Tips for Starting a Campfire

Tips for Starting a Campfire

While making a fire while camping should be easy, some people find they need tips for starting a campfire if they haven't done so before. People don't always bring along everything they need, or survival situations sometimes demand that you're able to start a fire with whatever is available.

A common alternative to matches includes using steel (most often the steel blade of your pocket knife). By striking either a flint or quartzite against the steel blade in a downward motion, you can cast sparks onto dry fungus or birch bark to start a blaze.

Use a Magnifying Glass

A magnifying glass should be an essential part of any survival kit. No matches are needed. All you need to do is catch the sunlight and center the hot focal point of the light onto the center of your dry kindling (dry fungus or grass). Once your dry fuel ignites, quickly transfer it to the pile of kindling. This technique obviously requires sunny weather!

Use a Clear Balloon

If you don't have a magnifying glass but happen to have clear plastic or rubber, like a clear balloon, you can fill it up with clear water and then squeeze it into the shape of a lens. A clear, water-filled balloon will create a hot focal point of sunlight in the same way a magnifying glass does.

Fire From Ice

Ever hear the cliche "fire from ice?" Well with this technique you can prove that the saying is based on reality. If you're camping in the winter with ice all around, break off a chunk and squeeze it between your hands so that it melts down into the shape of a lens. Try to find the clearest ice you can locate to do this. Once you're done shaping it, you'll have a lens to focus the sun's light into your dry kindling.

Coke and Chocolate Make Fire

Are you lacking anything to create a lens? Try this unique approach where all you need is chocolate and a soda can. Rub chocolate (or toothpaste) on the bottom of a soda can until the metal is completely polished and shiny. Then place the bottom of the can at an angle near the dry grass or kindling so that the sunlight from above reflects and focuses onto the kindling below. Before long it'll be smoking.

A Battery and Steel Wool

Considering the situation where you don't have any of the items mentioned above, or the day is overcast and there's no sun to help. All you need to do is locate some steel wool from your cooking supplies, and a 9 volt battery from one of your flashlights or radios. Simply rub the two contacts of the battery along the steel wool until the wool is glowing red, then place it into your dry fuel for a good source of ignition. Then transfer the burning grass/fungus to your larger kindling.

The TeePee Setup

Now that you know all the ways to start a fire without matches, it's also important to know how to set up your wood so that it starts burning quickly and lasts for a long time. The setup shown here is called the "teepee." You place the kindling in the very center with the larger wood leaning up against each other just like a teepee. As the kindling ignites, the outer, larger pieces also eventually catch fire.

The Lean-To Setup

The "lean-to" is another technique where a long, large or "green" wood is laid lengthwise on top of a horizontal piece of wood. You place the kindling underneath this structure, and then lay your smaller wood pieces all along the side of the main beam just like a lean-to. This is a good technique when you want to quickly ignite a larger campfire.

Dig Air Circulation Ditches

Many people like to dig "cross-ditches" or cavities underneath the fire in the form of narrow holes so that air can easily circulate underneath the fire. This results in a very hot and fast-burning campfire. Use this approach if you're trying to burn damp or "green" wood, as the extra air circulation will insure that you have plenty of oxygen to keep the blaze burning hot.

Build a Pyramid

This is one of the most common campfire structures, called the "top-down" campfire. The way it works is, you lay four of the largest pieces of wood at the base in a "log cabin" formation. On top of that you lay smaller pieces in the same criss-cross pattern. Going smaller and smaller to the top, your kindling pile ends up at the very top. Once you ignite this kindling, the fire slowly burns downward. This results in a much longer-burning fire. People typically take this approach when they are tent camping and need a fire to burn through the night.

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Tips for Starting a Campfire