In my last article, I used tinder and fire to illustrate a spiritual principal. For centuries, fire has played—and continues to play—an important role in our lives. Today, many seek to return to simpler times and learn the basic skills our ancestors took for granted. I see this in organizations like the Boy Scouts, woodsman magazines and through the myriad of survival shows and websites. Just a few weekends ago, my neighbor’s son answered the challenge of making fire while using the bow drill method.
I promise to keep this tutorial simple–I’m sticking with matches for this article.
Safety takes precedence. Exercise common sense and good judgment. Children should only engage in building fires under adult supervision. Know and adhere to the laws or rules for building campfires on your site. Have some means to extinguish the fire. Create a ten-foot diameter circle, clear of all flammable debris. (See picture below) Most public campsites have an established fire ring. Stay within that fire ring.
Not counting water-proof matches, you’ll need the three components shown below: dry tinder (I use dryer lint, stored in a Ziploc bag), small dry sticks, and larger sticks.
Here are some tips for finding dry twigs, larger sticks, and tinder:
- Look for dead branches still attached to a tree, lying across other brush or off the wet ground.
- Refrain from cutting live trees or branches. This violates most state or federal park rules. Besides, they don’t burn as well as the dead stuff.
- Bring your own seasoned firewood (if practical).
- If you don’t have dryer lint, use paper, dry leaves or pine straw.
Place the lint in the center of your fire ring and then lay a few small twigs around the tinder, teepee style. Leave openings between the small sticks so oxygen can reach the tinder. Using your match, ignite the tinder. Give the fire a few seconds to catch and build. You may need to gently blow on it which increases the oxygen flow. Next, continue to add more of the small twigs.
Once the flames have sufficiently engulfed the small sticks, add the larger diameter wood. Continue to feed your campfire, but stay within the fire ring. The size of your fire really depends upon its intended purpose. Are you trying to stay warm, drying out clothes, or just telling ghost stories?
Safety tip number 2: Never leave your campfire unattended. Someone must watch it to make sure it stays contained and is not a danger to smaller kids. Eliminate trip hazards around your fire ring and please, keep an eye on children.
When you’re ready to hit the sleeping bag or leave your site, make sure you completely extinguish the fire. I generously douse mine with water. Using a long stick, I’ll spread the coals out and then douse it again.
I hope you found this tutorial helpful. Please comment and share some of your own fire-making tips. In future articles, I’ll touch on more primitive fire-building methods.