23/10/2015
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How to build the perfect wilderness campfire

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When people think of camping, they imagine a group of friends or family members gathered around a blazing campfire, laughing, telling stories or toasting marshmallows.

You can cook over a real fire or just use it as a way to keep warm on chilly evenings.

Sadly, relatively few campsites allow fires these days, but some ‘back to nature’ sites positively encourage this ancient camping tradition.

So before you go scavenging for firewood and kindling, check with the site owners that they’re happy for you to light up on site. The thought of lighting a fire might be daunting but it's nothing to be scared off – however, you should be aware of the dangers and always follow the safety rules.

Building a safe and successful campfire either on a campsite or in the wild can be easy if you follow a few simple guidelines.
 

1 CHOOSE A SITE FOR YOUR FIRE
Pick an area that is sheltered but has nothing around it or above it that could catch fire. Make sure your fire is at least three metres away from your tent and any hedges, trees or properties.

If a fire pit already exists, use it. Don’t build a new one.


2 CREATE THE FIREPIT
Gather small rocks and arrange in a circle to create the pit area.

Scatter some gravel/dirt/sand within the circle to create a fire bed – this will protect the ground and make it easier to disperse ash when you’re finished.


3 COLLECT FUEL
Gather wood from the surrounding area but never cut anything from trees. Start with tinder – very thin twigs that has to be very dry in order to get the fire started.

Wood shavings, bark or pine needles all make good tinder.

Kindling is finger-width branches and sticks that go on top of the tinder. You will also need larger branches – around arm thickness – to put on to keep the flames burning.

An armful of wood should give approximately 45 minutes’ burning time.


4 BUILD THE FIRE
A tipi construction will give the best results.

Start by laying out the tinder on the fire bed, then push three sticks into the ground at an angle to create the tipi shape.

Add more kindling to build up the structure, but don’t pack it too densely or the oxygen won’t be able to flow. You could use thicker, straight branches to create a tripod over the fire for cooking.


5 LIGHT THE FIRE
Light the bottom of the tinder with a match or lighter (or if you don’t have either, create a spark using another technique).

Watch carefully to see if it catches light – if necessary blow gently on the material to give it more oxygen and encourage the flames to take hold.

Once the fire has started gradually add wood to keep it going – but not to quickly or you could suffocate the fire.


6 LEAVE NO TRACE
Let the fire burn out completely to lessen the impact on the environment. Burn all the pieces of wood until there’s nothing left but ash.

Pour water over the remaining fire and mix the ash with the sand/dirt on the fire bed.

When that is done and it has cooled down completely, disperse everything around the area.


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Finished reading?

Want more excellent information and advice about lightweight camping and backpacking?

Our complete guide to wild backpack camping adventures is full of great advice.

  Lightweight camping: The ultimate guide


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