When people think of camping one of the first things that usually pops into their heads is the fire. That lovely focal point in the campsite. The place where s’mores are made, stories are told, and memories are exchanged. It’s a bonding ritual to the outdoors and to the people we are with.
The campfire touches that primitive part of us. The part that is still connected to nature. We can stare at the flames for hours. Talking, eating, sharing. Making memories.
It’s life the way it should be. Easy, simple, outdoors, and good.
The things that draw us to the outdoors, and to each other, make it impossible to feel out of place in front of a campfire.
It’s like our world diminishes into only the area we can see from the flames. It's warm, welcoming, and feels like home.
It is home.
You belong here in front of the fire, with us.
With me. In our own little world around the fire.
Choose the spot
When you make your campsite one of the main things you need to do first is find the spot for the fire. This will most likely become the center of your campsite. It’s where you will spend most of your time when the sun has started to slumber.
You want a spot where you can maintain distance from any of the other things that might catch fire. Dried leaves, dead limbs, small dry grass are all great for starting fires and spreading them as well. Make sure you clear off the area of your fire's home really well.
Make sure you also look up. Just because limbs are not dead doesn't mean they eventually won't catch. This is usually the place people forget to look until too late. So please before making your firepit LOOK UP!
Make the fire
At some campgrounds the place for the fire is already set. It’s a permanent fixture there. Don’t make a new one. It’s there for a reason. Be courteous.
If there isn’t one, you’ll have to do it yourself. It just takes a little preparation.
- Clear the area of all debris. This includes limbs and natural forest materials
- Dig out a small area. You don’t have to go too deep, just enough so the coals don’t spread
- Or Enclose - This would be the campfires you've seen surrounded by rocks. It works very well, and the rocks radiate heat. Not all places have enough rocks for this. Use the dig method there
- Clear the surrounding area - Remove any debris or anything flammable from a few feet diameter around the fires home
When you start making your fire start small. Grass and twigs. Once you get a flame to hold on them add sticks. Work your way up to logs. Once you get to the log stage your set. You should also be able to get another fire going in the morning from the coals left. If not, repeat the process.
How to start a fire
Thanks to our modern tech, making a fire isn’t that hard. A lighter and some dried grass is usually fine. If it’s a little damp use an accelerant. These are chemicals that help the flame along. Like starter fluid or gasoline.
If you want to go primitive there are all kinds of ways.
- Ferro rod and steel is the easiest. You can scrape the rod with your knife to get a spark.
- Bow drill - You basically make a small bow and use a spindle on a dry piece of wood. Put pressure on the spindle with a small rock in your hand. Turn it quickly to produce coal from friction. Dump into the dried grass and there you go. Good to know if your life depended on it but not my recommended way
- Magnifying lens - Oh Yeah! This one is easy peasy. You can also use eyeglasses that have prescription lenses. Only works in the daytime with mostly clear skies though.
- You can, but I bet you won't want to, rub two sticks together. The friction might eventually make coal. Maybe. A big maybe on this. Once again, good to know if your life ever depends on it but I would not count on this method.
Putting it out
Before you walk away from your site make sure the fire is out. This is serious. Fires can be destructive. Don’t let yours. Especially as easy as it is to put it out.
To extinguish a fire, you have to remove one of the three things that make a fire
- Oxygen - Fire can’t burn without oxygen. This means smothering it. With dirt, water, a flame extinguisher if you have to
- Fuel - With nothing left to burn the fire will go out. Usually at campsites this means wood
- Heat - Fires get cooler as they burn off the other parts of the triangle
So, when putting out your campfire make sure there isn’t anything let in it to burn. You’ll probably still have coals but that’s expected. You need to smother these. Pour water on it till it stops smoldering. Then bury it with dirt. Easy if you dug out a bit to start it to begin with. See how things work.
Better than you found it
There is a rule in the outdoors that EVERYONE HAS TO ABIDE BY
“Leave it Better than You Found IT!”
If it was clean before you got there, make sure it’s cleaner when you leave. Most likely you are just a guest in the outdoors. Sad, I know. It would be great to live out there all the time. Maybe one day you will. Till then take care of your future home. Not just for you but for everyone. All the ones yet to come.
This is really a motto I wish the world would embrace as a whole. Not just for the outdoors but for life. Leave it better than you found it. Wouldn’t take much if everyone did their part. I do mine. Please do yours. I hope I see you there.