How to Start a Fire for Camping: Six Survival Fire Lays

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how to start a fire for camping

Planning your next camping trip? Here’s how to start a fire for camping. With these six survival fire lays, you’ll be able to create the best fire for whatever situation you may face. Whether you’re looking for a quick easy cooking fire, a fire that will burn all night or if you need to hide your fire from sight, we’ve got you covered.

Most Common Types of Campfires

The Teepee

This is probably the most popular basic fire design. A Teepee fire is built just as it sounds. Gather your tinder and kindling. Once the tinder is burning, place the kindling in a teepee-shaped cone around it. As the fire grows stronger, continue to place progressively larger sticks and pieces of wood on the fire in the same pattern. This open pattern creates good airflow to the fire and is easy to build and maintain. Once the fire is burning well, lay larger sticks or logs on all four sides of the fire to make a square base.

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The Hunter fire lay is similar to the teepee except for the logs surrounding it. In the hunter fire, use two long logs in a V shape around the fire. This helps to direct the heat and protect the fire from windy conditions. You can also create a Hunter fire lay with stones or natural land formations.

However, if using stones make sure that they are dry and non-porous. Wet and porous rocks may explode when heated causing possible injury.

The Trench or Boot Heel Stove

The Trench or Boot Heel Stove fire lay is a quick and easy small fire lay. It uses very little fuel, is useful for heating a quick meal and is easy to cover up afterward, leaving little or no trace.

Make a trench about 6” deep by 12” long and a few inches wide. It can be dug out with a stick or a boot heel (hence the name). Use the dirt to build up the sides of the trench. Line the bottom of the trench with sticks to protect the fire from any damp ground and produce a good bed of coals. Build the fire. Once coals cover the bottom of the trench, place a cooking pot over it and its ready to cook.

Not only does this creates a very hot and quick cook stove, but it’s also a great option if you didn’t pack a grill. Once you are done, simply put the fire out, bury the ashes and cover it over with forest debris.

Long Burning Types of Campfires

 The Long Log

If you need to create a fire that will burn all night and provide warmth in colder weather, then try the Long Log fire lay.

With a stick or shovel, dig out a shallow depression about 6’ long or as long as you are tall. Build a fire that fills the full length of the depression. Once there is a strong, steady fire with a good bed of coals, put two long logs on top of the fire. The fire should then burn all night.

Place your sleeping bag alongside the fire, but far enough away that it won’t catch fire accidentally. If you naturally toss and turn or roll around in your sleep, this may not be your best option.

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Hidden Types of Campfires

The Dakota Fire Hole

The Dakota Fire Hole is a good fire lay to use to create a hidden fire. When built correctly, the flames are hidden from sight. However, depending on the fuel you use, you may still have smoke.

To create the Dakota Fire Hole, dig two separate holes within 12-16” of each other. Dig a large hole for the fire itself and a smaller hole for what will become the chimney. Then, carefully dig out a tunnel between them. The tunnel itself doesn’t need to be very large, just large enough to draw the smoke through.

Build your fire in the larger hole and place the cooking pot over it at ground level. The smoke is then drawn through the tunnel and to the chimney, keeping the flames hidden underground.

It may take a bit of practice to make this work effectively. If you plan to use this in a stealth situation, you may want to practice it first in both day and night conditions.

The Snake Hole

The Snake Hole is a variation of the Dakota Fire Hole.

In the snake hole fire lay, dig a hole in the side of hill or creek bank. Make it large enough to build a small fire inside and about 12” from the surface of the ground. From the top, poke a stick down to the main hole creating a small chimney. Build the fire inside.

The snake hole fire lay is useful in rainy or windy weather and creates a very hot fire good for cooking or heating a quick meal.

Make sure to dig it deep enough from the surface of the ground so that the top of the hole doesn’t collapse into your cook pot. This can be a major drawback in sandy ground.

Here’s how to start a fire for camping. Just try out these six types of campfires. You’ll be prepared for everything from staying warm all night to cooking a quick hot meal. You’ll even know how to create fires that use little fuel or are easy to hide from prying eyes.

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