Lighting a campfire is an essential skill for any camper. Campfires are great for chatting with friends and telling stories, cooking meals or s’mores, and keeping warm when temperatures begin to fall.
Starting a fire is also crucial for emergency situations to signal search and rescue or to keep you warm in below freezing temperatures. Knowing how to quickly and efficiently start a fire can save your life and the lives of those around you.
Rubbing two sticks together isn’t a realistic or effective way to start a fire, so you’ll need the right tools to start fire that’ll last.
Make sure you don’t leave home for you next camping trip without these essential items so you can start fires quickly and easily.
A simple cigarette or barbeque lighter is by far the easiest fire starter available. If you have ample kindling, some paper, and some dry wood, you can have a campfire started in as little as a few minutes.
The trouble is you can’t always rely on lighters alone. They can run out of fuel, or if they get wet can stop working. Lighters are also prone to breaking if they get dropped or stepped on.
Redundancy is important when camping. Because you’ll be away from the convenience of civilization, you’ll need backup items so you can accomplish what you need to do. This is especially important for fire starters.
We recommend these additional items in addition to a few lighters:
Matches are a great backup for lighters if necessary. They’re easy to use and inexpensive, so it’s no big deal to have a few boxes packed with your other gear.
If possible, opt for waterproof matches in a watertight container. In the event you’re trying to start a fire in wet conditions, they can still be useful and provide a flame when needed.
Fire strikers are a small ferrocerium rod that when scraped by a piece of steel such as the back of a knife produces a sizable spark.
When conditions are wet, or if all other fire-starting methods have failed, fire strikers can be an excellent backup and will usually get the job done with a little patience.
Steel wool is also something that you should pack along with a fire starter rod. The sparks from the fire starter will ignite easily in the steel wool and produce a hot and long-lasting ember.
Once the ember in the steel wool forms, place paper and/or kindling on top of it and use your mouth to blow air unto the ember. This will give the ember oxygen so it can ignite the kindling from which you can continue to build your fire.
Fatwood is a naturally occurring wood that results from pine tries that have been cut and the resin has concentrated into the wood. Using fatwood as kindling is a popular practice by many experienced campers and for starting fires in wood stoves.
Fatwood can be purchased in bundles or found in the forest and is an excellent fire-starting material. The resin-soaked wood ignites exceptionally well and can help you build a fire in no time.
While not crucial to starting a fire, fatwood can make starting a fire much more convenient. In addition, fatwood is naturally occurring so it’s not harmful to the environment by any means. The same can not be said for other fire-starting aids such petroleum based as gels and pastes.
Fire Starter Aids
Sometimes when wood gets wet or the fire just doesn’t want to cooperate, fire starter aids are needed to get the job done.
Fire starter aids are typically petroleum-based gels or pastes that will provide a longer lasting and hotter flame to ignite wood easier. Examples of these aids include:
- Petroleum jelly
- Fire paste tubes
- Gel fire starter
- Fire starter plugs
These fire starter aids can make fire starting quicker and easier, but they are not absolutely necessary. After all, humans have been making fires for thousands of years without these aids, but it doesn’t hurt to make things a little easier if you can.
Avoid fuels and gas like gasoline or kerosine to start fires. These fuels can be very dangerous to you and those around you. Once a gas fire has taken over an area, it can be difficult and dangerous to put it out, so avoid using gas to start a fire.
It may be tempting to take the quick and easy route of starting a fire with gas, but the risks outweigh the benefits. These fuels are also harmful to the environment and are often prohibited by most camping areas.
In addition to igniters and fire-starting aids, equally important are tools to prepare wood for your fire.
In order to build a successful fire, you’ll need pieces of wood of varying sizes by starting small and adding to the size of the wood as the fire gets bigger and the coal bed starts to form.
For preparing your firewood, you’ll need:
- Saw for cutting down larger branches and pieces
- Hatchet or large bowie knife to split small pieces of wood
- Axe or maul to split logs and larger pieces
- Multi tool for various tasks
By using these tools to prepare your firewood ahead of time, you can relax with friends and family by the fire without having to continuously split more wood. If you have a pile of firewood ready to go, all you have to do is feed the fire with more wood every so often.
Campfires are an integral part of any camping trip, and a campsite just isn’t complete without one. Humans have been gathering around fires for many millennia, so its just part of our nature.
Starting a fire doesn’t have to be complicated. With a few tools, and a few backups for when things don’t work out how you planned, you’ll be able to consistently start a fire in no time.
Don’t walk out the door for your next camping trip without these fire starter essentials. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll have a fire making system unique to you that you can count on even if you’re in a sticky situation.