Campfire Guide – Top Notch And Quick How Tos!

Having a campfire when you go camping is one of the most anticipated events. If you are like most people that live in the city, being able to start and nurture your own personal campfire is not an event that is overly common! It makes for a very enjoyable activity when you go camping then, but it’s also highly important. If you are camping in a region where the temperature is quite low then it might be out of necessity that you have a campfire burning. Of course, there are limitations on fire locations, fire sizes and sometimes even if you can have a campfire in the first place.

This is particularly the case in the hotter and dryer parts of the world. A campfire is also handy to cook food on. When you are camping there is nothing better than to do your cooking on the campfire. It saves your money in paying for gas, limits what you need to bring along and with a bit of skill and knowledge you will end up with something significantly better than if cooked on a gas stove. Of course, this is entirely dependent on your level of cooking skills!

Kids in particular love having campfires. In order to use them safely, quality camping lighters and education needs to be available. Campfire has potential to be incredibly dangerous, which is why you need to be educated. Knowing how to start a campfire correctly, put it out if required and to clean up after yourself are just a few of the vital skills for camping.

When starting a campfire, you are best to clear away anything at all that is flammable (within at least 3 foot). From there, you can dig a small hole, then start the campfire with paper and small branches. Avoid using rocks to surround the campfire as some will heat up and explode if enough heat is applied! The bigger the campfire the more land that needs to be cleaned.


Back To The Basics

Anyone can start a fire with matches or a lighter but how many of you can say you can start one with just friction? with a mirror? Well I guess I can offer one piece of advice for those of you who want to go the easy route; air flow is key.I’m only going to cover two methods of friction based fire starting; The Hand Drill and the Bow Drill. Friction fire starting is the hardest of the non match, non lighter fire starting methods. It uses a stick you’ll need to spin (called the spindle) and a board you spin it on (called the fireboard). Cedar, willow, walnut and cypress make good sets. None of these are ideal for making a camping fire, unless of course, you’re really roughing it that weekend or are stranded in the wilderness.


Friction Methods


The Hand Drill: This method is the most difficult of the friction technique.

The first thing you do is build a tinder nest which will be used to catch the spark you’re about to create. Whatever you use needs to be dry whether it’s grass, wood or even a tampon. Next, cut a v-shaped notch into your fireboard and make a small depression right next to it. Place a piece of bark underneath the notch that will be used to catch the ember from the friction. Finally, place the spindle into the depression on your fireboard and start rolling the spindle between your hands. Keep pressure on the board and make sure the spindle is at least two feet long. Once you see a glowing ember, tap the fireboard to drop the ember onto the piece of bark then transfer the bark to your tinder nest and blow on it to start your campfire.


The Bow Drill: This method is by far the most efficient because it’s easier to maintain speed and pressure.

The first thing you need to get is a socket. The socket is used to put pressure on the other end of the spindle and it’s best to use a piece of wood or stone for this. You can use sap as a lubricant between the socket and spindle. Now make the bow. It should be about the length of your arm and be a flexible piece of wood with a curve. The string can be anything from a shoelace to a vine; it just needs to be something that won’t break. Now cut the v-shaped notch in the fireboard and place the tinder underneath it. Finally catch the spindle in the loop of the bow string, apply pressure to the socket, and start sawing back and forth. Keep sawing until you create an ember, then place it on the tender and start blowing to create the campfire.


Lens Methods


Traditional: Next I’ll be covering lens based methods. This is considered one of the easier matchless methods of campfire starting because all you need is a lens in order to focus the sunlight on a specific spot. Magnifying glasses and eyeglasses both work great for this. Adding water to the lens can intensify the beam. Angle the lens so that the sun is focused onto as small of an area as possible. Put your tinder under this spot and before you know it you’ll have a campfire going.


Balloon and Condoms: Another way to create a lens is to fill a balloon or condom with water and tie of the end. Don’t inflate it too big or it will distort the sun’s focal point. Squeeze the balloon until you get a shape that produces a circle of light. You can typically squeeze the condom in the middle to form to lenses. Hold one to two inches away from the tinder.


Flint & Steel: This is the best method and easiest to do. It’s always a good idea to have some good Swedish FireSteel on you at all times. If you don’t have a set you can always use quartzite and the steel blade of your pocket knife but you also need some char. Char is cloth that has been turned into charcoal which can hold a flame without bursting into flames. If you don’t have that any piece of dry tinder will do.

Grip the quartzite between your thumb and forefinger while having it hang out about two to three inches. Hold the char between your thumb and flint.Using the back of your knife blade strike the steel against the flint several times. Sparks will fly off and land on the char.Fold the char cloth up into the tinder nest and gently blow on it to start the flame.


Miscellaneous Methods – Ice: First things first you need to form the piece of ice into a lens and use it just the same way as mentioned above. Follow these steps to create the best lens possible using ice.

Clear water. Dirt will just filter the sun out and make it harder to focus a good beam of light.Use something else you might have on you (like a knife) to shape the lens. Thick in the center, narrow on the edges.Polish the lens with your hands. The heat will melt the ice so that you can get a nice, smooth finish.Use your ice lens to focus light on some tinder and get that campfire started.


Batteries and Steel Wool: This is an interesting but easy method. 9 volt batteries work the best here.

Stretch out the steel wool about six inches long and half an inch wide.While holding the steel wool in one hand and the battery in the other rub the side of the battery with the contacts on the wool. The wool will begin to glow and burn so gently blow on it.The wool will lose its flame quickly so transfer it to the tinder nest as fast as possible.


Soda Can and Chocolate Bar: The coolest method to use.

Rub the chocolate on the bottom of the soda can. The chocolate actually acts like a polish and will make the soda can shine like a mirror. Toothpaste can also be used if no chocolate is available.Sunlight will reflect off the bottom of the can like a parabolic mirror forming a single focal point like how a mirror telescope works.Point the bottom of the can towards the sun so that the light is aimed directly at the tinder. Place it about an inch away from the tinder to make this method work.


Basic Formulas

A basic formula for a campfire-starter uses a container that will burn, some tinder, and melted wax. Possible containers could be egg cartons, paper cupcake holders, condiment cups, paper cups, or any other similar container. Ideas for tinder to use include charcoal briquets (can use whole, or crush into smaller pieces), pine needles, dryer lint, sawdust, and wood chips or shavings (if you don’t have these, you can get them from a pet supply store, where they are sold as nesting material). Put the tinder in the containers and pour the melted wax over the tinder, or mix the tinder with the melted wax and then pour the mixture into the containers. Let cool and store (zip-lock bags can work well). When ready to use, place in campfire-pit, and light the container. You might also put a cotton string in the container before pouring wax in. The string will be like a candle wick that you can light. It should be easy to get your campfire going with these.

When melting wax, always use a double boiler to prevent the wax from getting too hot and bursting into flames. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a #10 tin can in a pot of water, with something to hold the can off the bottom (like the jar rings used in canning). Be very careful you pour the wax so that you don’t burn yourself or others. If using a #10 tin can, it may help to use pliers to create a spout.

You can also make campfire-starters by pouring melted wax over pinecones, or by rolling up 1 inch strips of newspaper, tying a string around, and dipping in melted wax.

Save your leftover candles to melt down to make campfire-starters, or you should be able to find paraffin wherever food canning supplies are sold.

Petroleum jelly (like Vaseline) can be used instead of wax to create campfire-starters. Roll 100% cotton balls in petroleum jelly until completely covered. Store in a zip-lock bag. When ready to use, take one ball and stretch it out, and light.

Browse our Camping List and Tips category for more camping related ideas and information of your interest to guarantee yourself a smooth camping experience!