How to start the perfect Campfire step by step

How to start the perfect Campfire step by step

Starting a fire in the wild and keep it burning is not that easy - especially for beginners it can be frustrating.

In this article we will show you how to start a fire properly and what you should think about before you start your journey into the wild.


Being able to start a fire, can save your life out there. But it is also important to know how to do it properly and how to keep a fire going.

As soon as you managed these steps you will be able to dry your clothes, cook water and roast the fish that you just caught. It also provides you with warmth and secureness.

The first step is to learn how you can actually start a fire without burning down the whole forest, so keep reading and become an expert for a safe camp fire...

Find the best place for a campfire

Make sure that you choose your fireplace on a spot without easily flammable material in a radius of 3 meters ( 3.5 ft ) - also in height. The ground needs to be fireproof and not too loose. If the ground is too loose you will risk a root fire, which can set the whole forest in fire - even days after.

Be aware, that if you see loose forest soil, it may not really be earth, but pressed and half-rotten leaves that can also start to burn or glow. In this case, your fire will sink into the ground.

Especially in spring, after the snow melts and in late autumn you have to be careful.

At this time of the year, fallen leaves and dead grass are usually drenched with rain and look harmless. However, the moisture is superficial and the leaves and grasses themselves no longer contain moisture, so they start burning very easily when the rainwater has evaporated due to the heat of the fire.

 Fire starting needs good preparation

To light a fire, you will need something to light the first glow or flame. There are many different methods and tools which all have their pros and cons.

Especially for beginners we recommend to always take a lighter or fire matches with you when you go out in the woods. Make sure you keep them dry all the time, otherwise they might become useless.

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Matches are easy to use, but have two major disadvantages when starting a fire: They are only available in limited numbers, so that you won't have unlimited trials. They also lose their effectiveness when they get wet or damp.

In order to not to let all matches get burned or break without any effect, you will need the right method and the right flammable material.


 Finding the right fuel

In order for your fire to burn properly,you need to have the right fuel .

So if you hold a match directly to a tree trunk, it will have no major effect. So first of all you need easy flammable tinder material, or at least something that burns very easily.

You can feed a fire in three simple steps:

#1 The Feed-on Phase

The seeds of dandelions, thristles or dry cattails are particularly suitable for this. Easily flammable materials that act as tinder are also dry leaves, dry grasses, dry tree needles or thin wood chips. You can carve the latter out of dry branches with a knife.

#2 The Growth Phase

As the next level you need lighting equipment. The best therefor is spruce twigs. Spruces do not have natural knot clearing which means that dead, small knots simply stick to the tree and do not fall off. They are not able to draw moisture and even if it rains, these brushwood boxes still burn effectively.

Collect as many of it as possible and turn them into small, handy packages. If there are no spruce twigs, all other types of thin branches or twigs are suitable too.

#3 The Burn Phase

In the last step you will need a lot of material that burns for a long time. It is recommendable to  collect branches and other peices of wood in different strengts. Take a few finger-thick branches as well as arm sized branches and try to get a feeling how much you need to feed your campfire to keep it burning constantly.

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The right structure for your campfire

Nothing is more crucial for your succes as a pro camp fire starter than the correct construction of your fireplace. If the floor is wet or damp, it is important to set up a base underlay before lighting the fire.

That's why there are the appropriate instructions here, on how you should build your campfire place in three simple steps. 

#1 How to build an underlay for your campfire

In order to do this, put small branches ( up to thumb-thick ) parallel next to each other, as if you wanted to build a small floor.

Then comes the next layer that you build exactly across the first one.

On one hand this keeps the soil moisture away from the fire and on the other hand the heat builds up because the embers can spread up and down without any obstacles.

#2 Prepare your tinder material

Now it is time to put your tinder material in several layers on this surface, surrounded by the materials that are particular flammable. You need to compress them well so that a neat ember core is able to form later. This way you prevent the heat from getting lost.

#3 Build a Brushwood Pyramid around your tinder material

Now you can set up your spruce twigs like a small pyramid around this inner core of tinder material. You should also compress this properly.

The next layer to put around would be the thin branches, exactly like the spruce twigs before. However, make sure to leave a gap through the small branches so that you will be able to light the tinder material.

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Light your fire and grow it properly

The first phase of the fire is always the most crucial, because many things can go wrong here.

Check where the wind is coming from, before starting a fire and try to cover the tinder material you want to set the fire on.

Get the match as close as possible into the pyramid before you light it so that i won't suddenly get blown out by the wind on the way there.

Flames always burn from the bottom up. Set your tinder material on fire as deep as possible or - even better - at several points. If it is wet it might be a good idea to light several matches at once in order to generate more heat.

As soon as the first flame burns in your pyramid, you have to feed the fire. A lot of oxygen is needed for it to grow. Blow slowly and equally into the pyramid, as far as possible from below, so that the flames can climb up. Make sure you blow equally into the embers, not into the flames.

As long as only the easily flammable material burns it is still fragile. As soon as the spruce twigs get on fire, you almost reached the goal.

Now make sure that thicker branches get on fire to grow it slowly and make it steady. If necessary correct their position so that they can be reached by the fire. Now you can start putting more wood pieces around the fire so that it slowly grows and always has enough food to burn. If you wait too long, it may collapse and die, even though it was already well on fire.


Take good care of the fire

When the fire is grown and has reached a steady stadium, you can calm down a little. It will not go out that easily anymore.

But make sure to never make it bigger than absolutely necessary! On one hand it might be more difficult to control it and on the other hand you waste significantly more precious wood. Native Americans tend to say: Native Americans warm up by the flames of the fire - the white man warms up by running through the forest, constantly looking for more fuel.

A fire is most economical if you only add wood when it has burned down, almost to the embers. The most important thing is that you are able to control it all the time and, if necessary to extinguish it at any time!

Never leave an open fire unattended and always keep an eye on your surroundings!

You have to be particularly careful with clothing that can be melted or easily been set on fire, for example clothing made of synthetic materials. This includes almost every modern outdoor clothing.

Synthetic fibers start to melt when they are struck by small sparks or when they come too close to the fire. So make sure you keep a distance to the campfire while wearing those things. The better alternative is to wear clothes made of cotton which cannot melt. They won't get on fire so easily.

Extinguish your fire properly

There are two ways to extinguish a fire properly. Either you remove oxygen from the fire, or you remove the "food".

In the first method you bury the fire under sand, earth, a wet cloth, fur or a carpet to smother the fire. Or you simply pour a lot of water over it. It makes most sense to pour the water sideways on the embers instead of right over the flames.

Water might not be in a close range from your fire. So make make sure you have something beside to extinguish the fire before you light it up.

If you have nothing to extinguish you need to be careful so that you won't lose  control of the fire. In this case, just wait until it is burned down. Just don't feed it anymore.

When the flames are low make sure the fire becomes some oxygen again and put the remaining wood pieces on the fire in a way that they burn as fast as possible. Bigger logs that hardly burn or that are not et on fire you can removefrom the fire and individually extinguish with a little water or wet earth.

The most effective method is a mixture of both methods. So let the fire burn down as far as possible and extinguish the rest with water, earth or whatever else you find. A popular and proven method is to simply pee out the fire.

How do you see if the fire is properly extinguished

A fire is only extinguished when there are no more embers and no more smoke. You can place your hand and hold it over the fireplace to prove if it's still hot. Always be careful of not burning your hand.

Before you leave the spot you can sprinkle your fire place with earth and make it disappear from the eyes of others . Make sure you leave the fire place as you found it before.

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