We get a lot of enjoyment out of making and using campfires as part of our outdoor experiences. It adds an extra sense of adventure to our outdoor trips, whether hiking, camping, or just visiting a beach to play, and in the cooler months it makes our meal break a very cosy one. I haven’t always been happy with fires though and learnt a lot through forest school back in the UK before we moved here. Since then I have tried to carry on the experience of eating by a fire as the children loved it. I have learnt a lot over the last 12 months and I thought I might share some basics and tips to help you get started, or give you more confidence if you are new to it.
How To Build A Campfire:
- You will need some supplies first! This is what we use with a lot of success: Newspaper, cotton wool, Vaseline, tiny kindling (very small twigs, or we prefer silver birch bark we have shredded), bigger sticks (thumb width), and larger wrist sized logs. Don’t forget to sign up – you will then get the password to access our freebies page, and you can see what is in our fire starting kit!
- Build a tepee like structure: Small amount of newspaper in the middle, with some cotton wool on top (that has a bit of Vaseline on – this helps light the fire). Then place the kindling around that in a tepee shape, then the larger sticks around that, and then the bigger logs around that.
- Our stacking system: This is a system we use very effectively for our campfires so you could give it a go too. It doesn’t go so high as a tepee structure so is easier to pop a grill over to cook on. We place the smaller sticks in a crisscross square shape, placing a loosely crumpled piece of newspaper and cotton wool with Vaseline on in the middle. Then place a larger log across the top of the stack.
- Once the fire is lit, make sure you top up the fuel before the flames die right down to get it really going at first. If it dies down too much, you need to try blowing under at the glowing embers to get the flames going again. Once it has calmed down a little you are ready to cook on it 🙂
How To Put Out Campfires:
- Never leave a campfire before it is fully out as it may harm the environment and wildlife.
- Let the firewood all burn down to ash, and spread the ash and embers out a little
- Gently pour on some water slowly. We carry extra water for this, to make sure we can always put our fires out. Or if we are by water we take a bucket with us.
- Mix the embers up with a stick, allowing the water to infiltrate more, and bring anything that is still glowing and alight underneath to the surface to be dowsed with water.
- Pour on a little more water; you will hear hissing doing this and produce smokey steam (watch where you are standing!).
- Again use a stick to spread the embers out and stir water in.
- Keep repeating until you are confident nothing is still alight/glowing.
Some Rules For Campfires:
- Use fire pits where you can, or carry a lightweight and portable stove with you. By using provided fire pits, or carrying your own stove, you are helping to protect the habitat of creatures in the area that you have decided to cook in, plus reduced the risk of fire spreading.
- You need to consider any fire dangers for the time of year (e.g. is it very dry?) and bear in mind any local restrictions. You don’t want to spread your fire.
- Take only wood from the ground, never from the trees, and gather it from a wide area. You don’t want to remove everything from one small area as it has a job to perform in the ecosystem providing nutrients and habitats.
- Allow your wood to burn completely down to ash, and then spread them out when you are extinguishing your fire.
- Put out a fire with water not dirt,
- Avoid building your fire on rocks as it will scar them. Also, if near coastal water that covers them after you’ve been and gone, when the water rapidly cools the rocks it may cause them to crack.
- Never leave your fire unattended, it is a fire risk and a hazard to any inquisitive animals.
- If you have moved any rocks, for example to make a bit of a wind break, make sure you return them to where they were.
- Make sure you take all your rubbish home again, to avoid harming animals and the countryside.
I hope these tips will help you to either give campfires a go if you haven’t before, or help you get more confidence if you are a newbie. They really add to the outdoor experience and are so cosy to be around. They also help teach children basic bush craft and outdoor skills (whether that be lighting a fire, looking after a fire, or thinking about nature and the environment when using a fire). However, they must be made and used responsibly and always thinking about safety and nature. Don’t forget to check out our outdoor cooking recipes for inspiration for what to cook on your campfire!! We have lots of ideas both savoury and sweet, so go take a browse and enjoy them 🙂