So, how are you going to build your campfire? The way you assemble your wood before lighting it is called the Fire Lay and there are a few classic methods to use, depending on what you will use your fire for. I nearly always start with a teepee unless I've been asked to create a large council fire for entertainment.
Whatever type of fire you decide to make, keep these things in mind:
- Plan where you will light it - leave an opening to reach the tinder.
- Light the upwind side so the wind blows the flame into the fuel.
- Leave air space between pieces of wood.
- Build UP, not OUT. Create a higher pile of wood rather than a flatter pile.
This is my favorite and I believe the most useful and easiest to light. The key is to stick a few sticks into the ground to supply support for the rest of the kindling.
- Place your tinder bundle on the ground or on a small piece of bark.
- Stick three or four kindling twigs in the ground to form a teepee above the tinder.
- Lean small kindling twigs against the downwind side of the tinder.
- Leave an opening on the upwind side all the way to the center tinder where you can light the fire.
- Continue to lean twigs around the teepee structure.
- Work your way up to pencil-sized sticks, leaving plenty of air space between sticks.
- Poke three or four pencil-sized sticks into the ground forming a larger teepee structure.
- Lean some smaller fuelwood pieces against this support structure.
- Have additional small fuelwood and kindling ready in case it is needed.
Log Cabin Fire
This is the most popular style for beginners to build - I don't know why, maybe because it looks like a house? Anyway, I tend to not use it because it is difficult to access the interior. But, I do add wood to a burning teepee fire to turn it into a log cabin.
- Lay a small teepee fire.
- Lay two larger pieces of fuelwood parallel on opposite sides of the teepee.
- Lay two slightly smaller pieces of fuelwood parallel on the other two opposite sides. Leave a space under the upwind piece through which you can reach the tinder to light it - you might need to fashion a mini-torch and stick it in to light.
- Continue to lay smaller and shorter pieces to form a cabin or pyramid shape.
- Have extra kindling ready to drop into the top or through the spaces on the sides to feed the internal fire until the outer walls catch fire.
- Stick a long, large piece of kindling in the ground at a flat angle. It should point into the wind.
- Place your tinder bundle under the stick.
- Lean very tiny pieces of kindling on the tinder bundle.
- Lean more small kindling against the support stick.
- Lean larger kindling against the first layer.
- You could create a second lean-to of larger sticks over the first lean-to.
The big daddy of large group campfires. A council fire burns hot, bright, and for a long time without adding more wood. It does take bigger logs and is meant for entertaining big crowds.
- Lay 4 logs, each about 5 or 6 inches across and 3 to 3.5 feet long, with about 4 inches of air space between logs.
- Across these, lay a platform of about 6 logs, each about 5 inches across and 3 feet long.
- Across this, lay a layer of 4 inch logs, 2.5 feet long.
- Then, two layers of 3 inch logs, 2 feet long, in perpendicular layers.
- Then, 2 layers of 2 inch logs, 2 feet long.
- Then, 2 layers of 1 inch split wood, 18 inches long.
- Make a lot of split kindling sticks and stick them into any open air space in the log layers.
- Create a teepee structure on top of the last layer of split wood.
- Leaving a space to light the teepee, continue placing more split pieces around the teepee to make a few more layers.
- The teepee is lit and the fire burns its way down through the layers.
Good for cooking and has good wind protection. Not useful for entertaining or warming.
- Retrieve two short logs 6 to 8 inches in diameter and place them nearly parallel to each other about 6 inches apart at one end and 3 inches at the other.
- Create small teepee fire between the logs and feed it fuel until there are good coals.
- Use the two logs as a platform on which you set your pots to cook.
- Spread or pile the coals to create hotter and cooler cooking areas.