Essential Campfire Skill

by Matt Chenier
(Kelso WA)

On all the camping trips I go on, I am always deemed the fire starter because of some essentials I have learned working with my father as a kid. No I am not the best, but there are some simple essentials I thought would be listed.

Always remember the three essentials of fire. Heat, Fuel, and Oxygen.

You can't put too much fuel on the fire. The key is to make sure you don't restrict oxygen. The more wood on the fire, the more heat gets trapped and the dryer the wood on top gets.

Heat rises. Don't light the top of a pile of wood (or fuel), light the bottom and let it burn up. Put your most flammable fuel on the bottom and middle of the pile

Don't fear the wind, it can be your friend. Light your pile of wood on the side the wind is coming from. This will blow the flames and heat into the rest of the pile. More wind = more oxygen.

Almost everything will burn. You just have to get the fire hot enough. Don't worry about building a big fire, just build a hot fire. If you get one "hot spot" you can put a water logged redwood stump on it and it will burn.

Dirt is one exception to the previous tip. Knock off as much dirt as possible from anything you burn.

Usually leaves and fir cones aren't all they are rumored to be. They generally don't burn that well, unless they are extremely dry and papery. Even at that, leaves usually just restrict oxygen, and they don't produce coals.

No matter how wet and green they are, fir needles will burn well. The problem is, they don't really produce coals and won't grow the fire bigger very well. It does at least keep the fire going through while you are waiting for water-logged wood to dry out and burn into coals.

Coals are the goal, not flames.

If it's wet or raining, put every piece of wood you have around the fire. This will dry the wood out, even if you don't need it.

Never start the fire until you have all the wood you need for the next 5 minutes of burning. You don't want to chase wood while your fire needs attention. Shaving wood with a knife is extremely useful. If your fire is struggling, throw some shavings on the parts that are burning.

When conditions are poor, you can't just light your fire and back away. Be prepared to give full attention to your fire for quite a while. It can take up to an hour to get a good fire in really poor conditions.

Picking lint off your socks will give you a surprisingly flammable pile of tinder. You can usually find dry small twigs close to the base of a large tree no matter how wet or rainy it is. Fire is a science, once you understand the rules, you can do it every time.

Most importantly, SMOKE DOES NOT FOLLOW BEAUTY. It goes to the place where the wind blows it and will follow you around the fire as you block the wind. In other words, smoke follows SIZE!!!

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More tips
by: Anonymous

I am a strong advocate of the cotton wool and vaseline method. I sandwich blobs of vaseline between two balls of cotton wool and just keep a few in a ziplock bag in my tin. They squish up very small. Lighting with a flint and steel is easy. They burn for about a minute.

A good test for twigs is to try and snap them, if they don't crack they are no good for kindling.

Digging a small trench in the ground pointing upwind and building your fire over this on a grate of twigs helps feed oxygen to the base and makes lighting easier.

the best tinder ever
by: Arris

Although I always look around for suitable tinder the best to have with you is the humble tampon. It is packed waterproof and takes a spark like nothing else. Small, cheap, perfect.


I always carry a small supply of alcohol wipes and a striker in one of pockets. Makes it very easy start a flame and takes up a minimal amount of space or weight.

Great tips adn advices
by: Nick

Thanks for a good article!

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