How to start a fire

How to start a fire

How To Start A Fire

Having an open fire is one of the best thing about camping.  Anyone who camps will eventually want a campfire.  However many people don’t know how to properly start a fire. Everyone will eventually watch as someone struggles to start to a fire.  If you know how to start a fire you won’t be one of them.

To start a fire you’ll need some sort of heat source that will get you a flame, kindling, and wood.  Starting a fire is really all about growing a flame without putting it out in the process.  Always start small,  putting to much wood on a fire too quickly will put it out.  Get your kindling in a very small pile, light it on fire and then slowly add more material as the flames get bigger.

Heat Source


Matches are one of the best ways to lights a fire.  Many people strive to light a roaring fire with only one match.  It can be done once you learn how to start a fire.  There are two basic kinds of matches. Strike anywhere  and safety matches.  Strike Anywhere matches live up to their name you can light them off any rough surface.  For years men have been using their pants zipper to light these matches.  If you are really talented you can use your teeth although it’s not suggested.   Safety Matches (strike on box) require that you have use a specific strip to light the match on.   Either type of matches you use will work for starting a fire.  The best part of using a match is that you can place them where you want and they will burn for a few seconds.  This makes it easier to get your fire light without burning you fingers.


Most lighters are the disposable kind that are filled with butane.  This lighters are great for starting a fire, because they allow you to have a strong for as long as you need.  However caution should be taken as to not burn your fingers.  If you leave a lighter burning long enough they will get hot.  A grill lighter can help avoid burning your hand. They have a long tip to them thus keeping your hand away from the flame.  The only down side to these grill lighters is they take up more space when you pack.  Unlike the grill lighters a BIC lighter is small and can easily fit in your pocket so you always have a lighter when you need one.  There is one other type of popular lighter.  They are also more expensive than the other lighters so when you then hot and drop them in a fire it’s frustrating.  However any one that’s ever dropped one in a fire can tell you they most likely will work again if you do it.  They just never look the same.

Other Heat Sources

If you can’t get a hold of a lighter there are other ways of getting fire.  The easiest is using steel wool and a 9V battery.  When you short a 9V battery into steel wool it will get very hot so you can start your kindling on fire.  This works great even in winding conditions.  A Magnesium striker will also work for getting sparks that help you start a fire.  If all else fails you can try to rub two very dry sticks together.  Although many people have tried this method and very few have succeeded.  It’s best tried with a bow drill.  Where you have a stick that you tie a rope around like a bow and then you wrap the string once around another stick.  This makes it easy to move the bow back and forth spinning the stick against another piece of wood and with enough time and friction you can get enough heat to start a fire.  This method takes lots of patience and skill.  Most people don’t have enough of either to start a fire.


Fire starters

Fires Starters are one of the best ways to get a fire started.  They can be homemade or store bought.  Either way they are basically the same.  Some sort of tinder with a waxy coating.  The reason these work great is that they burn a long time giving you a chance to get bigger pieces of wood and branches started on fire,


Newspaper used to be a great from a kindling.  However since people have chosen to go paperless, it’s harder to find. If you want raid a local recycle bin before you go camping grab a few newspapers, avoiding color ads since they don’t burn well.  With any kind of paper crumble it up and start a corner burning.  Be careful about using too much paper in windy days because it will create flying embers that could start fires where you don’t want.

Plant Tinder

You can use all sorts of dead plants as tinder.  Dried try bark is great.  Make sure it’s very dry and peels off the dead tree or is already on the ground.  You can also use dried leaves, and dead grass.  Pine cones make good tinder also but they burn very fast.  Small sticks and are good also.


If you can’t find anything else to burn as kindling you can take small branches and feather them with your pocket knife.  What you want to do is use your knife to cut into the branch like you where whittling it down but stop just before you cut the piece off.  If you do this all around the branch a bunch of times it will look sort of like a feather.  Hence the name.  These small pieces of cut wood shaving will catch fire quickly and help the branch start fire.

Starting the Fire

Now that you have all the material you need to start a fire you get to decide how you want to lay it out.  There are 3 basic ways to lay out your fire.  The Lean-to, Tee Pee,  and the Log Cabin. All of these are basic lay outs and while eventually burn down or fall over.  Once you have a good burning fire you don’t have to worry about what style of fire you started with you can just keep adding logs however you want to keep the fire going.

Lean To

Lean To FIreThe lean to fire is one of the simplest ways to build start a fire.  You take a log and lay it in your fire pit.  Then start your tinder on fire next to the log.  As your tinder starts burning you place kindling across your tinder leaning on the log.  As the kindling starts burning you can gradually place bigger branches and logs against the first log.  Of course making sure that you don’t try to put to much on at once and smother the fire out.  If the tinder starts to burn out before you kindling catches fire you can put some more tinder under the kindling.  Just make sure that you don’t add to much as once.  As it will smoother the fire.  Building a fire is all about patience.

Tee Pee

Tee Pee FireA Tee Pee fire is just like it sounds.  You place your tinder in the center than place small longer twigs around it in a Tee Pee.   Make sure you leave yourself room to light your tinder on fire.  Also make sure that you keep the twigs roughly the same size because otherwise you’ll have some catch fire and burn first allowing the others to fall over.  The problem with your Tee Pee falling over is that it can smoother you fire out causing you to have to start over.

Log Cabin

Log Cabin FIreThe Log Cabin fire is a simple way of laying your fire out like you would a square log cabin.  As you build up you close it in a bit each layer.  Then you put you tinder and kindling in the center and light it.  This works great for windier conditions.  Plus you have less chance of something falling over and smothering you fire out.  The great thing is that it allows air to flow threw you fire and catch the top logs on fire faster.

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