The first thing to do when you want to start a campfire
is to (a) ensure that you are in an approved
campfires and (b) select a safe location for your
fire pit. It must not be at close proximity to any
flammable material and/or overhanging branches. Once
you have located a spot, clear a circle of 2 to 5
feet from around the fire pit of excess pine needles
and leaves and if possible, splash water on the ground
around, but not in or on, the fire pit. Note that
you should not use wet or damp rocks to line your
fire pit as they can heat up and explode. Make sure
the rocks are completely dry.
- of course, you will need wood. Whenever possible
use old dried wood from conifers
Dry cones are great too. Remember that pine, cedar,
and spruce will start a fire quickly but will
swiftly. Woods such as oak, ash and maple will burn
longer but are more difficult to ignite
as they are hardwood. Aspen, birch and poplar are
quite common and they make good fires as they burn
hot but fairly fast.
Another thing you will need is tinder (very fine kindling).
Most materials will work, as long as they are dead,
dry and natural. You can use old rope, hemp, jute
or manila. You can use inner bark of most dead trees:
cedar, birch, pine, spruce, juniper, etc. Following
a wet period this may be the hardest item to find.
However with a sharp knife, you can easily make you
own by "shaving" a stick of softwood. The
thinner the shavings, the easier it will be to start
Lay a foundation of fine tinder, such as shavings
from dried twigs or pine needles, or whittle with
your knife from a dried branch. If possible, do
not use leaves as they can float into the air very
easily and start another fire elsewhere. Above the
fine tinder bed, crisscross a few larger dry twigs
about the size of a pencil. Have increasingly larger
pieces of wood at hand. Note that if the ground
is exceedingly wet, lay a base of large logs and
sticks and start your fire on top of them.
Starting a campfire
The simplest and quickest method to start a campfire
is to prepare the wood as described above and to
"light up" the tinder. If your tinder
is dry, you should see flames within seconds. You
can then add more tinder or twigs until larger pieces
This is the easy way .... but since you may end
up in a situation where you don't have any matches
(or a lighter), here's a few alternative methods
to start a campfire.
During the day, eyeglasses (burning lens)
can be used as lenses to focus sunlight onto the
kindling. Of course, this solution assumes the sun
will cooperate. To make this work, focus the sun's
rays through your lens to form a "pin-point"
on the tinder. Instantly you will see a glow on
the tinder. Once the tinder starts to smoke, set
the lens aside and gently blow on the tinder until
the glow begins to grow.
Another method to start a campfire is to use two
wires from opposing terminals of any battery
connected together by steel wool. This setup provides
a source of heat by way of electrical resistance.
As the battery heats the steel wool contact between
the wires, it (the steel wool) will get hot enough
to light up the kindling. Note that all types of
batteries (from car batteries to flashlight batteries)
can be used in this way. The length of wire and
amount of steel wool will vary but the principle
is the same, resistive heating.
Another method is called the Bow Drill. It
is the slowest and most physical method to start
a campfire but it is also the most reliable and
the only one anybody can make from scratch. It consists
of a Fireboard made from a soft wood (such as Pine
or Bass Wood), a Drill made from a hard wood (such
as Maple or Oak), a Bow made from a piece of "springy"
wood (such as Ash, Hickory, Osage or any "green"
wood for an emergency bow) and a leather or Rawhide
lace (such as a work boot lace), and a Hand Piece
made from either a smooth, dimpled rock or a piece
of hard wood. Look at the picture on the right to
see how it should be assembled. To start a fire,
place your tinder partially under the V-notch in
your Fireboard. Wrap the lace around the drill one
turn. Place the sharp end of the drill in the hand
block and the dull end into the fire block. Begin
to work the bow back and forth, like a sawing motion.
Slowly increase your speed while keeping a steady
rhythm. Watch for smoke coming from the fire block
and continue until the smoke is constant (not just
an occasional puff). Quickly set the bow and drill
aside and dump the hot "sawdust" from
the block onto the tinder. Gently blow. If no glow
is seen, repeat the above. It may take several tries
to get the "sawdust" hot enough to "light
up" the tinder.
by not least, please ensure that your campfire
is completely out before leaving. Douse with
water, scatter cinders and cover with dirt. Check
it at least twice by pouring water and checking