We teach you how to light a campfire like a pro.
Kicking back in front of the fire spinning yarns with mates is one of the true pleasures of camping, especially when you’ve got a few snags sizzling over those red-hot coals.
But sometimes your efforts to create campground nirvana can fizzle out behind a cloud of billowing smoke with just few embers to show.
If lighting a fire leaves you red faced for all the wrong reasons take heed:
We have a crash course that will have you dining on gooey marshmallows before long.
Here’s how it’s done.
Start with a plan
A fire is a powerful force but it needs oxygen, fuel and heat to survive from the get go, so the better prepared you are the easier it will be. It’s best to start with something that’s easy to ignite such as dried leaves, cotton wool or even wood shavings. Surround this ‘tinder’ with ‘kindling’ such as twigs or splintered wood, tee-pee style so the tinder has air to breathe. The premise is to increase the size of your sticks till they’re the size of a small log. If you collect all your wood in advance and organise in size you’ll be laughing.
Know your fuels
News flash: not all firewood is the same. Granted you may not have much say in what you’re using if you’re scrounging for logs around camp but if you know what to look for — and what to avoid that really helps. One thing’s clear though, anything you do use needs to be well and truly dry or “seasoned” and the drier the better. You know you’re on a winner if it makes a snapping sound as it breaks.
The next thing to consider is the species of the wood, which determines the log’s density or weight. Hardwoods are heavier and tend to burn longer which is perfect if you plan on cooking up a storm.
Softwood conversely burns cooler and faster but it’s easier to light up making it great for kindling or for quickly boiling up a billy by the side of the road. Pine and willow are well known softwoods, but if you can’t tell the difference just pick it up feel how heavy it is.
If you’re cooking a feast avoid sappy softwoods as they will burn inconsistently and emit smell that will infiltrate your food so opt for oak or a gum variety, which burns well and imparts a subtle, smoky taste.
Now that we’ve taught you how to start a fire the ‘right’ way, we’re going to show how to make one that breaks all the rules, and frees you from the burden of constantly needing to feed it. Rather than starting as tinder and kindling at the base burning up to full size logs, this fire method gradually burns its way down instead. Start by placing your heavier logs at the bottom, and stack them so they gradually decrease in size until you’re placing the tinder and kindling on top. Then simply light and let gravity do the rest, leaving the flame to burn its way down to the larger logs below. This campfire is a great option if you’re super organised, and you’ll be rewarded with an efficient design where embers drop down only one layer at a time. How’s that for campground cred!
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