Home Camping Tips What to Do When Your Campfire Won’t Start?
What to Do When Your Campfire Won’t Start?

5 min

September 8, 2023

Ah, the great outdoors! Fresh air, beautiful views, and… a campfire that won’t start. Are you puffing, sweating, and swearing at a pile of logs that seems to have taken a personal vendetta against you? Lucky for you, we’re here to turn your campfire calamity into a hot, crackling success!

Step 1: It’s Not You, It’s the Wood

As much as it’s tempting to blame yourself, your campfire issues might be down to your choice of wood. Forget the glistening, moss-covered logs that look like they’re straight out of a fairytale. 

They’re soaked with moisture and about as flammable as a brick. Opt instead for dry, seasoned wood. You’ll know it’s good if it sounds hollow when you tap two logs together and it’s light for its size.

Step 2: Tinder, Kindling, Fuel: The Holy Trinity of Fire-Making

No, we’re not suggesting you swipe right on a pile of leaves. Tinder, in camping terms, refers to small, easily ignitable materials such as dry leaves, grass, or paper. 

Next, you’ll need kindling – small twigs and branches, the middle-grounders of fire-building. Lastly, your fuel wood is the heavyweight that keeps the fire burning long into the night.

Step 3: Structure Matters

Here’s where a bit of childhood Lego skills come in handy. Your campfire needs architecture. Let’s explore a couple of designs.

  • Teepee: Ideal for quick heat, arrange your tinder and kindling in a cone shape, then lean larger pieces of wood against it. Once it’s burning well, add more wood.
  • Log Cabin: Perfect for a longer-lasting, more stable fire. Place two larger pieces of wood parallel to each other, add a layer of kindling, then add two more logs on top perpendicular to the first two, creating a square. Add your tinder in the center.

Step 4: Remember, Fire is a Picky Eater

Fire likes its meals served in a particular order: Tinder first, then kindling, then fuel. Imagine trying to eat a watermelon whole; it’s just as ridiculous to expect a flame to consume a log without any warm up.

Step 5: The Invisible Hero: Oxygen

Oxygen is the silent player in your fire-starting game. No oxygen, no fire. It’s as simple as that. Make sure your fire structure allows for good airflow. And when you’re trying to get that flame going, gentle, consistent blowing can work wonders.

Step 6: Cheat a Little (We Won’t Tell)

Nature purists, shield your eyes. From fire starter sticks to compact blowers, there’s no shame in having a bit of help. A particularly nifty gadget is a reliable fire starter made from eco-friendly, non-toxic materials.

Step 7: Fire Loves You, Show Some Love Back

Once you have your fire going, it needs a bit of TLC to keep it alive. Regularly add wood to keep the fire burning, and remember: a well-fed fire is a happy fire.

Step 8: Safety

Enjoy your roaring success, but remember, safety first. The USDA reports that 85% of wildfires in the U.S. are caused by humans. Ensure you fully extinguish your fire when you’re done, leaving no trace.

If you’re reading this in front of a pile of cold logs, don’t lose hope. Fire-making is an art and a science, and now you’re equipped with the best of both. Here’s to a camping trip lit with the warm, victorious glow of a campfire that YOU started.

Good luck. Until then, may the forest be with you!

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