How to Make a Good Campfire

How to Make a Good CampfireThere is nothing cozier than a campfire on a chilly night when hanging outdoors or camping. Campfire songs, roasted marshmallows and s'mores are all warm memories you can cherish with friends and family for years to come. A fire out of control, however, is a nightmare. So is relying on a fire to stay warm out in the harsh elements and being unable to sustain it. Knowing how to properly and safely build a campfire will not only aid you in a pleasurable camping experience, but it may even save your life.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Small hatchet
  • Bucket of water
  • Shovel
  • Wood logs, tinder, kindling
  • Waterproof matches or lighter
  • Fire starters (optional)
Step 1
If there is not a safe, existing fire ring at the campsite, you will need to build one yourself. Choose an area that is at least 15 feet away from tents, trees and other structures, and avoid building your pit beneath branches or shrubbery that are low-hanging and combustible.
Step 2
Prepare your pit by digging down an inch into the dirt in a diameter that is large enough to safely contain your fire, and surround the pit with large rocks. Be sure to remove any loose leaves, twigs, sticks or other flammable debris from the area surrounding the fire pit.
Step 3
Search the vicinity for three types of fuel: small twigs, leaves, dry needles or grass for tinder; thin sticks no larger three-quarters to one inch or so in diameter for kindling; and larger logs, approximately three to five inches thick, to use as the main fuel source for your fire. Use a hatchet or small axe to break up larger pieces into appropriate sizes.
Step 4
Form a pile of dry tinder in the center of the pit about the size of a large grapefruit and surround with small pieces of kindling in an inverted "V," as if you were building a tent or small teepee. Leave room for air to get through so you will have enough oxygen to sustain the fire. Loosely place larger pieces of kindling around that teepee-style so you have enough wood to get a good flame going.
Step 5
Using a matchstick or lighter, light the tinder in the center of the pile and add more tinder as needed until you have a good burn going. Once it is steady, add the larger logs in a crisscross manner, leaving plenty of room for air. Do not overload the fire with wood, and keep it at a size that is manageable and safe. Close supervision over children and pets is also recommended.
Step 6
When it gets near the time to retire or put out the fire, stop adding logs and allow the fire to burn down to ash. Douse the ash with water and cover lightly with dirt, stirring the mix with a shovel and adding additional water to the embers and stirring as needed. If water is unavailable, you may use soil, but mix only enough dirt with the embers to help cool the fire---do not bury it! This could cause a smoldering effect that can catch underground tree roots on fire and possibly cause a forest fire.

Tips & Warnings

Do not use wet or green wood; it will smoke and be hard to light.
Fire starters may be handy in damp or poor conditions. You can make your own or purchase them from a retail shop.
In no circumstances ever leave the fire unattended.
Flammable fluids or items other than simple fire starters should never be used to start a campfire.
Pressurized containers such as whipping cream or aerosol cans can explode in flames.
Never put glass or aluminum cans in fire; glass gets hot and shatters, and inhalation of aluminum fumes is harmful.


Article Written By Abaigeal Quinn

Abaigeal Quinn works as an international entertainment broker in the United States. She is a former news editor and insurance agent who began writing for a daily newspaper in 1995.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.