Building a Campfire There are many different campfire structures that can be built to start a fire while camping. The most common are the teepee, log cabin, dugout, and tunnel structures. Almost anyone can build these fires if he or she follows some key points. A fire needs three elements: air, fuel, and an ignition of some kind. For a campfire the air element is easily accessible; it’s the air a person breaths or oxygen. Fuel is equivalent to wood. Sometimes lighter fluid is used to start big fires immediately, but usually when dealing with a campfire the fuel is wood.
Ignition can come from a spark, match, or lighter. It is anything that initially starts the fire. Going deeper into wood, there are three categories to classify it under. Kindling is the stuff that is easiest to burn. It could be leaves, dryer lint, or very small twigs. The next size of wood is sticks and small logs. These will range in size from one half inch to two inches in diameter. Anything larger than this is classified as the fuel.
The fuel is the big logs that will burn for hours. When a fire is started it needs to be built like this: kindling first, then sticks and small logs, and then the fuel, once the fire is going good. Using this technique with the following fire structures will ensure hot easy fires. The teepee style structure is probably the most used and easiest to build, but doesn’t necessarily result in the hottest or longest burning campfire. To build this fire think about the name “teepee.” The end result before burning this structure looks like an Indian’s teepee (If the teepee shape is not familiar, then envision a conic shape).
Start by placing the intermediate size wood or sticks in the ground in a circular shape about eight to twelve inches in diameter, leaning the tips of the sticks together in the center. The sticks should already start to resemble a teepee shape. Continue layering the walls of the teepee with more sticks, but not too thick, because air needs to be able to pass through the walls easily. Leave a hole on one side large enough to place kindling inside the stick walls. This hole is also left to light the kindling from the inside and may be filled in once the fire is lit.
Once this is completed, the structure should be a recognizable teepee or cone shape. The kindling should be lit on the underside inside the teepee walls through the hole that was left. Due to this easy structure, when the smaller sized twigs start to fall in and burn up, larger sized sticks can be placed on the outside in the same manner as before, keeping the teepee shape. A log cabin campfire structure is just as easy to build as a teepee, but must be built more accurately in order for the fire to burn efficiently. In the same way the teepee name resembled it’s shape, so does the log cabin.
It’s built by placing two sticks parallel to each other, and than another two on top parallel to each other also, but perpendicular to the previously laid sticks. When viewing the structure from the top it should look like a square. Continuing this procedure while sliding each layer to the middle slightly will produce a pyramid shape without a top. The end result will appear to be a miniature log cabin that grows narrower towards the top. In the center of this cabin is where the kindling is placed. When lighting this structure, a hole might have to be dug under one side if there isn’t enough clearance to light the kindling from the bottom side.
After it’s lit, sticks can be laid across the top like a roof, and then eventually the fuel will be laid on top too. The next two structures are to be built when there isn’t a fire ring in the campsite and a hole needs to be dug to contain the fire. The first of the two, the dugout, is started by digging a hole. The initial hole should be slightly oval in shape and reach into the ground about one foot. At one end of the hole two decent sized sticks should be shoved into the ground at forty-five degree angles six to twelve inches apart. Smaller sticks are then placed perpendicularly across the larger support sticks forming a lean-to structure.
Lots of little sticks can be piled up as long as the support sticks can hold them up and they don’t get packed together. Once this structure is built, the kindling is placed under the lean-to so that when it is lit the flames reach up into the pile of sticks that hang over top. Adding sticks to this fire is simple also, just pile them on the supporters in an orderly fashion. The last fire structure is the most time consuming to build, but the hottest one. The tunnel fire is composed of a hole dug in the ground, like the dugout, and a tunnel running into the bottom of that hole.
First dig a hole for the fire to burn in. Then decipher which way the wind is blowing and dig into the wind from the bottom corner of the fire hole. This tunnel should be about five inches in diameter and submerge two and a half to three feet away from the edge of the dug out hole. When the tunnel fire structure is assembled, anyone of the previous fires may be built inside of it. Possibly the dug out is a good choice, because the hole is already dug for it.
Despite which fire is built, the tunnel opening should not be covered. If this structure is built precisely, air will blow through the tunnel into the base of the fire creating an inferno of heat. The fire will burn up wood rapidly, but this will result in an extremely hot fire. Anyone of the four campfires are good structured fires. They will burn efficiently if the proper steps are taken in assembling them. Remembering the key elements for a fire and how to light and add wood will help also.
The oxygen element is most important and must exist to have a fire. Adding the proper size wood at timed intervals will keep the fire blazing and prevent it from being snuffed out. Putting everything together, a great campfire can be built.