I like the woods. Please do not burn them down.
In the great outdoors, a campfire is more than just a source of warmth—it is a sacred ritual that bonds us with nature and our primitive ancestors. However, when done wrong, it can turn into anything from a ‘smoke-in-your-eyes’ annoyance to a dangerous wildfire. Being a seasoned survivalist, outdoorsman, and skill teach, I have stood at the edge of many a campfire construction site and witnessed the comedy of errors that often ensues. Here are seven common campfire blunders and how to steer clear of them:
- Choosing the Wrong Spot:
- Mistake: Setting up campfire in a low-lying area or near flammable material.
- Avoidance: Choose a flat, well-drained area away from overhanging branches, bushes, and your tent. Your ideal spot should also be shielded from gusty winds.
- Ignoring the Weather:
- Mistake: Igniting a fire under windy or dry conditions.
- Avoidance: Check the weather forecast and be mindful of the surroundings. If it’s too windy or dry, it might be wise to skip the fire for the night or seek a more sheltered spot.
- Underestimating Preparation:
- Mistake: Not gathering enough wood or preparing proper firewood.
- Avoidance: Gather three times the wood you think you’ll need. Prepare a good mix of tinder, kindling, and logs to keep your fire burning bright and safe.
- Overcomplicating the Fire Structure:
- Mistake: Building a fire fit for a bonfire bash when a modest blaze would do.
- Avoidance: Start with a simple fire lay like the teepee or log cabin. They are easy to control and require less wood.
- Playing the Firestarter Rookie:
- Mistake: Using gasoline or other dangerous accelerants to start the fire.
- Avoidance: Stick to safer fire starters like dry leaves, paper, or commercial fire starters. A little patience goes a long way in avoiding singed eyebrows and stampedes of wildlife running from the flames.
- Neglecting Fire Safety:
- Mistake: Leaving the fire unattended or not having means to extinguish it.
- Avoidance: Always have water or sand nearby to douse the fire. Never leave it unattended. Mother Nature appreciates responsible camping.
- Forgetting Cleanup:
- Mistake: Leaving behind a fire scar or not properly extinguishing the fire.
- Avoidance: Douse the fire with water, stir the ashes, and make sure it’s cold to the touch before leaving. Practice Leave No Trace principles to keep the wilderness wild.
Your fire-making endeavor can oscillate between a scene from a serene woodland saga to a slapstick comedy based on your approach. So, arm yourself with these tips to ensure your campfire experience is more mesmerizing than maddening. With a pinch of preparation and a sprinkle of safety, you can avoid the rookie mistakes and master the ancient art of fire-making, proving that you are indeed hot stuff in the wilderness!
Survival In Mind
When it comes to keeping survival in mind there are a few more thing to keep in mind that go beyond our seven common mistakes. Consider these a few free tips to help keep your fire going, and to reduce the amount of labor involved in maintaining it.
- Build it small on purpose.
- Reason: Smaller fires consume less wood, and as a result will make the firewood you collect last longer.
- Build your fire horizontally.
- Reason: Pure and simple, fire burns up. A vertical fire will be consumed much faster than a fire that is laid our horizontally, if you want it to last longer, choose a log cabin configuration over a teepee.
- Do not over chop the wood.
- Reason: The more times you split a log the more surface area you are creating. The more surface area the faster a piece of wood burns. So, burning a log whole or in half will make it last much longer than cutting it into many smaller pieces.
- “Bank” Your Fire
- Reason: Banking is when you cover a burning or smoldering log with ashes. This will allow you to deprive the log of oxygen, which effectively extinguishes the flame, but does not remove the heat energy from the log. This will allow you to temporarily extinguish the fire, and easily bring it back to life later. Never, ever leave a fire banked if you are not coming back to it.
These quick and easy tips should get you started on the road to having longer lasting and easier fire making experiences. Remember, safety first, not just for your sake, but for the sake of the people, animals, and environment around you.