How To Build A Campfire In 6 Steps

Learn how to build a campfire in 6 easy steps. Learn to construct a tepee and cabin, and you'll enjoy the warmth and fun of a campfire all night long.

Campfires can be a fun and rewarding way to stay warm, cook food and provide a place for social gathering. Follow these simple steps to building a safe campfire.

1. GATHER MATERIALS. There are 3 basic types of materials and wood that are needed to begin a fire: kindling, sticks and large pieces of wood.

KINDLING is the base foundation of any fire. It is made of lightweight materials that are capable of burning quickly and igniting heavier materials. Kindling is best made of a mixture of twigs, tiny sticks, slivers of shaved wood, dried leaves or paper, birch bark, dried grass, and dried pine needles. You'll be using small sticks to form a tepee and get your fire started.

STICKS will be used to hold your fire structure together and light even larger pieces of wood. Properly aligning sticks will allow oxygen into your fire. Sticks used should be 1-2 inches in diameter, and broken to fit inside the fire pit. It's important that sticks are dry and never taken from living, upright trees.

LARGE PIECES or chunks of wood will be added to the fire last. Chunks should be dry and no more than 3-feet in length. Large chunks of wood should always be placed inside the fire ring or pit.

2. Put 2 handfuls of kindling into a small pile. You can compact the pile into one, softball sized ball. The ball should be placed in the center of the fire pit or fire ring.

3. Using your small sticks of kindling, build a small tepee around the kindling ball. Align your sticks at a 45-degree angle to the ground, making certain to leave some gaps in the tepee to allow oxygen to circulate inside the tepee.

4. Using your medium sized sticks, form a cabin styled structure around your tepee. Do this by placing 2 sticks on the ground outside the tepee, parallel to each other. Form a square by adding another 2 sticks. Repeat, until your cabin structure is 5-6 layers high. Note: Make sure the ends of your cabin overlap, so that your structure stays in place, and will continue to ignite larger pieces of wood.

5. Add the larger pieces of wood. Place several nice sized pieces of wood on two sides of the cabin you have just build. Now, rest two or three tiny branches or sticks on top of your cabin that touch both the cabin foundation and the large chunks of wood you have just added. Be careful not to add to many sticks to the top of the cabin or air will not be able to circulate, and your fire will die out on its own.

6. Light your fire. Light a match and place it in between one of the gaps of your tepee or on the bottom of your cabin. If your fire ignites correctly, it should begin burning the kindling first, spread to your cabin within a few moments, and then, ignite the larger pieces of wood, as well. You can encourage "wet fires" or hard to light fires by adding a few more pieces of kindling and sticks to the fire as it continues the ignition process. Blowing gently around the base of the fire will also help to get past the kindling stage.


ALWAYS remember that fire can ignite a multitude of materials, including tents, clothing and picnic tables. Build your campfire at a safe distance from sleeping and eating quarters, and keep people at least 3 feet from fire's flames.

USING a metal fire pan (available at most outdoor stops) or a campsite provided fire ring is the safest, easiest way to keep a fire under control. In the event that one is not available, dig a fire pit and line it with small stones.

CLEAR an area of at least three feet from all sides of the fire, so as not to ignite small sticks, leaves or clothing. Line this outside area with a ring of stones and large rocks.

REMEMBER that high winds can spread fire quickly. Always look for an area that is most shielded from strong gusts.

FIREPLACE starters, which are sold in brick form, work great when you need to start a fire in rainy, unseasonal conditions.

THERE is a difference between dry wood and rotted wood. Rotted wood is often damp in its center, and should be avoided.

EVERY campfire that's started, also needs to be put out. Regardless of whether it looks like you still have ashes smoldering or not, it's always safest to dump a pail or two of water into the fire pit before leaving the area. If fire still smokes after addition of water, throw a few shovels of dirt on top of the coals.

IN windy conditions, using a barbeque grill lighter is helpful.


It's not impossible to build a fire during a rainstorm. The easiest way to accomplish this is to find an area that is at least semi-protected from moisture and downfalls. Many camping areas provide partially enclosed fire pits. Nonflammable tarps also work well. When lighting a fire during a rainstorm, you'll more than likely need a chemical fire starter of some sort.


Winter fires are easier to build and control than one may think. To build a winter fire, begin by digging a fire pit. If the ground is too hard, clear slow away from a circular area and lay down a fire ring or fire tray. Use the steps above to build a fire, as usual.

© High Speed Ventures 2011