Adventure Guide: How To Build a Campfire

Splashway Campground - Marshmallow Roasting

Every camper should know how to build a campfire! How would you make delicious s’mores otherwise? When you’re camping at Splashway, building a campfire can be done in just a few easy steps using our fire rings (which can be found at every campsite!) There are 3 key steps to this process: choosing wood, building your fire, and, finally, lighting it.

Step 1: Gathering Wood

Did you know there are actually 3 types of wood you’ll need to build a roaring campfire? You’ll need tinder, kindling, and firewood. What’s the difference?

  • Tinder is material that easily catches fire. This will help you start your flame. For tinder, you can gather up small twigs, leaves, or wood shavings, or you can use other things like wadded paper, cardboard strips, dryer lint, and even Doritos!
  • Kindling is going to nourish your flame until it’s ready to take on the big logs. Tinder burns really quickly, so you’ll need things like small sticks or smaller pieces of logwood that are about the size of a pencil. You can also use commercial fire sticks or firestarters if finding proper kindling is too tricky.
  • Firewood is the final type of wood you’ll need to build your fire. Now that you’ve built up your flame, you’re ready to take on the big logs! Most campsites, like Splashway, have bundles of firewood available for purchase, so no need to pack your lumberjack gear.

Step 2: Building Your Campfire

Now that you have all 3 types of wood prepped and ready, it’s time to build your fire! Before you start piling everything together, remember there is a method to the madness. We recommend choosing 1 of the 2 following methods.

  • Teepee or Cone Fire: This is a good method if you plan to cook over your campfire. Start by placing a pile of your tinder in the center of your fire ring and arranging your kindling like a teepee over it. Once you have a good kindling teepee set, do the same with your firewood over the kindling. When your kindling catches fire, the flames will travel upwards to catch your larger logs.
  • Log Cabin: This is a good method if you’re looking for something long lasting to bundle up and tell stories around. Begin by building a kindling teepee around a pile of tinder. Then, take 2 pieces of firewood and lay them on either side of your kindling cone. Grab 2 more pieces of firewood and lay them on top of the 2 previous logs to form a square. Repeat this process, laying smaller and shorter pieces of wood to form a cabin or pyramid shape.

Step 3: Light It Up!

Ok, you’re all set to grab the lighter and get this campfire party started! First, make sure kids and pets are at a safe distance. Start by lighting your tinder from several sides and let your wood do the work. Once your fire is roaring, keep it going by adding wood as needed.

Safety Tips

While building a campfire is something you can do as a family, you’re still dealing with fire so it’s important to stay safe. Here are a few safety tips to consider when building a campfire:

  • DO NOT squirt lighter fluid onto the fire! This can be dangerous and result in injury.
  • When adding wood to the fire, gently place logs instead of tossing them into the fire.
  • Never leave your fire unattended, even for a minute.
  • Keep a bucket of water or fire extinguisher close by, just in case.
  • While teaching your kids how to build the fire is important, you should be the one to the light the flame until you feel they’re at an appropriate age to do so and, even then, always supervise.
  • When putting out your fire, don’t dump a bucket of water over it because you’ll flood the fire ring and make it hard for the next family to have a campfire lighting experience of their own. Instead, give yourself about 20 minutes to put it out completely by sprinkling water over the embers until they die out. As you’re sprinkling water, use a shovel or long stick to stir the pieces around to make sure all the ashes get wet. When you can hold your hand above the ashes and no longer feel any heat, it is safe to leave.

Instead of sending the kids off to play, let them help you gather and build the campfire! That way, they can earn their First Man Badge. Happy Camping!