Probably the most coveted of camping roles, building the fire is also a skill humankind has had to learn since the beginning of time. Why then are we still debating the question: “what’s the best way to build a fire”?
When we asked around the campground this summer we got so many answers, too many, in fact. Which raises the question, why are there so many ways? And which is the ultimate way to architecturally create, compose, or build the absolute best campfire possible? We’ve picked three.
Ah, the log cabin. Probably the most camper-friendly of the fires and the one I’ve used most often when out becoming one with nature. Why it’s great? The log cabin definitely provides the most air-flow (super important I seem to remember), and a sturdy structure unlikely to collapse early in the fire-building process.
Helpful hints: Use large dry logs at the base, build up to smaller logs/sticks. Stuff fire-starter (dryer lint works great for this) in the middle. Light from all sides.
Likely the campfire type we all learned first, the teepee is still a coveted “go-to” for many campers today. Why it’s great? I honestly don’t know. If one can actually get the thing to stand upright for long enough to light, it invariably collapses soon after, leaving you with a pile of smoldering sticks (the Random Pile Campfire).
Helpful hints: Start with a pile of fire-starter (see above) and place larger logs together first, followed by smaller, lighter logs/sticks. Sprinkle a little “old man’s beard” (dry moss), to enhance fire-starting ability, scent and esthetics. Light from all sides. Good luck!
The Combo is for those agnostic types who have tried everything under the moon, have had equal success with the previously mentioned two types, and really just want a nice big fire, and fast. For The Combo, build your log cabin relatively wide and with kindling in the centre. Add a roof. Then on top of the roof, build a teepee, also with kindling in the centre. Voila! (or should we say, Poof!) Why it’s great? It works!
Helpful hints: Use super dry, hardwood such as Ash or Oak or risk looking inferior compared to your neighbour’s roaring inferno. Stay away from Poplar or Douglas Fir. And be patient, great fires come to those who wait.
The Lean-To (sketchy at best)
The Pyramid (tapered log cabin)
The Random Pile (not recommended at all)
David Wald is an “occasional camper” and has experimented with fire ever since he was six. He currently runs Social Sesame Inc., a social media marketing company in Calgary, and helps us produce our annual Bucars Magazine.