If you built a campfire the old-fashioned way, it would look boring and trivial compared with the camping accessories one could use today. However, in extreme circumstances, knowing how to build a perfect campfire the traditional way could mean the difference between life and death.
In the old days, when life was less complicated than it is today, it was essential to know how to build a proper campfire. Night temperatures can be very unforgiving. People needed warmth against a cold environment and a fire to prepare their meals. Besides providing heat, campfires also repelled wild animals. They were often left burning well into the night.
How to Build a Perfect Campfire
I guess the art of making campfires has largely been forgotten. However, any regular camper should still have the skill to make a great campfire the traditional way, no matter what types of camping he does.
Starting a Campfire – the Basics
To start a campfire, you need 3 essential items: a source of heat, oxygen and suitable fuel.
Oxygen – For your fuel to burn, you need to arrange it in such a way that it gets adequate ventilation. You can help this along by fanning a small flame or by blowing onto a glowing coal.
Heat is usually generated for a campfire by friction. There is an assortment of ways to generate this heat – by using flint stones, rubbing two sticks together or even using a magnifying glass. However, these won’t supply you with a welcome cluster of flames if you don’t have the correct fuel.
Fuel is the substance that keeps your fire burning. Finding the correct kind of fuel is integral to your efforts in building and maintaining a campfire. Trying to make a fire by applying the heat source directly to your wood isn’t likely to work; you’re going to need some tinder (kindling).
For tinder, you can use materials such as dry twigs, bark, leaves and sticks. These are easily-combustible substances that burn rapidly and emit enough heat to get a fire going with larger pieces of wood. Use this kindling to start the fire and to help maintain it.
When the Wind is NOT your Best Friend, try a Birthday Candle!
Every regular camper knows that there are times when the wind is so strong that it’s difficult to get your tinder to ignite. You strike match after match that keeps blowing out before you can get your fire started. Now here’s a trick that should get your fire going very quickly, using a Magic Relighting Candle:
The Magic Relighting Candles contain a substance that re-ignites the flame (possibly magnesium powder) after it gets blown out. Each time it blows out, it re-ignites itself. Here’s what to do:
Prepare your tinder and get it ready for your fire. Shielding yourself from the wind, light the wick of your Magic Relighting candle and drop it into your tinder. If the wind blows the candle out, it should re-ignite itself. They are usually able to burn for up to 2 minutes, which should be enough time to get your tinder burning well. From then on, just continue building up your campfire.
It would be a good idea to keep a pack of these as part of your survival kit, just in case.
Common Types of Campfire
Which campfire generates the most heat?
Teepee fires – These are great for building quick fires and can last well into the night. They consume a lot of tinder so you’ll need a good amount of it. The longer-burning pieces of wood are placed vertically, resting against each other, around the tinder. This ensures that the heat of the burning tinder is generated in a way that helps the larger wood pieces to burn. This type of fire is good for boiling water as well as a general-purpose campfire.
Pyramid fires – You form a “pyramid” of logs by laying some horizontally together on the ground, then arranging another layer on top of the first, building up layers to gradually form a pyramid. Although this type of campfire is not so easy to start up, the advantage is that it generates a good amount of charcoal that can be used at a future time. It burns well and makes a stable camping fire.
Parallel fires – With a parallel fire, the tinder is placed between 2 logs. The insides of the logs are kept burning snugly, providing efficient heat for preparing meals.
Star fires – You are sure to remember seeing this type of fire in several Western movies. The logs are arranged like the spokes of a wheel, with tinder placed in the center. This fire is easy to maintain, although you are required to push the “spokes” towards the center of the fire as the wood burns up.
Practice Makes Perfect!
There are other kinds of campfire too, each one with its specific purpose. As with any other outdoor skill, building and maintaining a campfire takes some practice to “get it right”.
Now that you know how to build a perfect campfire, remember to treat it with respect. It can become your greatest friend or your worst nightmare. Always follow safety precautions: after using your fire, douse it with water or bury its remains with soil. Fires left unattended could cause serious damage at any time of the year. Take care that nothing that shouldn’t burn gets burned.