You've probably heard the term “rule of thumb”. It's often used to describe a convenient (but inexact) standard for measuring something. The saying supposedly originated centuries ago, when carpenters would use the length of their thumbs to quickly measure the wood they were working on. Appropriate, since the “rule of thumb” started out with someone literally using their thumb as a ruler.

Splitting logs campfire 02

Anyway, you're probably wondering what the heck this rule of thumb saying has to do with campfires. Well, there are some measurements that can help you start more efficient fires on the first try—rules of thumb, and hand, and arm, and leg, if you will. By measuring the tinder, kindling, and fuel logs you collect against parts of your body, this Campfire Rule of Thumb makes sure you start your fire smoothly and that it keeps burning for hours.

This infographic from ScoutmasterCG.com illustrates the rules nicely:

Tinder kindling and fuel


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Just because this technique is aimed at boy scouts, don't assume it's not worthwhile for experienced survivalists. It's extremely easy to remember, and the thought process of collecting measurable amounts of resources can even be somewhat cathartic and relaxing. Plus, it prevents you from burning through your tinder too fast without igniting your fuel logs—a dangerous mistake that could cost you hours of work re-lighting your fire.

Next time you start a fire, remember the rule of thumb… and hand, arm, and leg.


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