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When I think of camping, the first thing that comes to mind is a tent. The second is the perfect campfire. Afterall, campfires are synonymous with camping. Whether you’re sitting around the fire getting warm, making s’mores, or drinking beer and telling tall tales about your last fishing trip, campfires bring people together. But how do you build that perfect campfire? There’s a bit more to it than soaking a pile of wood with gas and lighting a match. (Do not try this at home)
If you were to ask Kellie, building a campfire is an art that takes a special set of skills. She thinks she should be on the US Olympic Campfire Building Team. Wait… Is that even a thing?
Believe it or not there are actually a few different methods to building a campfire. In addition, the type of campfire you want to build will depend, in part, on what you will be using it for. If you will be using your campfire mainly for cooking, you will build a different type, or style, campfire than if you are wanting a high heat output fire.
In this post we are going to cover a few different types of campfires, a few tips on building a campfire, and the differences in what type of wood you use. Let’s jump in.
Every fire needs three things to burn. Oxygen, fuel, and heat. If you remove any one of the elements, your fire will go out.
The first thing you will need when building that perfect campfire is dry wood. In addition, you will also need kindling and tinder. Kindling is basically small sticks while tinder is smaller twigs, dry leaves, or even used dryer lint and a cardboard toilet paper roll.
Types Of Campfires
As stated above, there are different types of campfires, and each has its own characteristics. In most cases, however, the result is similar. A perfect campfire provides heat, a place to cook, and a place to gather with friends and family. Below we are going to cover the three most common types of campfires and how to build each one.
The most common type of campfire is the teepee fire. A tepee campfire is built by simply leaning logs into one another to form the shape of a teepee. This type of campfire can also be referred to as a cone campfire.
To build a teepee fire, place your tinder in a pile in your fire ring. Next, place small pieces of kindling in a cone, or teepee shape, above the tinder. As the fire grows, add your larger sticks and logs to the cone.
The best part of a teepee campfire is how easy it is to build and maintain. As the fire burns, just keep adding sticks and logs to the fire. A disadvantage of this type of campfire is how fast it burns.
For cooking quick meals with the teepee campfire, let the logs burn through and when they collapse, set a pot on the hot coals.
The Log Cabin
For a campfire that is easy to maintain and long-lasting, the log cabin, or hashtag style is best. Essentially, you build this type of campfire like you would a log cabin, or hashtag. (#)
To build this type of fire start by placing two logs parallel on the ground, then two more on top of those, in a hashtag pattern. Follow these steps until you reach your desired height.
Place your tinder and kindling in the center and light your fire. As the logs burn, they will fall into the fire, continuously feeding the fire. By doing this, the log cabin campfire tends to burn slower than a teepee campfire, making it a great choice for cooking or spending hours by the fire relaxing.
Upside Down Campfire
The upside down, or pyramid fire, is the best type of campfire for cooking. When built properly, this type of fire can burn for hours on end.
This fire gets it’s name because you build it “upside down”, meaning your largest wood will be at the base, and your smaller sticks go at the top. By starting the fire at the top of the wood, the fire will burn down, instead of up. Further, this type of campfire will produce a bed of hot coals that is ideal for cooking. As a result, you can place your pots and pans directly on the coals.
To build this type of campfire, lay three to four pieces of wood side-by-side on the ground. Add a second layer of smaller logs across them. Continue to alternate your pattern like this, making sure you get smaller as you go up. Place your tinder and kindling on top, ignite, and let your fire burn down until you have a bed of hot, glowing coals.
Best Types Of Wood For The Perfect Campfire
Most people don’t have a preference when it comes to firewood. When we’re camping, we use what’s available. However, if the campground you will be staying at doesn’t allow you to gather firewood, you might have to bring your own. Before you do, check the campground policy. Some parks and campgrounds do not allow you to bring your own wood. Why? Because when you bring your own firewood, you could potentially be bringing insects and other tree killing diseases with you.
Oak is the best type of wood to burn in your campfire. If it’s dry, oak will produce a high-heat fire while burning slow. In addition, oak is readily available throughout much of the United States, making it easy for campers to find.
Hickory is another great option for a hot burning campfire. In fact, hickory tends to burn hotter than oak.
Like it’s oak counterpart, maple wood also produces a long-lasting, high-heat fire. An additional characteristic of maple wood is how difficult it is to split.
Birch is a fast-burning firewood that is great for starting the perfect campfire. It produces a bright campfire that gives off plenty of heat.
Another type of firewood that is prevalent in the southern states in pecan. Pecan wood burns slow and produces a slightly aromatic fire that is perfect for a campsite. Pecan is also a favorite for smoking meat.
Cherry wood is another aromatic firewood that produces low amounts of smoke and joins the pecan wood as being excellent for smoking meat. It is also a great wood for your campfire.
Building that perfect campfire is a very important part of camping. But it also comes with responsibility. An unattended and unmaintained campfire can be a danger to other campers, animals, and the surrounding land. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Interior, as many as 90 percent of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by people. Some of these human-caused fires result from campfires left unattended, burning debris, downed power lines, and discarded cigarettes. Therefore, it is extremely important to understand how to safely enjoy your perfect campfire.
Use The Fire Pit
Most campgrounds and RV parks will provide a fire pit or fire ring at every site. If your site is equipped with one, use it. If not, check with management prior to starting a fire. If fires are allowed, check your surroundings before striking that match. Be sure you are away from power lines, tree branches, and anything else they could ignite.
Keep Water Or A Fire Extinguisher Nearby
Having a way to extinguish any embers that may pop or fall out of your fire is important. Keep a bucket of water, a water hose, or a fire extinguisher nearby to douse these embers before they have a chance to grow. Never leave your campfire unattended.
Avoid High-Wind Situations
Pay special attention to the wind before building your campfire. A breeze or gust of wind can quickly spread your fire. In dry conditions check for any local burn bans as well.
Extinguish Your Campfire Properly
At the end of the evening, or when you are finished with your campfire, make sure you put it out completely. Use that bucket of water or the water hose to douse the fire.
Campfires are as essential to camping as RVs and tents. You just can’t have one without the other. I mean, how else are you going to cook your s’mores or roast your hot dogs. Have you ever had a breakfast cooked on a campfire?
What are your thoughts on campfires? Do you use any of the types of campfires listed above? If so, please leave us a comment below and let us know.