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Essential Campfire Tips for Beginners

Photo by Dimensions via iStock

Spring is finally here, so it’s time to plan camping trips and get campfire tips!

If you’re new to the camping world, there’s a lot to consider, much to plan, and a lot of gear to pack. But rather than overwhelm you with all that, let’s focus on just one aspect of your camping adventure: building a campfire.

I could go into excruciating detail about all the types of campfires you can make, but instead, let’s focus on three very basic campfire tips to get you started.

Table of Contents

Campfire Tips: Get a Rock-Solid Tool for Building Campfires

forrest tool 1

 

First things first – you won’t always camp in locations where a fire ring is available, so you need a tool that not only helps you build a safe fire ring (more on that later) but also helps you chop wood, make kindling, and so forth. For me, there’s no better tool for these tasks than my Forrest Tool Company MAX Toolkit.

I really shouldn’t make the MAX Toolkit out to be just for fire-making because it is actually a multi-purpose tool that’s valuable for all kinds of overlanding and off-roading activities, from clearing debris on the trail to rescue and recovery efforts for your stuck vehicle to managing rain runoff so your tent stays dry.

forrest tool company max ax with sheath

The MAX Toolkit can serve so many purposes because it comes with eight different tools:

  • 3.5-lb Hudson Bay Ax Head with Striking Surface
  • Shovel
  • Pick
  • Broad Pick
  • Mattock Blade
  • Combination McLeod
  • Rake
  • Hoe Rake-Hoe Fastener

These tools are easily interchangeable with six lock pins to attach the tools to the 34-inch composite polyglass handle. The kit also comes with a Cordura carrying case and an embossed leather sheath.

forrest tool 5

Anyway, if you need to build your own fire pit, you can use the shovel, pick, broad pick, or mattock blade to do so. What’s more, you can use the 3.5-pound Hudson Bay Ax Head to chop wood of varying sizes for building a fire.

After you’ve enjoyed the fire and it’s time to turn in for the night, you can return to the MAX Toolkit for fire cleanup. Use the rake or hoe to spread the coals out before dousing them with water. Alternatively, you can use the shovel to cover the coals with dirt.

Like I said, it’s a complete fire-making and fire-management tool!

forrest tool max toolkit

I’ve had the MAX Toolkit for about a year now, and it’s proven to be one of the best tools I have in my overlanding kit. Get more details about my experiences with this tool in my complete MAX Toolkit review.

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Campfire Tips: Choose a Safe Spot for the Fire

A campfire and kindling sit next to a rock and drift wood covered beach with the mountains and colourful fall leaves

Photo by Shelley Wales via iStock

The first order of business when determining a safe spot for a fire is to know if fires are even allowed. If there’s a burn ban in place, there is no campfire for you.

But, if fires are allowed, you need to take a few moments to determine an area that allows for a nice fire without the danger of spreading to the surrounding area. You want your fire in a level, open area without overhanging branches, and you want the area surrounding your fire pit to be free of debris.

A good rule of thumb is to use a tool like the MAX Toolkit rake to clear an area about ten feet around the fire pit. This will help prevent embers and sparks from igniting dead materials on the ground.

Once a safe spot is determined, it’s time to build the fire pit. Use a shovel or hoe to dig down past the topsoil to create a nice bowl for the fire to sit in. Gather large rocks to serve as the fire ring to prevent the fire from spreading. Now you’re ready to build a fire!

Campfire Tips: Gather the Appropriate Fire-Making Materials

Campfire by a lake

Photo by Ian Mumblo via iStock

You need more than big chunks of wood to build a campfire that actually takes off and can be sustained over a long period of time. That means taking time to gather the appropriate materials for starting your fire. 

There’s a variety of materials you’ll need to give yourself the best base for starting a fire:

  • Tinder – Think of tinder as the initial fuel of the fire. It’s small, flammable, and holds the initial flame long enough to spread to the other material in the fire pit. Dry leaves,  grass, and pine needles are typically easy to find around camp. If not, you can use facial tissue, paper towel, or dryer lint (if you think to bring some).
  • Kindling – Kindling is the middleman between tinder and firewood because it’s larger than tinder but smaller than firewood. Where tinder catches fire easily and flames out quickly, kindling holds its flame longer due to its larger size. Small twigs, pine cones, and tree bark are good examples of kindling. You can also use your MAX Toolkit to chop large pieces of wood into small, thin strips to serve as kindling.
  • Firewood – The largest component of your campfire materials is the firewood itself. This is what sustains the fire over the course of the evening and allows you to hang out by the fire and enjoy it. Gathering firewood is permitted in some areas but not others, so check local regulations before you grab your ax and start chopping!

Young man using axe to chop some wood for the campfire.

Photo by ArtistGNDphotography via iStock

Now the question is how to combine all this material to get the fire going…

Start with a nice layer of tinder. Don’t skimp here – remember that tinder burns quickly, so pile it on! Next, put a layer of kindling on top of the tinder. Again, don’t skimp here. Add a healthy amount of kindling that can catch fire as the tinder burns, and have plenty of kindling and firewood on hand to add to the fire once it’s going.

Male hand starts fire with magnesium fire steel, fire striker

Photo by klyots via iStock

You can use any number of methods to get the fire going – lighter fluid and matches, flint, store-bought firestarters – whatever you like best is what you should go with!

Once the fire starts, begin adding firewood. Don’t get too wild yet, though. You want the fire to have a chance to get a nice flame before you bury it with a ton of wood. Add a couple of pieces of firewood and let them catch fire, then continue feeding the fire as long as you want to hang out and enjoy the flames.

Campfire Tips: Final Thoughts

Man starts fire with magnesium fire steel, fire striker

Photo by klyots via iStock

A campfire is one of the best parts of camping. It’s a way to cook food, stay warm, and it facilitates storytelling and camaraderie with your family and friends. What’s not to like?

Of course, fire can be dangerous, so taking the necessary precautions is paramount to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. The last thing you want to do is ignite a forest fire, so follow these simple campfire tips and keep your fire in your fire pit where it belongs!

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