How to Build a Survival Fire Pit for Camping

How to Build a Survival Fire Pit for Camping
Building a fire in a wilderness survival situation could mean the difference between life and death. Properly prepared, lighting a campfire can be just as easy as lighting a fire in the fireplace at home. Heat and light are the primary elements we receive from fire, not to mention the emotional warmth we gain from it. Where fire falls on the priority list in a survival situation depends on the circumstances, but for the simple fact of feeling better and in control, a fire is as important as water and shelter.


Difficulty: Moderate


Things You’ll Need:
  • Matches, lighter or other fire starter
  • Tinder
  • Wood
  • Stones
Step 1
Collect your fuel by finding tinder--small and medium pieces of dry wood and debris. The inner bark of trees, bird's nests, pine cones, dry grass, twigs and small branches make good tinder.

Gather dry kindling and wood only. Hardwoods burn longer than soft woods, but in a survival situation use whatever dry wood and other fuel is available.
Step 2
Clear the area where you are going to build your campfire. Remove any grass, twigs, leaves or other fuels from the area. In a survival situation, you might be sleeping closer to the fire, but the U.S. Forest Service recommends that equipment is kept 10 feet away from your campfire (see Reference 1).
Step 3
Dig a shallow, level pit in the ground. The size of the pit should be about the diameter of the fire desired. If conditions are windy or gusty, dig the pit a foot or more deep. Use a large, dry branch as as shovel if needed. Circle the pit with stones (see Reference 1).
Step 4
Stack the tinder lightly on top of itself, and take the smallest of branches and twigs to form a tepee shape around the pile of tinder, leaving room to light it. Stack one more layer of small and slightly bigger twigs around your tepee.

Lighting the Campfire

Step 1
Light the tinder. Use matches or a lighter if you have them. Magnesium and "flint and steel" fire starting kits work well and should be carried in survival kits. If none of these are available, eye-glasses or a magnifying glass can be used to focus the sun's light to a focal point on the tinder. As a last resort, a fire can be started by rubbing two sticks together. Although this method takes practice, it is plausible.
Step 2
Blow lightly on the tinder, and add larger pieces of dry wood to your fire as the smaller pieces catch. Once you have your campfire going, don't leave it unattended.
Step 3
When breaking camp, extinguish your fire completely. Even a survival fire can start a forest fire. Use dirt or sand to stir mix with the ashes. If it is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave. (see Reference 2).

Tips & Warnings

Always carry some type of fire starter in your survival kit or your 10 essentials kit.
The safest way to sit next to a fire all night is cross-legged. If you fall asleep, you cannot fall forward into the fire, only sideways or backwards.
Do not use wet river rocks for the fire pit. As they heat up, they will crack and might explode.
At night, looking directly into the campfire will ruin night vision. Seeing more than a few feet beyond the light of the fire will be impossible.
Soft wood burns twice as fast as hard wood. Burning pine will require twice as much wood to get through the night.


Article Written By Eric Duncan

Eric Duncan is a military veteran and a professional in the safety, travel and aviation industries. Duncan has been writing since 2002 for magazines, newspapers, local business literature and on such websites as He has earned his Bachelor of Science in professional aeronautics and his Master of Business Administration.

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