Making a campfire like a boy scout

Making your own fire is an invaluable skill for any survival situation (or for when you need a fire in an emergency situation and do not have any traditional fire starter kits or tools (matches, lighter, etc).  It is important that you choose a good location for your fire, as you do not want to create yet another disaster.  It is suggested that you choose a location for your fire that is at least 10 feet (3 meters) from your camping location (includes all tents and camping gear, people, etc), and the same distance from any overhanging limbs or branches.  The last thing you want to do is start a bigger fire than you planned!  

Learn how to make your own campfire

It is best to choose a flat location which will be easy for you to dig your pit so that your fire can sit in a couple inches deep (i.e. you do not want to pick a rocky location or hard surface which makes it harder for you to break the Earth and dig, which means even tree roots can cause problems).  Steer extra far clear of green Pine trees, as they are especially flammable! 

Now it is time to clear a space for your fire pit approximately 3 feet by 3 feet in size and dig a couple of inches deep (although you will be clearing a square of leaves and debris, you should be digging a circular shape within the square).  The next step in building a fire and making it safe is creating a circle of rocks.  The circle of rocks should be aligned around the ring of your circle, this is to prevent any high rising flames from spreading outside of your designated fire pit. Picking the right rocks is important as well. You will want to pick rocks which are not near a water source, as any rocks saturated with water can build up pressure and cause a dangerous explosion.  Pick rocks which are smaller than a melon, but larger than twice the size of your fist. You want enough rocks to where they complete the entire circle and are no more than 2 inches apart.


Good Advice: Always have a fire control plan by your side, just in case! This can be as simple as a bucket of water and a shovel (to cover the fire with dirt more quickly).  And remember to scale your fire control plan: the larger the fire you are planning, the greater the control plan you will require!

Time to gather some firewood and kindling! This means collecting dry wood and fallen branches (taking wood from live trees will not work. It is suggested to separate your wood into three piles, (a) kindle (twigs and small diameter sticks), (b) larger branches and sticks, and (c) firewood, pieces from fallen trees and any large wood you can find.  Find some bark  to use as fire starter, dead bark or birch bark works great for this. You will also want to gather some dead leaves, pine needles or straw , a couple handfuls to help create a balanced layer of fire starter.

Tip: Sometimes you can find fallen branches which have gotten stuck in the treetops and canopies, still easy to retrieve.  As long as they have been dead for a couple of days, it will work great!

Warning: Some parks and national camp grounds do not allow the gathering of fallen branches and wood to be burned, as it takes away from the natural ecosystem.

Building your Campfire

A good Flint and Steel Kit for starting firesCreate a traditional teepee shaped pile of kindle and firewood in the center of your fire pit. Some people refer to this step as the firewood pyramid. This is done by leaning pieces of wood and kindle against each other to form a triangular shaped pyramid. It is best to use a consistent pattern, such as alternatively “criss-crossing” twigs to create a stable build. Be sure to leave enough space for air to reach all parts of the kindle and firewood, even those pieces buried in the bottom (therefore it must be a loose fitting arrangement). Include any paper scrapes, dry plant matter, wood shavings or any other small, flammable, non-chemical, fire starting material. Be sure to drape all of your fire starter as a layer in and throughout the firewood pyramid, with one piece of dried bark or fire starter material at the base of a kindle stick for lighting. You do not need to overdo the pile; in fact, you should add medium sized sticks and more kindle as the fire has begun burning, with the idea being: these smaller pieces continue the fire while the bigger firewood takes a little longer to begin burning. The objective of using smaller pieces and kindle is always to get the larger firewood lit.


[method] How to Start a Fire without Matches or a Lighter

Use your tinder pile to get the spark to ignite the fireThere are a few different methods for starting the actual fire without any matches or using a lighter. If you are in a situation where you have no quick method to start a fire and it’s up to you to make a fire for cooking, water purification or any other emergency situation, you should know how to start a fire with at least one of these methods. It may be a good idea to learn more than one method, as you never know when an unknown element will prevent you from using one of them (too much wind, too much water, etc.).


[method] How to start a fire using the Hand Drill

Using the hand drill method to start a fire is very laborious, takes great patience and is often considered one of the harder friction-based methods. It is also considered the most primitive, very basic and rather “old school”, however, it is still effective in most situations, so it is an absolute must learn! For starters, you will want to build a small nest which is often referred to as a “tinder nest”, out of hay, straw, dried grass or leaves, or pretty much anything that will catch fire with little effort. You will not need a plank of wood, something that will also burn easily and is dry, nothing made of particle board, or chemical treated. Cut a V shaped notch into the board and position the tinder nest in the middle of the V notch. The bark goes underneath the tinder/board, or whatever other fire starter you have chosen to use which is a little more durable than tinder. Create an indentation, a small depression, about half an inch from the point of the V notch. Now it is time to spin and create the friction necessary to start the fire. Find a stick to use for your spindle, it is suggested that you use a stick approximately 2 feet long as it will make your spinning more effective. One of the most important parts of starting embers from the friction method is to maintain steady pressure and a consistent spin. Start with your hands at the top of the stick, and spin back and forth, working down the spindle; and as you reach the bottom of the spindle, move your hands back up to the top and repeat. Being quick is important, but being consistent and not stopping is most important! As you see embers forming on the fireboard (the wood plank you are using), tap the board lightly to get your embers to drop into the tinder next, and lightly blow on your embers to ignite the tinder nest!

[method] How to start a fire using Flint and Steel

Using Flint and Steel you can start a fire even in the rainAnother reliable method from the past, and always a good idea to have around is a pair of flint and steel. Even if the conditions and circumstances are wet, you can still get a spark from your flint and steel! There are some things which can be substituted if you are in a tight spot and do not have flint, you can use your pocket knife, or anything else made of steel to strike quartzite. As you are striking and generating the sparks, you will want to keep it close to a tinder pile and quickly introduce your bark or other fire starting material. Dried plant matter or fungi also will work. There is also a special cloth made from charcoal called “char” sometimes called “char cloth”, which is especially helpful in this method if you happen to have some. Always be sure to lightly blow on any embers you produce immediately in the tinder nest in order to avoid missing the earliest opportunity to get your fire started!

This is a really nice quality Emergency Flint and Steel Fire Starting Kit on Amazon: Gerber Bear Grylls Fire Starter [31-000699]


[method] Batteries and Steel Wool

Batteries and steel wool work AMAZING for starting fires! All you need is at least a 6 inch by ½ inch strip of steel wool and a 9V battery. To start the fire, you will want to stretch the steel wool out, and gently rub the 9V battery contacts on the center of the wool. You will see the wool glow and then burn. Like the previous methods, it is still important to rather quickly introduce the flame to your tinder pile, and also blow to provide the flames a steady flow of oxygen.

Check out some high quality Steel Wool on Amazon: Red Devil 0320 8-Pack Steel Wool, 0000 Super Fine

[method] How to start a fire using lenses (lens fire starting)

Lenses make starting fire a little less laborious, as they do most of the work themselves. However, setting up a lens properly does require some knowhow, and of course, the lens. Fortunately, lenses can be made and attained from many sources…even in tight situations you can create a lens from some pretty unique items. Using any lens method does require the sun needs to be available in order to start your fire. If you happen to have a traditional lens, from eye glasses or binoculars for example, adding a little water to the lens and angling it to direct its beam upon your tinder nest will get your fire started.

Many things can be turned into lenses in order to use the sun to start a fireIf you do not have a traditional lens, you can use a number of objects to create a lens and reflect the sunlight into an intensified beam. If you have a condom or a balloon, you can fill it with water and use this as a lens (keep it round and sphere-shaped so the light beam as small and circular as possible). It is easy to hang this lens and angle it’s light beam to the tinder nest.

Many people have started their fire using a coke can (or similar soda can) and a chocolate bar. The bottom of the soda can will be used to redirect the focused sunlight. Chocolate can be used as a lens polish. If you do not have a chocolate bar, toothpaste also works! Use your chocolate or toothpaste to “shine and polish” the bottom of the soda can. The bottom of the can is then used as a parabolic mirror and reflects the sunlight into one focused point, which you should angle to be your tinder nest. This will work very quickly, usually only after a few seconds when it is done correctly. Always remember to blow and keep your flame alive and really get the fire going!

Another great lens you might be able to fine is ice. Yes, ice can actually be used to start a fire. In order to make your fire from ice, shape the ice as close to a lens as you can, approximately 2-3 inches in thickness. If you do not have ice already made which you can chip into shape, you can make your own ice if possible, and create a mold out of clay or mud, for the perfect lens-shape. You can rub the ice lens with your hands for a few seconds to polish it for maximum light intensifying ability. Assuming it is cold outside, this method will work very easily, however, be warned that it is much harder to make fire from ice when it is hot outside. Also, it is important you use clean water, as dirty or cloudy ice will not allow the ice to act as a proper lens and you will not be able to make your fire from ice.


Practice until you are proficient in at least 2 of these methods for creating a fire without matches or a lighter, as they will help you in any survival situation!

Tip: Air is an important ingredient in your fire! If your fire does not get enough air, it will “suffocate” and not spread to other kindle and firewood. Not having enough air is the leading cause for fire-starting failure.

Remember: Do not forget to extinguish all of the remainder of your fire when you are done, and never leave a campfire unattended, even for a few moments, and even if it is only ember. Distinguish of all ember when you are done.

Every survivalist should know how to build a fire without matches or a lighter!

Tags: learn how to make a fire in the woods, emergency fire starting guide, starting a fire for emergencies, how to start a fire in the wilderness, starting a campfire, how to make a campfire yourself, how to start a campfire

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