No camping adventure would be complete without a bright, roaring campfire smack in the middle of the campsite (or in a designated fire pit nearby). More than just a means of warming yourself up in the cold outdoors, a campfire also provides you with light, a way to boil water for that hot cup of chocolate and roast your marshmallows, and more importantly, a spot where you can set up your camping chair and chat about the day’s activity and tomorrow’s plans. But before you start imagining all the good things you can do around it, you first need to build a campfire. If you’re not sure how to do that yet or are looking for a new way of how to start a campfire (to impress your date or your camping buddies), we have here five different types of campfires along with instructions on how to set them up.
Teepee / Cone-shaped Campfire
The teepee or cone-shaped campfire is the most basic of all the different types of fire lays. Like an upside-down cone, the bottom of the pile is a wide, circular base while the top is closed. Because of its structure, the fire is directed upwards which makes it a good, quick-warming fire suitable for small cooking tasks (e.g. boiling water). Note that this type of campfire consumes wood rapidly, and will need to be constantly re-fueled by adding more firewood to the upright structure.
Building a Teepee / Cone-Shaped Campfire
- Put some tinder on the ground.
- Build a teepee or a cone around the tinder using the smallest sticks or kindling you have.
- Light the tinder using a match or a lighter or whatever camping fire starter you brought.
- At this point, the kindling should start to catch fire. Add more (and larger) kindling to the fire to keep it going.
- Continue adding kindling to the fire until you have a nice fire going and a good amount of embers.
- Add the firewood by placing them in a semi-vertical or a cone-shaped configuration.
Log Cabin Style Campfire
The log cabin campfire is a preferred type for many outdoor enthusiasts since it offers a sustained burn that requires minimal tending. Here, you stack large, thick pieces of firewood in layers that collapse on one another as they burn, thus lessening the need to keep adding firewood to the pile. Compared to the teepee campfire, the log cabin style campfire burns much slower, thus saving you tons of firewood throughout the night.
Building a Log Cabin Style Campfire
- Put two large pieces of firewood parallel to each other on the ground. Depending on the size of the fire you want to make, the distance between the firewood can be anywhere between one-and-a-half feet and more.
- Place two slightly smaller pieces on top of the logs. These should be perpendicular to the base firewood so that you end up with a pound or hashtag sign.
- Put some tinder and kindling inside the square.
- Add a few more layers of firewood around the perimeter, with the distance between the firewood getting a little bit smaller with each layer. Also, add more tinder and kindling with each layer of firewood.
- Top the pile with more tinder and kindling.
- Light the tinder at the bottom of the pile. The fire should start crawling upwards to the rest of the tinder and kindling, eventually lighting up the firewood around it.
Upside Down / Pyramid Campfire
The upside-down or pyramid style campfire looks pretty much the same as the log cabin style campfire, although there are marked differences between the two. For one, the firewood in this campfire lay is stacked much closer to each other than the log cabin style campfire. Another difference is that in the log cabin style campfire, the fire is started at the bottom of the pile, whereas in the pyramid style campfire the fire is started at the top of the pile (hence the moniker ‘upside-down’ campfire). This creates a fire that burns downward, eventually creating a platform of burning coals that can be used for cooking.
Building an Upside Down / Pyramid Campfire
- Place three or four large pieces of firewood side-by-side on the ground. This will serve as the ‘foundation’ of the pyramid campfire.
- Add a second layer of firewood on top of and perpendicular to the ‘foundation’. Use smaller pieces of firewood for this layer.
- Continue adding more layers, using smaller and smaller pieces of firewood as you go up the ‘pyramid’.
- Once you’re satisfied with your pyramid, put some tinder and kindling on top of the pile.
- Light the tinder using a match or a lighter. The kindling should also catch fire at this point, which should eventually light up the firewood beneath it.
The lean-to type of campfire is predominantly used in campsites where strong winds are blowing. It uses a large log or firewood as a windbreak so that the wind doesn’t blow the fire out. This is in fact one of the most important types of campfire lay that you need to learn since the weather can be unpredictable and the harsh outdoor elements can make it difficult for you to build a teepee or pyramid-style campfire. Although the lean-to campfire lends itself well to adverse weather conditions, it generally doesn’t burn as intensely as other types of campfires.
Building a Lean-to Campfire
There are several ways of building a lean-to campfire, but the following is the most common approach taken.
- Place a large piece of log or firewood on the ground.
- Put some tinder on the ground right next to the log. Place the tinder somewhere in the middle point of the log’s ends.
- Prop the kindling over the tinder with one end leaning on the log and the other on the ground.
- Light the tinder using a match or a lighter.
- As the kindling starts to catch fire, add a few large kindling to the pile, propping them up against the log.
- Gradually add some firewood into the pile by propping one end of the firewood on the log and the other end on the ground.
Star / Indian Style Campfire
The star or Indian style campfire is the traditional type of campfire used by Native American tribes living in places where firewood is scarce. With this campfire type, instead of burning the entire firewood all at once like what happens with the other types of campfires, you are merely burning the tips of the firewood (think of several torches laying on flat the ground with the flaming ends put together to create one big fire in the middle). What you have here is a slow-burning campfire which is perfect if you don’t have access to a lot of firewood.
Building a Star / Indian Style Campfire
- Dig a small pit of about one foot in diameter and six inches deep.
- Place your tinder in the middle of the pit.
- Put the kindling on top of the tinder.
- Place five or six pieces of logs or firewood in a radial pattern around the pit with the ends of the log hanging over the pit and the tinder and kindling pile.
- Light the tinder.
- Add more kindling on top of the pile as the fire grows.
- When the fire is strong enough, push the ends of the logs or firewood towards the middle so that they catch fire.
Globo Surf Overview
To build a campfire doesn’t require any specialized equipment or training, though learning how to start a campfire and the more you practice doing it, the easier it becomes. Whatever type of campfire you build, you need to always put safety first. You don’t want to be that camper who starts a roaring forest fire in the middle of a national park, do you?
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