Knowing how to light a campfire is an essential skill – we teach you how to do it the good old fashioned way.

Starting a campfire is easy right? Well, not for everyone. If you don’t get the basics right it will be frustrating for everyone when it dies quickly after lighting or when you run out of dry wood after dark. Then again you might find yourself in an emergency situation, have wet matches or lose a lighter. Knowing how to start a fire in a variety of conditions is important. Let’s start with the basics.

Fire pit setup

Build your fire around 10m away from your campsite. Check for overhanging branches that could catch fire, dig a pit about 10-15cm deep and surround the fire pit with rocks (if you can). Then go find 3 types of dry wood:

Tinder (small easily flammable, quick burning twigs, leaves, coconut husk fibres etc)
Kindling (short sticks with a diameter between a 10c and a 20c piece
Fuel wood (bigger chunks of slow burning wood)

Teepee build

Now you’re ready to start building your fire fuel. There are a few ways to do this and it could start a camp debate but a tried and trusted method is the teepee build which goes like this:

  • Build a teepee of kindling around a small fist sized bunch of tinder
  • Add more wood to the downwind side. Leave an opening on the upwind side (so you can light the tinder).
  • Keep space between for the wood to breathe – it needs a steady flow of oxygen.
  • Get the big fuel wood and place it around the edge of the teepee, in a parallel 2 x 2 formation.
  • Light it by standing upwind of the fire (see 3 methods of lighting below)
  • Keep adding tinder as necessary till the kindling is alight
  • Keep adding kindling till the fuel wood is ablaze.

Once you have your fire pit and tepee build ready – it’s time to light it.

Lighting your fire

Here we’re going to explain three different ways you can light a campsite fire.

Regular Fire

If you have matches or lighter, use them. Job done.

Swedish Firesteel Fire

This is a cool piece of kit for lighting a fire or gas stove in the wet, at altitude or in the snow. Developed by the Swedish department of defence, Swedish Firesteel is able to create sparks at 3,000 degrees celsius. It’s really simple to use –just strike it so that sparks shoot towards your tinder and away you go. If you are having trouble with lighting the tinder you can gently scrape some of the metal shavings into a little pile within the tinder. Then you hit the shavings with sparks and they all ignite giving you a strong collection of firing sparks that should get your tinder going.

Survival Fire – Two sticks

This is something you may need to do in an emergency situation but is worthwhile practicing next time you go camping.

Grab two very dry sticks of the same type, preferably from the same branch or tree. Fashion one into a shorter thick ruler shape with a sharp stone. Make sure the other stick is much larger and wedged firmly to the ground under your body weight and between rocks (if possible). This piece of wood has to stay straight and still. Rub the shorter ruler shaped stick back and forth on the larger stick. Start slowly, till you see it start to blacken. Then you add more pressure, and rub the sticks harder and faster, back and forth, until you get steady smoke and see some blackened ember style smoking wood. You then want to add this to your driest, easiest to ignite tinder (old dry coconut husk fibres work great). Gently find the right balance between wind and tinder, eventually, if you don’t smother it or blow it out, you should have flame!

There you go – fire! Remember to light your fire safely and have a Swedish Firesteel back up just in case your lighter and matches get wet!

Contributed by: Wild Earth


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