How to Build a Perfect Campfire

Father showing young daughter how to tend to a fire.

Since humanity first discovered how to control fire, we’ve relied on it to help us through the winter seasons and more recently to tell ghost stories on chilly winter nights. Even with all our modern advancements, something inside us calls to the peace and thrill of the wild. So it’s important for any aspiring campers to know how to build a campfire—one that abides by campfire safety.

Whether you’re taking a winter camping trip or just want to roast marshmallows at the end of the long summer day, our tips will help you find the thing you need to successfully build a campfire so you can keep warm on your next solo or family trip!

Tips on How to Build a Campfire

Depending on the facilities and camping supplies you have at your disposal, your approach to building a campfire is subject to change. Fortunately, it’s a versatile practice, so as long as you abide by basic campfire safety, there are many ways to succeed. Here are a few of our key tips on how to get started.

Location, Location, Location

Campsites with frequent activity often have designated fire pits stationed for you to use. In these cases, it’s either frowned upon or against campground policy to build fire pits other than what’s provided, so you have limited options in these scenarios.

However, for improvised campsites (or campgrounds that don’t provide pits), it’ll be up to you to make your own. Locate a relatively flat patch of land approximately 10 feet from nearby trees or belongings, ideally in an area sheltered from the wind. Exposed dirt is best since grass can catch on fire and spread easily. If there is no dirt patch available, we advise you to make one by digging up the land nearby and creating a bed of it to build your fire upon.

Clear debris from the area, such as branches, dead grass, or other foliage that may catch on fire. The sticks and small brush you gather can later be used to keep the fire going through the night if you choose. For additional security, enclose the fire bed in a ring of fist-sized stones. Leave space between each stone so the air can still circulate around the fire.


The next step in how to build a campfire is to provide the fuel needed to create a sustained flame. As much as possible, you don’t want to use recently live trees or branches, because they resist burning, so cutting your own isn’t very effective. Scour the nearby areas for dead wood to use as fuel.

Once you’ve secured your fuel supply and arranged it over the fire bed (usually in a tent-like shape, also known as a “teepee”), you can use tinder like dry leaves, dry grass, small twigs, bark, needles, and wood shavings as tinder. Alternatively, dryer lint is a great substitute that takes quickly to flame. Additional branches and twigs can function as kindling wood for helping your fire grow.

Organize the Pieces of Your Campfire

As we said before, standing up your fuel and kindling in a tent/teepee shape is considered the best traditional means of building a campfire. Place the larger kindling sticks over the smaller ones, and once you’re ready to light it up, use a long lighter to ignite the tinder in the center of your arrangement. Give your growing flame constant attention, especially while it’s still working into a full-bodied fire, feeding it additional kindling as needed.

Alternative methods of organizing your wood include the box-like log cabin fire, ideal for cooking food, or a lean-to fire which is better at resisting windy conditions.

Campfire Safety

A few aspects of campfire safety should be regarded no matter when or where you’re starting your campfire.

For starters, always ensure that your fire has been completely extinguished before leaving the area or sleeping, as an unchecked fire may be liable to spread out of control, causing damage to the campgrounds, wildlife, yourself, and your belongings. You can put out a fire by dumping water over the fire bed and breaking down the wood arrangement with a long stick, spreading around the embers and ashes. Repeat until you’re certain no stray sparks or embers will emerge from the pit after you’re done.

Once finished, clean up the debris, scatter the rock ring, and discard any unused wood and trash in the area. If you’ve built your fire in a designated fire ring, there’s no need to scatter the rock ring. Simply make sure there are no embers when you leave the campground

A lot of the above principles also apply to winter camping situations, but with the caveat that snow, ice, and adverse weather might make finding dry wood more difficult. In these situations, consider bringing dry wood to the campsite with you. Campfires are an even more precious resource during winter camping, so be careful to protect it from the wind while building yours, and try not to get too close or you’ll risk burning yourself.

Take a Journey to Your Next Camping Adventure

Camping is one of our favorite things in the world. It’s something that can be enjoyed both on your own, and with others.

From Washington to Texas, to Wisconsin, and beyond, RJourney has made it our mission to create the ultimate campground experience all over the United States. With facilities designed for maximum comfort and enjoyment on your camping trip, we’ve got you covered from showers to recreation. At RJourney, you control your camping experience. If you’d prefer to rough it, you’ll never be far from our support, and if you like your nature with a sprinkle of modernity, you can always make use of our WiFi or Clubhouse, available at nearly every location, for a break from the outdoors.

Find the campground that’s right for you, whether it be near or far, and plan your next excursion into the folds of mother nature today!

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