How to build a campfire

Campfire Lays

Wow, now you're really ready to go. You've got a site, collected your tinder, kindling, and fuelwood and now you just need to put it all together.

So, how are you going to build your campfire? The way you assemble your wood before lighting it is called the Fire Lay and there are a few classic methods to use, depending on what you will use your fire for.   I nearly always start with a teepee unless I've been asked to create a large council fire for entertainment.

Whatever type of fire you decide to make, keep these things in mind:

Teepee Fire

teepee fire lay This is my favorite and I believe the most useful and easiest to light. The key is to stick a few sticks into the ground to supply support for the rest of the kindling. This style produces a fast flame and quickly falls into itself in a pile of coals. The heat is directed up to a single point and is useful for boiling water in a single pot above the teepee. Once the teepee collapses, fuelwood can be laid around it like a log cabin or just criss-cross on top of the flames.

Log Cabin Fire

log cabin fire lay This is the most popular style for beginners to build - I don't know why, maybe because it looks like a house? Anyway, I tend to not use it because it is difficult to access the interior. But, I do add wood to a burning teepee fire to turn it into a log cabin. This kind of fire makes good coals and is a classic campfire look. Getting it lit is the challenge.

Lean-To Fire

leanto fire lay
This fire keeps air space open due to the support stick and a steady, light wind really helps it get started. This is fun to light, but the most common challenge is burning up all the tinder without catching the kindling because too much air space is left open. Once it gets going, it's fun to anticipate the main support stick burning through and falling.

Council Fire

The big daddy of large group campfires. A council fire burns hot, bright, and for a long time without adding more wood. It does take bigger logs and is meant for entertaining big crowds. This fire maintains good flame for a long time as burning fuel drops down into the larger pieces of wood and ignites them. There is no large structural collapse as you might get with a log cabin.

Hunter's Fire

Good for cooking and has good wind protection. Not useful for entertaining or warming.

Move Along: Lighting a Fire

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