Really, who doesn’t enjoy a good fire when out camping? For me, even just having my mind drift away from the Monday to Friday stresses of work disappear when building a fire and keeping it going. After all, fire is very much a part of human survival and comfort.
Fire supplies us with light.
Fire supplies us with warmth.
Fire allows us to cook.
Fire allows us to send signals to others.
Fire (generally) keeps 4 legged predators away.
Given the points above, it’s quite safe to say that fire gives us a sense of security – both physical security and a psychological sense of security.
When building a fire, you want to keep in mind some simple safety. Fires can destroy millions of acres of forest, so you want to observe the rules of the forest (if you’re in one) before starting fires. Along with that, be certain your fire is contained within a fire ring built of rocks, and any flammable debris is swept away from the outside edge of your ring by several paces. Sparks and embers will jump from your fire pit! Be sure to also look up when deciding where to place your fire pit. Never build under low hanging branches. Keep some water and a shovel close by for fire suppression and to extinguish your fire when done with it. Do not leave your fire unattended.
The fire pit that I built above is created with several layers of rocks in a ring. As you can tell from the old fire debris around it, someone else had been here and left an awful mess. They didn’t use a fire ring and had a fire far too large for their needs. You can also see rusty nails in the photo from them burning scrap wood there was also beer cans that were littered about. Never leave a camp site in this condition and always #treadlightly.
You don’t need to get too carried away with types of campfires, but personally I end up using two different types – often at the same time.
The first, and likely most common would be the Tipi style of campfire (Teepee, Tepee – however you prefer to spell it). First place your tinder in the center of your fire pit, followed by arranging the kindling around the tinder in the shape of the poles of a tipi structure. You then add larger kindling around this structure (without collapsing it) and so on until you have your full size wood fuel burning. The problem with this structure is that it is very prone to collapse as it burns and you try to feed more wood into the fire.
The next method of campfires that I prefer to use is the log cabin style. You typically start with a pile of tinder, then stack the kindling around it in the shape of a log cabin. As the fire burns, you can stack larger pieces of wood as you see in my photo above. A log cabin fire is much less prone to collapse than a tipi fire is quite useful for cooking, and it burns much longer than a tipi fire.
There are other camp fire types, but I won’t bother going into them here – I stick to my tried and true methods as they are easy to start, monitor and keep going. Be certain you have a reliable method of starting a fire with you, a good lighter with plenty of fuel, waterproof matches or a flint and steel. I carry all three in the Jeep, along with some fire starter sticks in case of damp wood. If you’re back country hiking or in a survival situation, your lighter won’t last forever so I suggest you learn alternate methods of starting fires.