The Most Important Skill in Bushcraft

Whether you’re looking to cook or dry clothes, you need a way of staying warm or you need some light, if you’re camping out in the wilderness you’re going to need to be able to build a campfire. Being able to do so efficiently is going to allow you more time to focus on setting up the rest of your campsite and avoid harvesting any materials you’re not going to use.

Building a Campfire in Five Steps

1: Choose a Spot

Check For Hazards

Choose a clearing. Stay away from trees, your tent and any other fuel sources to prevent your fire from spreading. You also want to look up to check for overhanging branches just like when you’re choosing a place for your campsite itself, since these can sometimes fall down or even catch fire over time.

Use Shelter; Consider the Weather

While you want the area immediately surrounding your campfire to be clear, you also want to avoid building it out in the open because if it gets windy or starts to rain  building and maintaining your fire will become more difficult, or it could even be extinguished entirely. Trees provide excellent shelter, as do cliff faces or even makeshift fire shields.

Terrain is Important

Here in Scotland we have a lot of peatland, and its

2: Gather Materials


For lighting the fire initially: needs to be able to catch fire easily and burn well. Bark from dead trees works well, as do dry leaves and pine needles. Punky wood and fatwood, too. Can be an idea to take along cotton balls dipped in Vaseline, steel wool or, even better, char cloth.


Light this with your tinder. Larger than tinder, smaller than whatever fuel you’re using. Dry sticks are ideal.


Wood, gathered from around the campsite. Dryer is better, rotten is bad. As the fire gets hotter with stronger embers, it becomes possible to add larger and larger logs.

3: Build a Base

If you can find stones, place them in a circle: this helps prevent embers escaping and helps regulate the size of your fire. If not, digging a small fire pit works well, too.

4: Build Your Fire Lay

Remember the fire triangle: fuel, oxygen and heat. There are a whole bunch of different fire4 lays, but what’s important is creating a sort of chamber out of kindling that allows plenty of air in, and lighting your tinder in that.

Step 5: Light and Maintain the Fire

Light the tinder from the bottom, since fire rises. You can blow if you feel the fire isn’t breathing enough. Once the kindling is going nicely, start adding fuel. As embers develop, larger pieces become possible. Add fuel slowly, since it creates smoke.

As for putting it out, the easiest way is to let the fire burn completely first, then drown the remaining embers in water. You can then did a little and mix the blackened earth, put more water on, then cover your spot with fallen leaves to hide it.

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