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How to Build a Campfire

You’ll be singing around the dirt and eating un-toasted marshmallows if you don’t learn how to build a proper campfire.


  • Step 1: Check the rules Make sure a campfire is allowed at your campsite.
  • Step 2: Find a pit See if your campsite has premade fire pits. If not, you’ll have to make one.
  • Step 3: Locate a clearing To create your own fire pit, choose an area at least ten feet away from brush or other easily flammable materials.
  • TIP: Don’t forget to look up! Fire pits should not be under branches.
  • Step 4: Make a circle Surround your fire pit with a circle of stones or rocks to keep your wood contained.
  • TIP: If you have a shovel, dig a shallow pit inside your circle of rocks. Six to eight inches will do.
  • Step 5: Gather wood Gather wood. You’ll need three different types: tinder, such as small twigs and dry leaves; kindling, which are larger sticks and twigs still under an inch in diameter; and fuel wood, large pieces of wood that will burn for a while.
  • TIP: All wood should be dry and as free of dirt, moss, and debris as possible. Pile it at least three feet away from your fire pit.
  • Step 6: Start with tinder Start by placing a pile of tinder in the center of your fire pit.
  • Step 7: Build a kindling tepee Using three or four pieces of your kindling, build a tepee around the tinder.
  • Step 8: Add more kindling Add more kindling to the downwind side of your tepee, then continue around to the upwind side. Leave an opening on the upwind side that will allow you to ignite the tinder inside the tepee.
  • TIP: Fire needs oxygen, so be sure to leave space between the kindling in your tepee to let the fire breathe.
  • Step 9: Lay the fuel wood Lay two parallel pieces of fuel wood on opposite sides of the tepee. The ends should extend beyond your tepee. Lay two more pieces of wood on top of your first two, forming a square of fuel wood enclosing the tepee.
  • Step 10: Keep layering Continue laying fuel wood, building up to a box that resembles a log cabin. Two or three layers will suffice.
  • TIP: Make sure you can still access the tinder, which is now inside the kindling tepee, which is inside your fuel-wood cabin.
  • Step 11: Light the fire Light the tinder in several different locations.
  • TIP: Stand upwind of your fire when you’re lighting it to keep the wind from blowing out your match or lighter.
  • Step 12: Feed it tinder Add small amounts of tinder until the kindling catches fire.
  • Step 13: Add kindling Once the kindling ignites, switch your attention to the fuel wood. As the kindling burns up, add more until the fuel wood ignites.
  • Step 14: Feed the fire When the fuel wood has caught on fire, continue feeding it with fuel wood as needed.
  • FACT: 'Battle Hymn of the Republic,' the Union soldiers’ unofficial anthem during the Civil War, is based on a campfire melody that was popular in the South.

You Will Need

  • Wood
  • Matches or a lighter
  • Rocks
  • Shovel

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