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Micro Ventures: How to Make a Campfire

Campfires bring people together. Whether you’re in your backyard, a campsite, or in the backcountry, a campfire invites people to be mesmerized by its flames and encourages a place for storytelling and bonding. Start a game of telephone, share your outdoor adventures, have deep conversations, or just sit in silence and enjoy the sounds of nature.

Fire has many uses–it provides light, warmth, heat for cooking, can be a beacon for rescue and act as a deterrent for predators and insects. Knowing how to make fire is an essential outdoor skill and we’re here to get you started.

Micro Ventures, a free digital program to engage all ages in outdoor-related activities. Stay tuned for a different "Micro Venture" each week.

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First thing you’re going to want to do is figure out where you want to have your fire. Look for an already established fire ring or pit.

Backcountry or dispersed camping sites might already have a place where stones and remains of prior fires were. Try to leave as little trace as possible and reuse ones already created. Know the regulations of where you’re camping to make sure fires are allowed. The regulations are set in place not only to protect you but also the forest if things get out of hand.

If you must create a new place for a fire, be aware of the surroundings and disperse the remains after the fire is cold. Try to keep the fire small and manageable, so it is easy to maintain and extinguish.

  • Use existing fire rings or grates.

  • Choose a level area with no overhanging branches.

  • If not in a ring, clear away all vegetation (needles).

  • Circle the fire ring with rocks.

  • Keep a shovel and water close.

  • Keep your fire small and manageable.

  • Keep firewood pile upwind (10 ft from ring).


Fuel your fire

Building your campfire starts with fuel, or small pieces or fire starting kits. The drier the materials, the better. Below are different types of fuel to start your campfire.

Tinder or a material that will catch on fire from a match or a lighter and will stay lit to ignite larger wood burning pieces to start the base of the fire. You want something that will ignite quickly and burn easily. Survive Outdoors Longer offers fire starting products to help get you started. Other tinder to consider is dry bark, leaves, or small branches. Old newspapers or receipts also work as good fire starting material.

Kindling is slightly larger than tinder and will be the fuel to burn longer to catch the larger pieces of firewood on fire. The kindling also provides a good start to make the base of the fire hot with coals. Use kindling smaller than an inch around so it ignites fast.

Firewood should be as dry as possible. Bundles are sold at many convenience stores or campgrounds and will keep your campfire going for hours. Having a saw or an ax will help split wood if you’re away from firewood for sale. Use already downed trees and branches instead of live trees. Living trees tend to reserve water supply and don't make the best firewood. Start with smaller logs and then add the larger ones as your fire builds its base of hot coals.

Fire types

There are many ways to structure your fire. The best thing to do is experiment and find what works best for you with the conditions and materials you have at hand. Visual what structure will allow the most airflow or oxygen to the base of your fire. The more gaps between the wood will help the fire start and breath.

Four different types of fire structures include: Lean-to, Log cabin, Pyramid, or Cross.


Now, it’s time to start your fire.

  • Make sure you have a water source, shovel and bucket nearby.

  • Loosely pile your tinder and kindling in the style of your choosing in the center of the fire ring.

  • Ignite with a match or lighter.

  • Add more tinder as it grows.

  • Blow lightly on base.

  • Continue to add kindling.

Feed and tend

When igniting your fire, take note of how much air (oxygen) or breeze the fire gets. Too much wind might not be the best time to have a campfire but a small or slight breeze will get oxygen to the flames to help the wood burn. Here’s where you might have to create your own wind and blow or fan the fire. Careful not to get light headed.

While it might be exciting to add fuel or wood as soon as a flame starts, try to avoid smothering the flames until you have some embers or coals at the base.

  • Once the fire is going strong and the temperature increases, add larger logs as needed.

  • Leave space between logs so the fire can get plenty of oxygen.

  • Watch how your fire is acting.


Extinguishing your fire

Before you go to bed, put the fire out and make sure it is fully out before you call it a night. Use water or spread around the ashes with a shovel or a stick to move the hot embers away. Turn off other light sources to see if the coals are still hot before you walk away.

  • Slowly add water to put out all flames.

  • Stir and scrape to separate coals.

  • Add water until the steam stops.

  • Search for and stop glowing embers.

  • Use the back of your hand to feel for heat.

  • If no heat, feel closer to the black.

  • If you feel heat, continue to add water until the black/coals are cool.

  • When cool to touch, disperse the rocks.

What’s next?

Sit back, enjoy your fire, and make s’mores.

Not able to make a campfire? Consider using a light source to gather around instead.

Survive Outdoors Longer creates best-in class survival shelters, fire starters, kits, and other outdoor tools that prepare you to expect the unexpected and make the most of your time outdoors. Providing quick, simple, and reliable solutions is the backbone of the brand, which is why all our products are designed for durability and ease of use.

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