Controlling fire was one of the first skills developed by primitive man, and on the surface, it may appear simple. Just gather some combustible tinder, ignite it with a spark or ember, place your fire bundle beneath some kindling twigs, and gradually feed in larger pieces of wood fuel until the desired size and heat output is achieved. However, if you've been reading our publications or studying survival skills, you'll know that every one of those steps can be modified with dozens of techniques and variations. Building any old fire is simple — building a reliable, long-lasting, and efficient fire requires much more forethought.
While we've discussed ignition sources, tinder, kindling, and fuel many times in the past, it's also important to consider how these elements are structured. The conical tipi (or teepee) style is well-known, but other styles offer distinct advantages over this default layout. The following infographic from Rolling Fox provides illustrated examples of seven different ways to build a campfire. Click here to download a full-size version of this graphic.
We've discussed a few of these in the past, but here's a quick recap of some of the advantages and disadvantages of each campfire layout:
- The Swedish torch is long-lasting and offers a flat cooking surface, but requires felling a tree and cutting it with a saw (or splitting it with an axe).
- The tipi/teepee is efficient and easy to build, but susceptible to collapse due to weather or uneven feeding. It also burns out faster than some of the layouts below.
- The star is even easier to build than a tipi, and allows large pieces of fuel to be gradually fed inward to maintain the fire for longer periods, but its heat and light output isn't the best.
- The lean-to is another long-burning option that allows for progressive feeding, but requires large fuel logs and powerful heat to start. We've also heard this style called a Siberian log fire.
- The platform offers a flat cooking surface and long burn time, but requires more heat to ignite and may restrict airflow if fuel logs are packed tightly.
- The log cabin burns evenly and reduces airflow restrictions, but can turn into a leaning tower of campfire if it's not built carefully.
- The modified lean-to incorporates a self-feeding stack of logs that will drop in as the fire burns lower. This requires more prep but can extend burn time.
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For a more detailed explanation of these fire styles and other fire-starting considerations, check out the article “How to Build a Campfire” from Rolling Fox.
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