Camping – How to Start a Fire?
Building a fire is easy, provided you have the right tools for the job! Whether you’re out camping, hiking or just in your backyard, knowing how to properly and safely start a fire is a great ‘life skill’ to have.
Right now, if you’ve never built an outdoor fire before, you may be wondering to yourself, ‘how do I start a fire and keep it going?’
Starting a fire outdoors requires attention and caution, as building one carelessly can be dangerous. You need tinder (such as dry leaves, dead grass or ‘fluff’ from plants), kindling (including small sticks, large weed stocks or pinecones) and a ‘fire starter’ such a lighter or matches. You also need some wood (like maple, oak, ash or birch) or logs to fuel the flame and keep the fire going.
Now that you know what supplies are needed to start a fire, let’s take a closer look at this in more detail below.
We’ll discuss how to make an outdoor or ‘camp’ fire using an easy 8-step method as well as what precautions should be taken beforehand.
We’ll also explain other ways to start a fire using sticks and/or rocks. We’ll even tell you how to get a fire going using wet wood, if necessary.
So, if you’re ready to learn more about starting a fire, then let’s begin!
What do You Need to Start a Fire?
To start a fire from scratch, you’ll need the following:
- Tinder (small shreds or thin pieces of natural materials that can ignite a flame, including dry leaves, dead grass or fluff from plants including cattails, dandelions, and milkweed)
- Kindling (pieces of easily combustible natural materials that’s bigger than tinder, including small sticks or twigs, large stalks from dead weeds and pinecones)
- Lighter or matches
- Wood or logs
- Large rocks or fire pit
Other optional supplies include the following:
- Knife or ax
- Protective glasses/gloves
What Precautions Should You Take when Starting a Fire?
Safety is of the utmost importance when starting an outdoor fire. No one under the age of 15 should handle fire, so keep young children far away.
Always make sure you contain the fire, either with rocks or in a manufactured fire pit.
Do not burn plastic of any kind in a fire as the chemicals or pollutants in the material can be released into the air, causing harm to the environment.
Never throw fireworks or explosives of any kind into a fire, else you run the risk of hurting people and damaging property.
Ensure pets are kept at a safe distance and under no circumstance should you leave a burning fire unattended.
What are the Steps for Starting a Fire?
There are 8 steps to starting an outdoor fire. These include the following:
Step 1: Gather All Necessary Materials
Collect all materials in advance and have them ready to go. These include the tinder, kindling, lighter or matches, pre-cut firewood or manufactured fire logs, shovel and a bucket of water.
It’s also good to have safety gear on-hand including protective glasses and gloves, a hair tie to secure long hair and a first aid kit, just in case!
Step 2: Clear a Rounded Space on the Ground
Use a shovel and dig a circle in the ground, removing the grass and leaving only the dirt. Or, use your hand and clear a space on the ground, if the area is already flat and free of grass.
Make sure the cleared, rounded space is open and far away (at least 6 feet) from any low-hanging trees, fences, sheds or other shelters. Also, check for cables or telephone wires before digging.
Step 3: Line the Rounded Space with Rocks
Place large rocks all around the cleared area. This helps contain the fire and keeps it insulated.
The ‘fire pit’ clearly establishes where the fire is to be built and should be at least 3 or 4 feet in diameter. To save a few steps, you can purchase a manmade fire pit and use it instead.
Step 4: Place the Kindling in the Rounded Space
Use the kindling as the base for the fire. Place it on the ground inside the fire pit in a criss-cross pattern. This design helps catch the flame after the tinder sparks it.
Step 5: Place the Tinder on Top of the Kindling
Put the tinder directly on top of the kindling. This material is what sparks the flame which is later caught by the kindling.
Step 6: Light the Tinder to Start the Fire
Ignite the flame by lighting the tinder with a match or fire starter. To get it going faster, light the tinder from different sides and then gently blow on it.
Step 7: Place Wood on Top of the Fire
Use pre-cut firewood or logs and place them on top of the burning tinder in a teepee formation. This structure helps increase airflow, allowing oxygen to move through the logs and keep the fire burning.
Hardwoods like maple, oak, ash, and birch work best and keep the fire burning hotter, longer.
Step 8: Put Out the Fire
Start putting out the fire at least 20 minutes before you plan to leave or go inside. Slowly pour water over the fire (don’t douse it, as this will ruin the fire site for the next time).
Use the shovel to move the embers around while pouring the water. Watch carefully to see that there is no steam or heat rising. Place your hand near the base and if it feels cool, then the fire is likely extinguished.
How to Start a Fire with Sticks?
Starting a fire the old-fashioned way by rubbing two sticks together can be done, however, it’s usually the last resort in a wilderness emergency!
This is commonly referred to as the hand-drill method. It involves spinning a piece of wood quickly between both hands while pushing down into another piece of wood.
It’s the ‘pushing down and spinning’ process that produces friction, causing the wood to heat up. Smoke starts to rise at which point the ‘glowing dust’ or embers are then transferred to a tinder pile.
The pile is then closed-up, encouraging the flame to ignite. Blowing on the flame helps it grow into a roaring fire.
How to Start a Fire with Rocks?
Starting a fire the ‘caveman’ way with rocks or flint is still done today, although, it’s not easy and takes a great deal of patience.
When a rock, such as quartz, is struck several times with a piece of steel, a spark can be created. A small amount of tinder fungus is often placed along the edge of the rock to catch the spark.
Once lit, the embers are then placed in a grass tinder bundle. Blowing on the bundle ignites the flame which can then be put in a ‘fire pit’ and topped with wood.
This primitive firing starting skill is often taught as part of wilderness survival training and can take years to perfect.
How to Start a Fire with Wet Wood?
If it’s been raining and you need to start a fire, you can still do so with wet wood. Begin by using a sharp knife to remove as much bark from the wet wood as you can.
Then, use an ax to split bigger pieces of wood into kindling. Start the fire by igniting the stripped kindling and then add more wood slowly, as the bigger pieces start to dry and burn. Do not use ‘green’ or live wood as this will only create excess smoke.
To conclude, starting an outdoor or ‘camp’ fire requires skill and caution. Building one can be dangerous, therefore, you must always be attentive and careful when doing so.
To begin, you must have the right materials, including some dry leaves or dead grass, a few small sticks and a lighter or some matches. You also need wood or logs to fuel the flame and keep the fire burning.
And, remember to always take the necessary precautions. Be smart, be safe and good luck!