Having a campfire in a fire pit is an incredibly fun and memory making experience, but how to you actually start the fire?
Below are some fire pit tips that you can use when you need to light your fire pit, laid out in a step-by-step process that makes it easy!
- Having good firewood and fire starter available makes it much easier.
- A lighter or propane torch is much easier to use than matches.
- Make sure the fire has access to plenty of oxygen.
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1. Find Good Firewood to Burn
Selecting the right firewood for a fire pit or campfire is crucial.
Dry wood, free from moisture, is essential for easy ignition.
Avoid rotten wood due to inefficiency and odor.
Hardwoods like oak, maple, or hickory are ideal for longer burns and more heat, but softwoods like pine or cedar work too.
Also, hardwoods put out more heat than softwoods, pop less, and throw less sparks.
Keep firewood forearm-sized for convenience, and breaking larger logs into smaller pieces helps maintain a consistent flame.
Source firewood from the local area where you are camping as to not introduce evasive species or disease. Many parks have regulations regarding bringing in firewood so be sure to check first.
- Choose dry, moisture-free wood
- Avoid rotten wood and odors
- Hardwoods for longer burns
- Softwoods burn quicker, use if hardwood is scarce
- Use forearm-sized firewood
- Split larger logs for consistency
2. Get Fire Starer and Kindling
It is very difficult to light firewood on its own and that is where kindling and fire starter come into play.
There are many fire starters available from chemicals to natural versions and they are all meant to do the same thing: ignite quickly and easily.
My favorite fire starter is a natural version called Stump Chunks and is made entirely from stumps.
Another great option is Fatwood made from pine, the resin helping it to light easily.
Kindling is simply smaller pieces of wood or dry twigs, from pencil size up to several inches long and an inch or so thick.
The larger surface area to volume ratio helps kindling to catch fire more easily than firewood.
Bigger than the wood in natural fire starter but smaller than firewood, the kindling bridges the gap between the two.
To get our kindling, we use the Kindling Cracker instead of an axe for safety reasons.
You can learn more about the Kindling Cracker here.
- Firewood will rarely light on its own.
- Fire starters are highly flammable and catch fire quickly.
- Kindling lights more easily than firewood.
3. Build the Fire
Choose which campfire shape is right for you. Three of the most popular options are explained in the table below.
|-This configuration looks like an upside-down cone made with logs.
-Start with larger logs arranged vertically to form a circle at the base. Gradually stack smaller logs and kindling around the larger logs to create an upward cone shape.
-This design promotes excellent airflow, allowing flames to rise easily from the center, making it a reliable source of heat and ideal for quick warmth and ambiance.
|Log Cabin Campfire
|-The log cabin fire involves stacking logs parallel to each other in alternating layers, similar to constructing a miniature log cabin.
-Begin by laying two large logs parallel on the ground as your base layer. Place two more logs perpendicular on top of them. Continue alternating layers.
-This shape offers stability, efficient heat retention, and longer burning times, making it suitable for a cozy, enduring fire.
|-A star shaped campfire design looks like firewood radiating out from a center point.
-Dig a shallow hole where you want the center of your fire to be. Form a star shape with the wood by placing the ends of each piece in the center over the hole and radiating them around to form a circle. Be sure to leave a gap in the middle for your fire starter and air.
-This design is ideal for extended burn times and cooking over open flames.
With any of these three options, place your fire starter on the ground in the center of your firewood.
Use your kindling to bridge the gap between your fire starter and firewood.
Lay pieces of kindling between your pieces of firewood all of the way around your campfire, but be sure to leave gaps as the fire needs access to plenty of oxygen to be able to spread to the firewood.
- Choose what campfire design is right for you.
- Put your fire starter, then kindling in the center of your wood.
- Make sure there is space between the wood and kindling so oxygen can feed the fire.
4. Light the Fire
(Matches are not an easy way to start a campfire.)
At this point, all your campfire needs to get going is something to ignite it.
There are a million and one ways to start a fire, but for most campers the popular options are matches or a lighter.
While matches will work, a lighter is a much easier and less frustrating way to light a campfire as the flame gets a much longer time in contact with the fire starter, lighting much quicker.
My favorite way to light a campfire is with my long handled propane torch.
It is easy to carry around and lights fires extremely easily and quickly. If interested in this torch you can learn more here.
No matter the method you use to light your fire pit, focus the flame on the fire starter.
Be sure to pay close attention to what you’re doing and observe all safety protocols.
Once the fire starter ignites, try to block the wind from putting it out as much as possible.
Growing the flames can be done by using a bellows, like this one.
This provides the fire starter and kindling with plenty of oxygen it needs to heat it up, but from a safe distance.
Your first goal is to get the starter going, then focus on it spreading to the kindling, and finally to the firewood.
- Choose a fire starting method, lighters are fast & easy.
- Light the starter first, then focus on spreading it to the kindling, then logs.
- Use a bellows like this one to feed oxygen to the fire.
How to keep the campfire burning
Once your campfire is lit, the next step is to ensure that it keeps burning steadily.
As the fire burns, add larger pieces toward the bottom as a base and gradually add smaller pieces of wood on top.
This allows for a consistent supply of fuel and helps maintain a steady flame.
Another important aspect is airflow. Adequate oxygen supply helps in keeping the fire going strong.
Avoid overcrowding the fire pit with logs or debris as this can restrict airflow and suffocate the flames.
If you encounter difficulty keeping your campfire burning, periodically using a bellows can really help by giving the flames more oxygen and heating it up.
Also, maintaining a good bed of embers can help keep your campfire alive. Embers are the hot coals that have fully burned down from your logs and they radiate a lot of heat.
- Use your bigger logs at the base and the smaller wood on top of the fire.
- Don’t overcrowd or add wood too quickly
- Use a bellows when needed to give the fire an oxygen blast.