfire site should be at least 3 meters away from any flammable objects. Use some wooden sticks or shovel (if you have one) to dig a little bump hole where your campfire will be light. It shouldn’t be a big hole in the ground since your fire needs Oxygen circling around. Put the rocks you found around the place you plan for your campfire. This will prevent a potential fire spread and will make your efforts to put up the fire easier.

Depending on the campfire size, rock circle should have a bigger or smaller diameter, while the rock size should be a little bit bigger than two fists put together. Of course, if you can’t find those, use whatever rocks you can find, or build them in the manner that they make a campfire site secure.

#3 Build a campfire base

For a long lasting campfire it is important to keep the ground dry and clean. Then, you should place two bigger pieces of wooden trunks as a base, parallel to each other. Depending on the size of those trunks and how big your campfire you want it to be, you should adjust the space between them but it shouldn’t be larger than 20 cm.

This is the base of your campfire and it is important so that Oxygen from air could go underneath the base, allowing the campfire to breathe.

#4 Building the main construction of campfire

Once you’ve placed your bigger wooden pieces as the base, use the middle sized sticks and branches you’ve found around to bridge the gap between the base of the campfire. This is your primary construction.

On those middle sized branches and sticks, place the tiniest branches or even better, tree peal that you shaved with your knife. If you don’t have any paper, this is the best fuel you can give to your campfire. Also, smaller branches that are drier will easily catch the fire, allowing it to spread on bigger and bigger ones so make sure you place those too above the wooden peal.

#5 Define the purpose and make your fire optimal

Once you’ve prepared everything, choosing the purpose of your campfire is important and it defines the look and final touch. What do we mean by this? The purpose of a campfire means that sometimes you’ll need your campfire for a quick meal preparation, while on the other hand, you’ll sometimes need it for a long lasting fire or even overnight controlled fire. Sometimes you have to make it work with only one match, or with seriously wet conditions. Whatever you need your campfire for, there’s an answer to every situation, and these are few of them.

Long lasting campfire over night

A) One match fire

You’ll definitely need paper fuel or thin shaved tree skin for this to work. Something that catches fire easily. Pinecones are good too since they posses wooden oil. Once you’ve over with your last step, make sure that you have various size of dry wooden chunks right besides you, so that you could add it quickly once you light your only match and place it below. This will light the tiniest branches from below. Add those fuel branches and bigger ones as the fire grows.

Buttoning the thicker tree chunks is the way to make this work, and while your fire slowly catches on, you need to maintain it as long as it’s needed until the biggest pieces of wood are caught on fire too. Once your fire is bigger, place those big chunks of wood above it like you’re building a cup or a tent.

B) Smaller - long lasting campfire

The same principle is used for a smaller campfire, with one little distinction. When your campfire base is built and smaller branches and wooden peal is in place, make sure to bridge the base with bigger sticks, placed on each end of the wooden base. Once you’ve done that, make another line (floor) of wood on the side, just like you’ve made the base, and so on. Of course make sure to place more and more wood skin and little branches in the middle of the construction, and slowly after that the bigger ones, so that your fire can grow.

C) Bigger - long lasting overnight campfire

The same technique you’ve used for a “smaller” campfire, is used for bigger ones, but just like you’ve imagined, you’ll build bigger construction and piles and piles of wood around with lots of fuel wood, pinecones, tree skin and other materials to maintain that fire, which will make nice coal platform for bigger branches to slowly burn and make a fire.

We hope that this step by step tutorial of how to make a campfire, helped you figure it out. Of course we wish you luck on your camping trip or nature expedition. If you wish to make an outdoor hiking and camping trip in Montenegro, we’re here for you.