5 Steps to Building the Perfect Fire Outside or in a Fireplace

building fire

Fire building is extremely important if you are going to hike, camp, or any other wilderness activity.

If you get stuck somewhere, having a fire is a huge concern for your safety, morale, and health! For this reason, you need to know the basic steps for campfire building.

Success in a good fire is 80% in pre-work and building the pit and only about 20% lighting it. If you fail to do the prep work you probably won’t get an ember.

Even if you did, you wouldn’t keep it lit while getting your bundle together.

  1. Find a spot
  2. Gather Your Materials
  3. Set Up Your Fire
  4. Light the fire
  5. Practice

Step #1: Find a Spot

On many occasions, a good, well-placed fire will be the difference between life and death. So you need to:

  • Find a large dry area that can be taken down to dirt with at least a 3-foot diameter.
  • Try to have no tree branches directly overhead of the pit.
  • Find a spot that is fairly protected from the wind
  • Then build a firewall out of rocks or similar usable materials.

These steps ensure a dry spot for your fire that isn’t going to catch the entire forest on fire.

Step #2: Gather Your Materials

You need tinder, kindling, and fuel to get the fire started.

Tinder is a small, dry, and easy burning item. Good examples are:

  • dried birch and cedar bark
  • cattails
  • wax
  • lint
  • charcloth (self-made)
  • moss (dried out)
  • wood shaving from your knife
  • even dried straw and pine needles (which aren’t quite as good)

Kindling is larger than tinder, has more weight to it and will burn longer and hotter. It is added to the tinder once it is burning. It is designed to build the size and heat of the fire to a point to ignite the fuel.

Kindling can be:

  • small dried branches
  • small pieces of wood

If you shave dried wood but leave all the shavings attached, it can also act as kindling and fuel; these are called “fuzz sticks”.

Fuel is generally firewood. It will burn hotter and much longer that kindling. It can be:

  • Dried logs
  • animal dung
  • peat.

Usually, the test of energy in a wood is how heavy it is when DRY. Heavier DRY wood will have longer and hotter burning. Most of the time, it will burn cleaner as well. It is usually hardwoods (oak, hickory) that we use for this if given a choice.

Step #3: Set Up for Your Fire

You can make many different fires for different purposes, but the tee-pee is one of the easy ones to get lit, since fire climbs up.

  1. Place all your firewood right beside where you will build it.
  2. Next, build a teepee out of kindling with a large area on one side so you can place your ember in it.
  3. Beneath the kindling place a pad of tinder.
  4. Create a birds nest out of tinder just outside of the teepee that you will ignite into a ember.

Step #4: Light the Fire

Here is how to Light the Fire:

  1. Place the ember on top of the tinder pad inside the teepee and work on growing the flame.
  2. You may add small bits of tinder or kindling to grow the fire a bit if you feel the need to until the teepee catches.
  3. Once the teepee catches, begin adding firewood to the teepee.

I suggest a lighter for your first fire so you can learn to properly build the fire. If you can start the fire with a lighter or match without fire starting fluid, you are very close to being able to build a primitive fire.

You can also just place the birds nest in the teepee from the beginning when using a lighter or match.

Step #5: Practice, Practice, Practice

Now go out and practice what you have been taught!

building fire

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