The Complete Guide to Campfires

Campfires are one of the best parts of camping. I love the smell, the sounds and the food we cook over them. But there is an art to building the perfect campfire; it takes a little practice and patience. So whether you are a newbie or seasoned camper, use this guide to hone your campfire building skills.
Here is an overview of what you can find in this guide:
  • Fire Starters: Most wood you buy at the campground doesn't come with kindling or the small fuel needed to start a fire. This section pulls together a good variety of DIY and pre-made fire starters. This is something to prepare before you leave for the campground. 
  • Choosing the Right Wood: This section covers the different types of wood generally sold as campfire wood. The type of wood greatly effects the easy of starting the fire and the length of time your fire will burn. 
  • Tools: If you don't show up with the right tools you will have a very hard time getting your campfire started. There aren't many but they are essential. Don't skimp here. 
  • Type of Campfire: There are different ways to set up the firewood for the initial lighting. This section introduces you to them. 
  • How To: This section offers some advanced tips for getting the perfect campfire. If you understand the science your likelihood of success increases.  
  • Safety: Last but certainly not least, planning for safety needs to start before arriving at the campsite. Especially if you are camping with kids. Safety should not be an afterthought. 

Fire Starters:

  • Pine Cone - These were some of the easiest I have made and they work very well. What made these so easy was not having to make wood chips. While there are easier starters to make, these are awesome because they burn longer and really give the wood time to catch. To make them I lined a muffin tin with liners, laid the wick along the bottom and hanging over the side, top with pine cone and fill with melted wax. You can use old candle nubs or buy candle wax from a craft store. Wax costs less than $5 a block and I have been able to make about 38 starters with it. 
  • Mini-Muffin Tin Starters from Skeedaddle.
    Photo Credit: Skeedaddle 
  • Recycled Materials Starter from Happy Trails Wild Tales.
    Photo Credit: Happy Trails Wild Tales
  • Waterproof Firestarters from Play Outside Guide. You can never go wrong having a few of these around. 
  • Simple, cheap tool for getting your fire started from Click over the check this one out. You won't be sorry. 
  • Kids Campfire Starter from One Through Time. 
  • Coghlans fire sticks or Emergency Tinder (aff. link). Don't feel like making your own. These actually work pretty well and won't break the bank. 

Choosing The Right Wood:

  • How to Pick Firewood. These are the very basics. If you have been camping before you most likely will not need to watch this. 
  • Softwood vs. Hardwood from Love The Outdoors. Be very patient if you are trying to start hardwood. But your hard work will pay off as the fire will generally burn longer and hotter. 
  • 7 Types of Firewood from Eagles Nest Outfitters. 


  • Hatchet (aff. link): I would recommend investing in a good hatchet. We had a cheap one for a couple years and it makes preparing the wood very annoying. 
  • Small Shovel (aff. link): We love the folding ones because they take up less space. But really any shovel will do. A shovel is essential for cleaning out the fire ring, if needed, and covering coals to ensure they are extinguished before you leave the campsite. 
  • Knife (aff. link): Essential for making the perfect kindling. My husband and I both have Gerber EVOs. We have had them for 8 years and they are still in great shape. 

Types Of Campfires:

How To:


  • Know campfire rules where you are camping!!! There are plenty of areas that don't allow fires or have burn bans during certain times of the year. 
  • DO NOT TRANSPORT FIREWOOD. Always buy at or near the campground. Firewood can transport tree-killing insects and diseases. Most don't move far on their own but they love hitching a ride on firewood. You can find more information at Don't Move Firewood
  • Set up rules a head of time. It is easier for my kids to obey if they hear the rules more than once before we arrive at the campground. 
  • How to put out a campfire
  • Five simple steps to campfire safety
Your turn. What are your campfire tips? 

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