How to Build a Campfire for Cooking and Enjoying   Recently updated !

Teepee, Log cabin, and Upside down campfires
Teepee, Log cabin, and Upside down campfires

Pick the right campfire to build
Teepee – Log cabin – Upside down

Before you build a campfire, first decide what you want to use it for; cooking, warmth, or just enjoying, (that will determine what type of campfire to build), and then make sure you pick a safe place for it.

The most important campfire tips concern campfire safety:

  1. You should have at least a 6’ circle, (10’ is better), of cleared ground around your campfire – no combustibles like leaves, paper, tents, or camping gear
  2. No low over-hanging branches that can catch fire.
  3. The campfire should be enclosed by a: fire-ring, rocks, or large chunks of firewood. This will keep hot coals or flaming wood from rolling out of the campfire, and wandering toes from stepping into the fire.
  4. A bucket of water and a camp shovel nearby for emergency fire control, and to put out your fire when done.
  5. Do not try to have an open campfire in extremely windy conditions, you cannot control where hot ash and embers will be blown. Always think of safety before comfort.
  6. Always have a designated, well-marked, (roped off), chopping area so no one accidentally walks into a swinging axe or flying piece of chopped wood.

Always have a supply of firewood ready before starting the fire. Save the frustration of having the tinder burn out before you have more firewood to add.

What type of campfire do you want? 
(The video below shows how to build all three types)

Fast heat and light;Teepee-style Campfire

  • Use teepee construction – make a mound of tinder over the fire starter, (wad of paper, homemade or commercial firestarters), and stand all your kindling on end, like a teepee shape, around the tinder. (make sure to leave access to the firestarter). As the kindling starts to burn, add more “thumb-size” pieces of firewood. As they catch fire begin adding larger pieces, (bulk fuel), of firewood. The fire will burn upwards faster and brighter, and will produce a lot of cooking coals quickly.

Log Cabin-style Campfire
Primarily for cooking;

  • Start with the teepee as above, but when the first supply of bulk wood burns down, stack larger pieces of firewood around the base, like a log cabin, but with each layer closing in over the burning pieces already there.

Sitting-Around Campfire
Sitting around;

  • An upside down, or “Pyramid” build is the best for just enjoying an evening campfire. It will burn slower and last longer than a teepee or log cabin build. *See the video below for instructions.

Campfire cooking tip: Use a key-hole campfire layout. It will give you the best of all the above. Especially for cooking your favorite campfire recipes.

Firewood Supply:
Transporting wood diseases and harmful insects is a real problem that most campers don’t understand. Firewood from your area may contain things that are harmful to trees in other areas, so many states have laws against transporting firewood across state lines. Be safe, don’t try to take your own firewood, and plan on buying or gathering it in your camping area.

Always make sure it is okay to gather fallen firewood in your camping area. Never cut living green wood for your campfire without permission.

Building and lighting your campfire:

  1. Your campfire will be a gathering area, so pick a location with room for campers to gather around, (with chairs), but not upwind of your tent entrance. (if you are using an in-place fire ring, then consider the wind direction when you place your tents.
  2. log Cabin-style Campfire

  • I like the teepee method of campfire construction for the tinder and kindling, surrounded with a pyramid of larger firewood. Largest pieces are on the bottom with gradually smaller pieces stacked until 3 sides of the pyramid enclose the tee-pee. (one side open to reach tinder)

  • But I don’t like the recommendations to use newspaper or pine needles under your teepee for tinder. (what if your newspaper gets damp or it’s raining?) A chunk of some type of fire starter makes the job much more reliable and easy. Fire-starters are so easy to make and inexpensive to buy, (see commercial fire-starters),

  • Lighter or matches – Have both if you want, but ALWAYS have waterproof strike-anywhere matches. You will be surprised how much harder it is to try to “Flic-a-Bic” and then poke it into your tinder to start the fire. You almost always singe the thumb holding the lighter tab, and heaven helps you if your lighter flint wheel gets wet. So just strike a match and go! **You can make your own waterproof camping matches just by dipping strike-anywhere kitchen matches in some candle wax.

  • Have a good supply of firewood ready and nearby before you light your campfire. You would be surprised at how many campers just start with the kindling, and then discover their fire has burned out while they went to look for more wood.

    How to Build All Three Types of Campfires


    Putting out your campfire;
    A campfire should never be left burning unattended! And just kicking apart the burning pieces of firewood and leaving it to nature to burn up the coals and put itself out, is not smart, safe camping. It is an irresponsibility that should bar you from ever having an outdoor campfire again.

    Follow these steps to put-out your campfire:

    1. separate the burning firewood pieces to the edge of your fire ring
    2. stir and spread the hot coals to get the layer as thin as possible
    3. Sprinkle water with your hands or a cup; don’t just dump it, over the coals and smoldering firewood pieces of the campfire.
    4. Stir coals and repeat this. Until you no longer see any glowing embers or rising smoke.
    5. Roll over any remaining big pieces of partially burned wood to make sure they are not still smoldering.
    6. If this is your last campfire of the trip, and you are sure it is completely out, cover the ashes with dirt or sod so you don’t leave a campfire scar at the campsite.

    An outdoor campfire is a big part of your camping experience. It can provide; light, heat, and a way to cook your food, but best of all it will be the gathering point for campers to gather around and share the camaraderie of the outdoor camping experience. So take time to plan your campfire and campfire safety. Your camping trip will be better for it.

    Resource Links:

    ps. here are some campfire supplies I use that have become standards of my camping gear. Once you have one of these camp tools you will wonder how you ever did without it. Especially when you see how inexpensive they are when you buy them online.

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