Camping

How to Keep a Campfire Going

Getting a campfire started can take a lot of time and patience, but nothing is more infuriating than spending a long time getting a campfire started, only for it to dwindle before you wanted it to. Keeping a campfire going is luckily an easy process, with a lot of different tips and tricks to keep it burning for as long as you want it to. 

Understanding What Keeps a Fire Going

A fire can only burn successfully if these three things are included:

  • Oxygen
  • Fuel
  • Heat 

These three components are essential when it comes to creating and maintaining a fire, as they feed off each other in order to produce flame. Suffocating a flame will lead to a lack of oxygen and will likely put it out. This can be done accidentally, even by piling too many logs atop of the flame. 

The fuel is what is being burned by the fire. Without anything to burn or latch onto, a fire will dwindle. And finally, the heat is used to create the fire. Heat can be produced through a variety of methods, including from sparks, friction or even sunlight.

If your campfire keeps going out, make sure that these three components aren’t being accidentally stifled. Lacking just one of these key things can slow down or stop a fire completely. 

Using the Correct Materials

To start a fire and keep it burning, three types of fuel are needed. Each plays its own role in keeping the fire alight. These include:

  • Tinder
  • Kindling
  • Wood

These three different types of materials need to be dry in order to catch the fire successfully. Discussed more in depth in How to Start a Fire Without Matches of Lighter, these three materials are essential for creating a strong campfire. Tinder is used to catch the fire initially and it then spreads to the kindling and wood which keep the fire going. Tinder is usually a soft and fluffy material, and can either be harvested from nature or manmade. Some popular materials for tinder include dried fluffy grass, small sticks and even tampons. These materials will catch fire quickly and help it grow enough to catch onto the kindling and wood. Providing all your materials are completely dry, you shouldn’t have an issue when it comes to creating your fire. 

While materials can be brought with you when camping, you can also harvest your own using a survival knife and whittling away at wood. 

How Long Does Wood Burn For? 

When maintaining a fire, it’s important to be aware of how long your supplies will last. The length of time that wood will burn for is dependent on a few factors, including the thickness and type of wood being used. In a general sense, however, people often use the half inch rule. This rule dictates that a half inch of wood will burn for an hour. If you’re planning on keeping your campfire going for a while, you’ll have to plan accordingly and make sure you have enough wood to keep it burning for the desired length of time. 

Using Specific Types of Wood

Some types of wood burn slower than others, enabling you to pack less for your trip. These types of wood include: 

  • Oak
  • Ash
  • Maple
  • Beech
  • Cherry
  • Birch

Always make sure the wood you are burning is dry and safe to use. Certain trees can produce poisonous chemicals when burnt. It is always safer to buy pre-packaged wood for burning. 

Ventilation is Key

As discussed earlier, oxygen is one of the major components in keeping a fire going. Stifle the oxygen, and your fire is likely to go out. One way to keep your fire from dwindling is by keeping it well ventilated so that oxygen can pass through. There are a few different ways of doing this, by making your campfire a specific shape to allow oxygen to flow freely throughout. 

There are a couple of ways you can make your fire last longer by changing the shape of your campfire’s structure. 

Self-Feeding Campfires 

Self-feeding campfires are more technical as opposed to the other methods mentioned, but they make campfires burn a considerable amount slower. It can take a while to set up, but doesn’t require much intervention once it’s working. The idea behind a self-feeding fire is that the materials are replaced as they burn up. This is done by using two ramps leaning into a fire pit. Wood is stacked on the ramps, and as it burns in the firepit, a new log replaces it. 

Make it Pyramid-Shaped

The pyramid-shape is also sometimes referred to as a tipi, but it’s purpose remains the same, to allow ventilation to travel throughout the fire. This technique is best served for smaller campfires as it requires less materials and less setting up. The tipi shape is built by leaning the wood together over an open flame, thus creating a well-ventilated pyramid shape. As wood burns, it falls into the fire, and keeps it burning for longer.  

Using Rocks

Rocks serve multiple useful purposes when it comes to camping. They can be used to start a fire, and can even be used to heat a tent when they’ve cooled down a little bit. They’re handy as both a tool and to be used inside a campfire.

As mentioned earlier, heat is important when keeping fire going. Rocks are great as a heat conductor as they warm up and stay warm for a while even after a campfire has been put out. When you’re building your campfire, make sure to surround it with rocks and throw a couple of rocks at the bottom of your pile, below the kindling and tinder. Warm rocks can even be used to cook eggs if they’re hot enough! 

Using an Accelerant

Accelerants are fuel which is used to keep fires going. Whilst normally used for BBQs and other grills, they’re also fit to be used in campfires providing you don’t overdo it. 

Accelerants can be dangerous if you are using too much in a short time. 

They’re highly flammable and should only be used in moderation, usually when your fire seems to be dying out and you need a little more time to gather more materials to keep it going. It’s not a be-all-and-end-all solution, and is more of a temporary way to keep your fire going whilst figuring out how to add more materials to it. 

Fire Safety 

Intending to keep a campfire burning for a longer time means that additional safety precautions should be put in place to ensure everyone will remain safe and unharmed. 

  • Make sure your fire is away from the tents – Whilst setting a campfire up might make you question whether or not fire catches items easily – there’s certainly the chance that it could catch onto a tent or guyline if placed close enough to one. A strong gust of wind can send a fire somewhere you don’t want it to go, and it could cause a lot of damage that could easily be avoided by setting the campfire up away from any items or structures. 
  • Don’t leave the fire unattended – An unattended fire could grow to an unmanageable size and could potentially cause damage to its surroundings. 
  • Dig the firepit down a little – This keeps the fire in one place and safer to extinguish. 
  • Make sure water is nearby – In case you ever need to put the fire out quickly for whatever reason. 

Related Articles: 

Where to Pitch a Tent

Most Comfortable Way to Sleep in a Tent

How to Stay Warm in a Tent

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