How To Make A Basic Fire

by Manidoo | Last Updated: April 8, 2021

Fire. Often regarded as humanity’s greatest discovery. It is also one of the most versatile of survival needs. From cooking food, purifying water, providing warmth, the list of its uses is endless.

This is why it’s vital for any individual to master the basics of building a fire to thrive in the wild. For this article, I will cover the basics of how to build a fire. So you too can start one as easily and long-lasting as possible.

Make a Basic Fire Pit

Before starting any fire, making you’re permitted to first. If you have back-country permission or are in a survival situation, starting one is a bit more flexible. Otherwise, keep your fires started in a designated area. Such as a fire pit, grill, or fire ring.

 If you’re unsure if you can have a fire, check in advance with your land agency administrators. In America, this will be the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management.

Firepit

If you don’t have a fire spot available, building an impromptu pit is going to be your best option. When you start a fire you find a bare spot sheltered from the wind, cold, and moisture. Remember you want to clear your area of any combustible material such as tree roots and bushes. Smokey the Bear advises your bare spot should be 10 feet!

If you have rocks available, gather enough to form a 2-3 foot diameter ring. These rocks will not only help with windbreak but also keep your fire maintained. Helping avoid it from spreading uncontrollably.

If you do not have rocks near you, your next best bet is to dig a pit. I dig mine’s 1 foot deep and 2-3 feet in diameter.

What to use for Firewood

Firewood comes in three types: TinderKindling, and Fuel.

Tinder

Tinder

Tinder is anything dry and easy to ignite when touched by a spark. This is the first thing you should be light. Ideally, keep it either in the bottom and/or center of your campfire. Some examples include:

Kindling

Kindling

Kindling is your second and slightly larger fire laying material. Kindling is not quite as combustible as tinder but thick enough for a flame to last more than a few seconds. You’ll be generally putting this on after you have your tinder’s flame going. Examples include small twigs or sticks about as thick as a pencil.

Fuel

Firewood fuel

When your fire is roaring large enough, you can start putting on the thickest wood pieces. This is anything to keep your fire going long into the night. Logs are generally the preferred fuel type. But, some more non-traditional methods can be used as well. Some of these include animal dung and bundled-up dry grass.

Remember to never underestimate the amount of firewood you’ll need. I like to use Survivorman’s, Les Stroud, firewood strategy. Gather as much wood as you think you’ll need then multiply it by five. Les Stroud explains in his book, Survive, we often overestimate how much wood we need. Many of his students find themselves running out of wood before the end of the night. Even after gathering five times the amount.

Campfire Structures

Tepee/Cone

Tepee Fire

Lay your tinder in the base center then stack your kindling in a cone shape around it before lighting it. After your kindling-made cone is well-lit you can start stacking larger logs around it. Note the logs don’t have to be stacked in a cone shape once your fire is roaring. Once the fire’s lit, it’s normal for the kindling-tepee to collapse. You can alternate by placing your large logs around/top of the tepee.

Cabin

Cabin fire

Start off with two logs placed parallel to each other with a gap between them. Then you grab two more logs and stack them perpendicular on top of the base layer to form a square. Continue repeating this process until you have 3-4 layers of wood stacked. Lastly, you want to mix up your kindling and tinder and place it in the middle of the cabin, and across the top. Be sure to leave enough space for oxygen to come through.

Lean-To

lean-to fire

Set a large log at the edge of where your fire will be, this will be your windbreak. Next, lean your kindling across the log, leaving a small gap between the kindling and logs. Lastly, place your tinder between the gap and light your fire.

These are just a few out of the many structures you can build for yourself. Each one serves its own purpose. I suggest building each one as you get more comfortable with lighting fires. But, for now, I would recommend constructing a Tipi structure since it’s the easiest to construct.

Good Fire Starting Materials

When starting a fire, keep in mind there are varied options available. The most common of which are:

But keep in mind if you don’t have these 4 items, it doesn’t mean you can’t start a fire. There have been many cases of people improvising fire starters. Using things like a magnifying glass, to even a candy wrapper and pop can!

How to Put Out Your Fire

There’s nothing more important than starting a fire than putting it out. Always have some sort of extinguishing material before you start your fire in case things do go awry.

Simply have a bucket of water next to you should be enough. If you’re not close to a source of water you can substitute it with dirt/sand. If you’ve built an underground fire, re-bury your hole after you’re finished.

Remember, NEVER leave a fire unattended, and NEVER assume your fire will just go out on its own. Most forest fires happen due to the carelessness of putting out a fire. This can be prevented by just taking a little bit of pre-caution beforehand.