Picture of Building a Campfire

For camping trips and backyard cookouts, make a fast, hot campfire with a minimum amount of smoke. We had our campfire burning hot ~20 minutes after we collected kindling and cut firewood in our woods from trees found on the ground. Dry kindling and firewood burn faster and with less smoke than freshly-cut wood and is recommended for campfires and bonfires.

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Step 1: Collect Kindling and Firewood

Picture of Collect Kindling and Firewood

To get started, you need the following:

· Small hand saw

· Shovel to remove grass to make dirt fire ring

· Dryer lint, paper, or firestarter (burns quickly & helps kindling catch fire)

· Matches or flame stick

· Kindling (small, dry twigs, found on the ground, broken to ~12 inches)

· Larger, pencil-sized kindling and small, dry tree branches (broken or cut to ~18 inches)

· Small, dry logs

For fire safety, remove enough grass so that the size of the campfire you are building fits inside the circular fire ring. This helps to ensure that the fire burns directly on the soil instead of the grass, where it could possibly spread out of control.

Step 2: Campfire Base Set-Up

Picture of Campfire Base Set-Up

Place 2 logs parallel to each other in the center of the fire ring, 6-8 inches apart. Fill the space between these logs with the smallest kindling. Add a few large pieces of dryer lint, crumpled paper, or a home-made firestarter in with this kindling.

Step 3: Add Larger Kindling

Picture of Add Larger Kindling

Add larger twigs and kindling in the opposite direction over the 2 logs and smallest kindling that is the base layer on the ground.

Step 4: Add Largest Kindling and Start the Fire

Picture of Add Largest Kindling and Start the Fire

Carefully place the small, dry tree branches by standing them next to each other, circling the kindling and 2 logs that already are in place.

Strike a match or use a flamestick to start the base layer or twigs and dryer lint, paper, or firestarter.

Step 5: Add Larger Logs

Picture of Add Larger Logs

Once the wood has caught fire and there are flames visible through the stacked branches and kindling, circle the fire with the largest logs, following the pattern used for the previous layer of firewood, being careful not to collapse the campfire.

unclelar11 months ago

I honestly thought that this was common knowledge,until one afternoon several years ago in the winter I was called to bring some sleeping bags to a group of scouts who were camping for the weekend.When I got there their troop leader of all people was trying to start their campfire with the biggest logs they had and pouring gas on them to get it lit.I could not believe that a troop leader did not know how to do this,imo he had no business being a leader,when I started to show them this method he had no interest and walked away,plus he was supposedly an x marine sniper.

Anyway,great job and a very well made instructable.

pi526 (author)  unclelar11 months ago

Thanks, unclelar, for the kind words and this story of a potential tragedy averted. I appreciate both.

jonahbranovsky11 months ago
I have found that a marine hand flare that burns for 2 min will work in almost all situations. I have used it to start fires in show storms to thunderstorms with frozen and wet wood.
pi526 (author)  jonahbranovsky11 months ago

Good to know...Thanks, jonahbranovsky.

sandystarr2811 months ago
Also, if you want a colorful fire, with blues and greens and purples, an easy way to save bunches of money, make your own fire changers; take a small sheet of thin copper (buy at Home Depot or Menards) snip with tip snips to 4" × 6", cut a piece of old hose to 6". wrap copper around hose, and place in the hot coals. you can reuse copper several times, using a new piece of hose each time. wate until fire is completely out before retrieving copper before wrapping it around another piece of hose for safety reasons.
pi526 (author)  sandystarr2811 months ago

Thanks for these helpful comments, too, sandystarr28.

sandystarr2811 months ago
Good tips, all! Some more quick tips: a handful of any types of chips: doritos, barbecue potato chips, any kind of chips at all is the best kindling you can have, and are usually around somewhere during a camping trip. the more dusty seasoning the better! the dust from the chips help catch the fire, and the oils sustain it to burn. Another tip: if you have some leftover candles, a little wax will help it keep burning, too. Always place additional wood on the fire so as to keep a little air flow to the center of the fire. If the fire doesn't get enough air, you will smother the fire out. Learned the hard way, through hundreds of backyard campfires this year. Always keep something to smother the fire out with nearby. A roaring fire can get out of control very quickly. Sand, dirt, a bucket of lake water, a blanket...think safety first. We use a discarded lid from an old grill. Enjoy your fires, whether it be by the lake sid, or in your own backyard!
pi526 (author)  sandystarr2811 months ago

Thanks, sandystarr28, for all the useful comments.

acoens11 months ago

Great tips here, pi526! I can't wait to try these out next time I build a fire.

pi526 (author)  acoens11 months ago

Thanks, acoens! :-)

toma66611 months ago
Any kind of corn chip is excellent for starting fires also.
pi526 (author)  toma66611 months ago

I did not know that, toma666. Thanks for sharing.

kbc211 months ago
nicely written! as basic as it seems, it is a great i'ble for those who don't venture out much, or are new to the out doors.
pi526 (author)  kbc211 months ago

Thanks, kbc2, for your comments.