Ever since Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus, humans have been enchanted by the golden flames and heat they provide. A great campfire brings people together, it means warming and eating a simple meal, telling stories while the light dances upon the faces of all who are present, and sharing a feeling of camaraderie.
It’s definitely easy to love a campfire, but when it comes to building one, well…that’s another matter entirely. Campfires always seem like they should be easy to make — throw some logs in a pile, set them on fire, and behold the radiance. Right? Unfortunately, it’s not so simple. Just like anything else worth doing well, building a great campfire takes equal parts know-how and practice.
Here are five steps to building — and extinguishing — the perfect campfire.
1. Find the Right Spot
If you’re at an RV park or even slightly well-appointed campground, this should be easy because there will be designated fire pits. There’s probably one near the site where you parked your RV. If you’ve got a fire pit, make your fire there. Otherwise, find a clear spot with no grass or anything growing on it, and make sure it’s far from trees and other plants. Using stones, create a rough circle to contain your fire.
2. Gather Your Resources
To build a roaring campfire, you’ll need to find three types of dry materials. (Yes, dry is essential!) The first type is tinder, or material that will light immediately and get things going. Good examples of tinder include dry leaves, straw, and bark. You’ll need quite a lot of tinder, since it burns up quickly, so gather more than you think you’ll need.
Next, you’ll need kindling, or your transition material between tinder and logs. Kindling is typically small twigs and branches, and like tinder, you’ll go through a lot of it to get your fire good and hot.
Finally, you’ll need fuel wood. This is the dried out logs that most people associate with building a campfire. The amount of fuel wood you’ll need depends on how long you want to keep your fire burning.
3. Build a Teepee
No, not the primitive tent — this teepee refers to the shape of your materials before you light them.
- To get started, pile some of your tinder in the middle of your fire pit.
- Next, create a small teepee around it using your kindling. Be sure to leave room for air to get in and help fuel the fire.
- Finally, create a larger teepee around the kindling with your fuel wood, and again, leave room for air.
- Reach in and light your tinder, taking care not to knock over your carefully constructed teepee.
If all goes well, the tinder will get the kindling going, and the kindling will get the fuel wood going. The teepee will collapse in a few minutes or so, and you’ll have a roaring campfire on which you can now toast marshmallows or roast weenies.
4. Keep it Going
When your campfire starts to die down a bit, add new fuel logs one at a time. Make sure that your new log has caught fire and is burning properly before adding another one. You can keep this step up as long as you want to — or until you run out of wood.
5. Put it Out Properly
It may be tempting to just toss a few buckets of water on your dying embers and call it a night. This puts our your fire quickly (and certainly effectively), but if you plan on building another campfire the following night, you’ll be out of luck. Waterlogging your fire pit is never a good idea. Instead, extinguish your embers the right way by using just a small amount of water and stirring it into the ashes so they all get a little wet. Then, wait until no more heat is eminating from the ash pile before you shove off to bed for the night.
Be the Fire Master on Your Next Trip
Building a campfire isn’t rocket science, but there is a right way to do it. Follow these steps, and you should have a rip roaring one on your next RV trip. Bring along fixings for s’mores, and you’ll be the real hero of the day.
Can’t get your campfire burning properly? You may need to tinker with your teepee structure, or you may not be using enough tinder and kindling to get it started. Remember, practice makes perfect. Just carefully put out any burning wood, gather up some more tinder and kindling, and try again.