Build a Roaring Campfire in 5 Simple Steps

With the sound of the crackling logs, the tendency to spark deep conversation and storytelling, and of course, the warmth, no camping trip is complete without a campfire. Sharing time around a campfire is often one of the memorable experiences of a camping trip. Enjoying a campfire, however, comes with great responsibility. Here are 5 steps that will help you have a successful fire with minimal risk to the environment.


It isn’t unusual for there to be quarantines on firewood that are intended to prevent the spread of invasive species. If you’re planning to camp in an established camp ground or park, you should be able to get this information from the park prior to departing for your trip. If in doubt, it is always a good idea to purchase firewood in the area that you plan to use it.

If you are camping at a campsite, in order to preserve the site for future use, you should not collect any firewood on the property. If you are back-country camping, only collect wood that is already downed.

Choosing an Area

This part is easy. If you are at an established site, use only the existing fire pit. For back-country, select a level site on bare earth away from trees, grass and shrubs. Surround your fire pit with rocks, and when you are done, be sure to disassemble it by scattering the rocks and anything unburned.

Before you start the campfire, you should already have a bucket of water present to put it out when you’re done.

Starting the Fire

Having the right tinder is critical to getting your campfire started. For this reason, you are always better off bringing some with you, rather than hoping to collect some in the woods. Newspaper & toilet paper are great options that everyone always has at home.

If you haven’t brought enough tinder to get your fire started, collecting dry pine boughs and twigs can help. Ensure any sticks you intend to use snap easily, and don’t bend. Bending means they’re too wet and you risk wasting all your good tinder trying to get these to light.

Between your tinder and your logs, add small to medium sized sticks (often called kindling) that will catch fire quicker than full sized logs.

Teepee or Log Cabin

There are two common ways to set up your firewood for the best oxygen flow. One is the classic teepee, where logs stand up on their ends and come together over top of your tinder and kindling. When you’re building your fire this way, keep in mind that the hottest point of it will be at the top of the teepee. For this reason, setting the wood so that the thickest end is at the top will allow the logs to burn more uniformly.

The second method is referred to as the log cabin, because of its stacked appearance. For this setup, around the outside of your tinder and kindling you will set two logs parallel to each other, and then two perpendicular on top of those, and so on. With the log cabin fire, you will want to ensure the 2 logs at the base are large enough to allow a good amount of airflow underneath the second layer of logs.


Never go to bed with your campfire still burning. To properly extinguish a campfire, let it burn low, and then pour water onto it. Once you’ve done this, stir the ashes and refill your pail to pour water on it again.