Crackling wood, roaring flames, and the smell of roasting marshmallows. All things that go along with a quintessential part of camping, the campfire. 

A campfire provides more than just ambiance and a place to roast marshmallows.  A fire can provide heat, protection from wildlife, and a way to cook your food and sanitize your water. Building a fire from scratch can be a bit difficult if you aren’t familiar with how to make one.  With some basic knowledge and some wood you can build a campfire. Just be sure to follow all rules and regulations for the area you plan on starting your campfire. Also be sure to check the weather. Wind and fire are two things that don’t mix.

To start a campfire you will need the following materials:

A source of ignition - A lighter, matches, a fire starter (flint strikers work great), lenses (requires sunlight), or the old fashioned friction style method which requires a bit of man power.

Tinder - Very small dry twigs, moss, pine needles, or you can bring some cotton balls coated in petroleum jelly.

Kindling - Small pieces of wood that are very dry. Generally smaller than 1 inch in diameter.

Fuel - Larger pieces of wood that will sustain your fire once you have started it.

Once you have gathered all the necessary materials you can go ahead and start building your fire. Make sure you are building the fire in a pre-established fire pit or ring. Don’t have a designated area at your campsite? Look for an area that is free of vegetation, at least 8ft from anything flammable, and near a water source.  Now that you’ve chosen a spot, it’s time to build.

How to start a campfire:

Make a nest with your tinder. Fluff up your chosen material and start to build your kindling around it. There are many different structures that can be used, but we prefer the Teepee. 

To build a Teepee around your nest of tinder, set your fuel up in the shape of a Teepee. Start by placing sticks at 12 o’clock, 4 o’clock, and 8 o’clock. Then fill in the gaps with kindling and smaller pieces of fuel.  Now that your Teepee is set up, you’ll need to light the fire.

Light your tinder with whatever method you have. Gently blow on the embers to encourage oxygen flow. Your kindling should catch fire and you can continue to stoke it with smaller pieces of wood until you have built a good bed of coals. Continue to place wood on your fire until it reaches your desired level of warmth.  Now you’re ready to start cooking those weenies!


Oxygen is a fire’s best friend. If it looks like your fire is struggling, try blowing on it or fanning it with air.

NEVER leave a fire unattended. At the end of the night be sure to put out your fire. Spread the coals out and allow it to burn down a little. Then apply water to the coals. Water too far away? Throw on some dirt that is free of debris (debris will burn). Monitor your fire to ensure that it is completely out before you go to bed.

Keep your fire under control. Never build something bigger than you can put out.

Remember what Smoky says, “Only YOU! can prevent forest fires!” 

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