How to Build a Campfire: Tips for Beginners

For beginners in camping, there are a lot of concerns – choosing a campsite, pitching a tent, and preparing food, among others. If there is one thing that you should learn before you go camping, it would be how to build a campfire. This is a fundamental outdoor skill that should be learned by all, even by kids. Fire, after all, can be beneficial in ways more than one. It can be useful for preparing different campfire recipes, for providing warmth when camping during cold season, for having illumination in the dark, and for keeping stray animals away, among others. It can even be a good way to be entertained and to socialize with each other. Going to the campsite without knowing how to make a fire is like going into a war unprepared. We might be exaggerating a bit, but we hope that you have a clear picture of its importance.

At home, it is easy to start a fire, you have a fireplace and a stove, after all. In the campsite, however, it is an entirely different story. You are limited in terms of materials, unless you came prepared. You should be resourceful and think of how the things in the surroundings can be used. With sufficient knowledge, on the other hand, things can be done a lot easier. You do not need to be an expert to be able to create a fire in the campsite. You just need to know how it can be done right and more importantly, in a manner that does not compromise safety. Keep on reading and learn from some of the tips that we will be sharing.

Gather Your Materials

The first thing that you have to do is to make sure that all of the materials are ready. If you can, bring materials from home so that you will not have a hard time building fire. Generally speaking, the following are the most important materials that should be present:


  • Tinder: Some of the best examples of tinder include dry grass, dry bark, dry leaves, wood shavings, and fluffy fungi. They will be able to catch fire easily, but you should also note that they can burn quickly. Tip: bring char cloth or dryer lint from home as it will make a great choice for tinder. Having it dipped in petroleum jelly could even accelerate its ability to start fire.
  • Kindling: This material has more substance compared to tinder, which is why it is not going to burn as quick as the latter. Usually, it would include branches and twigs. It would be best to choose something with width that is similar to a pencil. Make sure that the kindling is dry so that you will not have a hard time in allowing it to burn.
  • Fuel Wood: This is the one that will keep your fire burning. One of the most common misconceptions is that it needs to be large, similar to the ones that you use in your fireplace. In reality, however, this is not necessary. You can settle with one that is just about the size of your arm. If you choose larger ones, it may take longer before it can create fire.

Step-by-Step Guide to Build a Campfire

For starters, here are some of the basic steps that should be taken into account to be able to build fire easily. There are various steps that can be done, but these ones are amongst the easiest, especially for someone who has no experience.

  • The first thing that you have to do is to find the perfect location where the fire will be set. Ideally, it should be on a flat surface. If possible, dig a few inches from the ground. In choosing the location where you will be setting the fire, make sure that it is safe. Therefore, it should be at least 10 feet away from any object that could easily catch fire. It is also a good idea to have it started in a place that is near water source. In this case, you will have easy access to water that can be possibly needed when you need to extinguish fire in emergency situations.
  • Clear the area that has been selected. Make sure that it is free from any obstruction that could possibly limit the fire. Anything that could make it had for fire to initiate should be taken out.
  • Look for rocks and create a circle. This is going to help make sure that the fire will be contained within the circle. The rocks, however, should be dry. The rocks can also serve as the platform if you are going to use the campfire for grill or cooking.
  • Gather the materials that will be needed to create fire. As it has been earlier mentioned, this will include tinder, kindling, and fuel wood. See to it that they are dry. Otherwise, you will have a difficulty building fire. Pile the materials o tops of each other and have them contained in the rock. Make sure that there is still enough space.
  • To Construct a tepee ,there are generally two choices by which this can be done. The first one is through a tepeepyramid. In this case, it should be inward pointing and should be made from dry twigs, which will be piled up on the top of the kindling. Make sure to leave space on the side, which will allow air to enter. Secondly, you can also create a lean-to. Lay down wood on the surface, preferably with diameter of at least two inches. Lean the kindling on the wood while making sure that there is an open space left.


  • As an alternative to teepee, you can also consider making a log cabin. To log cabinbegin with, create the base. Two logs should be placed in a position that is parallel to each other. On the top of the logs, place two more logs, usually smaller than the ones that you have at the bottom. Create at least three layers of logs. Make sure, however, that it is going to be stable. Otherwise, you will not be able to successfully build a fire.
  • Start the fire, either with a lighter or match, depending on what you have. Even if you do not smoke, a lighter or match is an essential item that you should have in the campsite as it can be useful in ways more than one.
  • Start enjoying the fire as you wish. Make sure to have it properly extinguished before leaving, see to it that there are no traces left as it could be a significant risk.

Building Campfire in Snow and Rain

camfire in snow

Camping in snowy areas is one of the things that you can do to make your outdoor adventure more thrilling. The good news is that you can easily build your fire even if there is ice or snow. This is going to provide you with the warmth that you will need. Generally speaking, it can be done through the following steps:

  • Find the right location. Make sure that it is not windy as it can lead into extinguishing the fire even before it is built.
  • Prepare the surface where fire will be built. It is good to dig a few inches of snow and use stones as the platform. The latter will make sure that you have a dry surface to begin with. Also, form a ring made of stone to be able to contain fire.
  • Place your tinder and kindling on the top of the snow. Follow it up by creating your teepee sticks or log cabin. Follow the instructions that have been earlier mentioned.
  • You are now ready to light it up. You can add cotton balls or drier lint with petroleum jelly to make the flames better.

Even in the rain, you can be able to build fire. It may seem difficult, but once you know how it can be done, such can be accomplished easily. It is basically the same as the steps mentioned in building a campfire. Nonetheless, because of the wet condition, you should use accelerants. Simply put, accelerants will help speed up burning. Some of the best choices would include gasoline, turpentine, alcohol, and thinner. As usual, finding the perfect location is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind.

Considerations in Putting Out Your Fire

remove campfire

Putting out your fire is just as important as building it. Here are some of the things that should be kept in mind:

  • Start putting it out early or once it is no longer needed. You might be surprised to know that it actually takes some time before fire can be completely put out. For instance, it should be done at least 20 minutes prior to going to bed or leaving the campsite.
  • Do not pour water. Instead, have it sprinkled on the top of the fire. If you pour water, it can cause flooding, and certainly, this would be rude if there is someone who will be using the pit after you.
  • Stir the embers after sprinkling water. This is to ensure that even the ashes inside will be wet to easily extinguish the fire. Put your hand near the pit, but make sure to not touch it directly. If you can still feel that it is hot, keep on adding water and stir it until it completely cools down.
  • Make sure to dispose the ashes properly, especially if you know that someone will be using the same area to start a campfire. Remember, leave the campsite based on how it is when you arrived. Be responsible enough to clean it and take out any remnants from the fire that you have created.

Safety Reminders  

  • Before starting to build fire, it is highly-recommended to have a bucket of water ready. This is going to make sure that you will be able to have it easily extinguished if in case it goes larger than what you intend to build or if it starts to feel unsafe.
  • As it has been earlier noted, make sure to set fire in an area that is far from anything that could be a fire risk, including tents, dry leaves, and twigs, among others. Look around the area and have a careful evaluation to determine if it is safe.
  • Do not leave the campfire attended. Make sure that someone is watching the fire all the time so as to respond as soon as a risk becomes apparent.
  • Keep campfires small, as much as possible. The larger they are, the more dangerous they could become. This also means that it is going to be more challenging to extinguish once the fires gets out of control.
  • If kids are building fire, make sure that they are supervised. It is a good thing if you teach them how to be independent and how to do things on their own. However, when it comes to activities that involve fire, you should be more cautious because of the risks that are involved.
  • Check the rules of the campsite. In most instances, you will not be allowed to build fire anywhere. There are designated sites.
  • Make sure that your fire is framed or contained. Earlier, we have recommended that you create a circle of rocks. This is going to make sure that fire will be limited in a specific area.


In sum, fire is one of the most important survival elements when in the campsite. It can be useful in ways more than one, such as for cooking, warmth, and light. It can also be a source of entertainment such as through gathering around the bonfire, singing songs, and eating marshmallows on sticks. The problem, however, is that starting fire is not an easy endeavor. With this, keep in mind the things that we have mentioned above. Remember these things that next time you head camping. For sure, whether in wet or dry environments, with the tips we have mentioned, starting fire will be a lot easier.


My name is William, a family man with two kids and the passion for camping. I started Pandaneo with sharing memorable camping experiences back as a newbie camper, introducing my family to the love for the great outdoors. As time passed, we started traveling across states, trying to hit as many campsites we can!