The Best Way To Start A Fire

The Best Way To Start A Fire

When you’re camping, relaxing on the back patio, or even if you’re fortunate enough to have a fireplace indoors during the cold winter months, you’ll need to know how to build a fire. There are numerous techniques to make a fire, some more complicated than others.

This post will go over how to build a fire while camping utilizing best practices and assuming you have the necessary items. We’ll also show you how to make a fire out of almost nothing. Learn a skill that could save your life one day.

Plan A and Plan B

Starting a fire using any “Plan A” fire source, such as a lighter, matches, or fire piston, is rather simple, and while you must still find burnable items in the woods and know how to keep the fire burning, the majority of the work is done for you. In this post, we will discuss “Plan B” fire sources, which are significantly more challenging but vital in an emergency.

“Plan B” fire sources necessitate your creation of the flame. The idea is to generate enough heat or sparks to form a little smoking ember or coal. This is then placed in a dry tinder bundle to start a fire. These are frequently exceedingly difficult to use and may be more theoretical than practical at times. These, though, can get a lot easier with experience.

  • Friction (the most frequent method): You must rub wood together with a bow, plow, or hand drill.
  • Sparks: A common method for creating sparks that will ignite a fire is to use objects such as rocks, flint, and a battery with wool.
  • Sun: Concentrating sunlight to generate enough heat to start a fire is a less common approach, but it can work if the necessary materials and weather conditions are available.
  • Chemicals: You can transport chemicals that will combust when mixed. Because of the dangers of carrying potentially incendiary goods on the trail, this is the least popular approach.

Considerations for Starting a Campfire Safely.

When learning how to build a fire in the woods, extreme caution should be exercised. There are risks no matter where you build a fire, but wildfires are more likely when you are out hunting or camping. If the fire is not managed properly, injuries can occur.

If you’re camping with kids, keep an eye on how they interact with the fire and educate them on how to make and maintain a fire safely. Pets are also at risk if they are permitted to come too close to the campfire. Most pets, but not all, have a healthy fear of fire. If they are cold, they may lie too close to the fire ring, resulting in embers falling on them.

Never leave a fire unattended, and always completely extinguish it at night and when leaving the campsite. Avoid burning things that leak poisons into the air, such as plastics. Other items, such as pyrotechnics, should never be tossed into a fire.

How to Start a Fire (Plan A)

If you have access to fire-starting supplies, the procedure given below will detail how to start a fire. Other factors must be considered if you are in an emergency or trying to make a survival fire.

Locate an Appropriate Location for a Fire.

The first stage, regardless of the type of fire you wish to build, is to select an acceptable place. First and foremost, consider whether or not to have a fire in that location. Be mindful of any local fire restrictions or rules. There are three forms of camping, each with its own set of fire considerations:


If fires are permitted at the time of your visit, fire pits, rings, or grills are available and should be used.

Undeveloped Site.

This is most likely BLM or Forest Service area, and campfires are either authorized or not. Most places will have fire risk or ban signs but double-check the area website or office to be sure. Some areas may require a campfire permit.

Select your fire pit carefully, keeping it away from brush, dead trash, and low-hanging branches. Many of these spots will have apparent campsites with existing rock fire rings. Use pre-existing fire spots if they are in a safe location.


Fire rings will be provided at certain remote campsites. Always plan ahead of time and investigate whether or not fires are permitted in the region. If the park does not provide a fire ring, look for well-used campsites and use existing fire rings before building a new area.

When deciding on a location, it is important to consider more than just where the fire will be burning. When surveying a region, attempt to camp in areas with plenty of firewood. Wood will most likely be scarce in high alpine places. Some areas prohibit wood collecting, and firewood must be purchased ahead of time or from the park.

Building a fire on a specified fire ring or pit is the best option. These are often located in open locations with little risk of contamination and are readily cleaned up after usage. Fire pans are also an excellent option if a fire ring is not available and you want to leave as little sign of fire as possible. To avoid scorching the ground, fire pans should have at least a three-inch lip on all sides and be lifted off the ground or on a ground cloth.

Fire mounds can also be used if the proper instruments are available. To make a mound fire, follow these steps:

  • Collect sand, gravel, or mineral soil from an area that appears to have been disturbed. Do not disturb the dirt.
  • Scatter a ground cloth on the chosen fire site, then spread the collected soil in a circular, flat-topped mound on the cloth. The mound should be between 3 and 5 inches thick. The mound’s thickness shields and insulates the ground from the heat of the fire. The ground cloth is simply for cleaning purposes.
  • Create a mound with a large enough radius to start a fire and disperse the coals. Make it wider than the size of the fire you want.

Mound fires are great if you don’t have a flat, dirt surface to start a fire and want to leave no trace.

Collect wood.

Much like deciding where to construct a fire, how you gather wood will vary depending on the type of camping you do and where you are. No matter where you are, you will need access to the three main types of fuel for building a fire:


Small, dry materials that catch fire fast to ignite the kindling Tinder can be made from small twigs, forest muck, dry needles, dried leaves, or paper. You can also bring a tiny container of cotton balls and vaseline as a technique of igniting the kindling.


Usually made out of tiny sticks around an inch thick. Kindling can be collected from the ground surrounding your campsite or manufactured by cutting small sticks from larger pieces of firewood.


These should be chunks of wood large enough to keep the fire running for an extended period of time and provide hot coals for cooking, but small enough to fit in the fire pit. Around the thickness of an adult’s wrist.

When camping at a campsite, only local firewood is normally permitted to be burned. Many spots require you to purchase firewood directly from the campground. You can also get it at neighboring gas stations or supermarket stores.

Bring no firewood with you if you are travelling more than 50 miles from your campground. Wait until you’re close and then buy it locally. Keeping firewood a set distance from the source helps to keep hazardous insects from spreading into surrounding woodlands.

You may be rummaging for firewood in the backcountry or even in some BLM and Forest Service sites. If you don’t want to go scavenging for large amounts of firewood, you can buy it locally and bring it with you. As a general rule, only harvest firewood from dead and down trees. Never chop branches from live trees or even dead trees that are still standing. Many creatures nest on dead trees, so be respectful of their habitat. Avoid harvesting wood that is thicker than your wrist. These take a long time to totally burn down, and you won’t be able to clean the site adequately when you’re finished. When gathering firewood and having a fire, always use the leave no trace rules.

Make the Fire.

There are a few standard construction approaches for constructing a fire:

Log Cabin.

The log cabin makes use of two parallel pieces of firewood. There should still be space between the logs that comprise the cabin structure’s foundation. Turn 90 degrees and insert two slightly smaller pieces on top of the two parallel pieces. These should be perpendicular to each other to produce a square shape.

Allow plenty of fire room inside the square for your tinder and kindling. You can also lay down tinder and kindling before constructing the cabin structure. Continue to add a few layers of wood to strengthen the square structure. As you progress, make the wood pieces smaller and smaller. Make careful to allow enough space between the logs for oxygen to reach the fire in the center. After lighting the tinder and kindling in the center, add more kindling to the structure’s top.


Begin with a small amount of tinder and surround it with a little cone structure made of kindling. To avoid choking the fire, tinder and kindling should be placed loosely. You can add a few larger pieces of wood in a cone shape above this before starting the fire, or you can light the tinder and kindling first and add larger pieces as it burns. Many people discover that once they’ve built a stronger, hotter fire, adding larger logs later keeps them from mistakenly extinguishing the original cone they built.


Begin by arranging 3-4 large pieces of wood side by side, often known as the upside-down fire. Add another layer of slightly smaller logs on top, turning 90 degrees. Continue to build in this manner, using smaller pieces of wood each time. Then, on top of that, lay tinder and kindling. Because the fire is kindled from the top rather than the bottom, it may be difficult to maintain lit at first and may require extra kindling.

Variations in these procedures are also possible. For example, some people prefer to construct a little cone, light it, and then construct a log cabin around it as it burns. Determine what works best for you and your scenario, and then proceed from there.

Start the fire.

What materials you have available and your preferred methods will determine how to build a campfire. For many of us, starting a fire with a light or a match is perfect, and we frequently prepare for such a scenario.

Light the tinder using a match or lighter first. After lighting the tinder, blow lightly at the base of the fire to offer oxygen and aid in its growth. The flame will spread and ignite more wood as the intensity increases. If the larger pieces of firewood are wet, you may need to keep adding kindling at first to help them catch.

It can be more difficult to learn how to build a fire with wet wood. When working with wet wood, having additional kindling on hand is essential. Once you’ve caught the first few damp bits of wood, they can start to dry off. When starting a fire on damp ground, it can be beneficial to elevate the fire off the wet ground with rocks or a fire pan.

If you just have wet wood, keep an eye on how it burns. Turn the pieces frequently to keep it going and keep adding small bits. Other pieces of wood that you intend to burn should be placed around the sides of the firepit, close enough to begin drying out but not so close that they catch fire. Splitting the wood is good if you have the tools because the middle pieces may be dry.

If your lighter runs out of fuel or your matches get wet, having extra options on hand can be useful. Waterproof or strike-anywhere matches are among of the best matches for lighting a survival fire, but they might be difficult to light in strong rain or wind. Knowing how to make a fire without matches or a lighter is a terrific survival skill, and it may be as simple as packing some flint and steel or one of the other best fire starters.

How to Start a Fire? (Plan B)

Aside from lighters, there are also a few more ways to start a fire and they are friction, sparks, sun, and chemicals. Here’s how.

Using Friction to Start a Fire


Items Required

  • A bow wood is a strong piece of wood with a small curvature that runs from your arm to your fingertip.
  • Bowstring – A string made from paracord or another form of rope.
  • A top piece, also known as a socket, is a piece of rock, bone, shell, or timber that fits comfortably in your hand and has a notch to hold the spindle. You can also use common home goods, such as a rollerblade wheel. Place some leaves into the groove if you’re using wood to keep the socket from creating embers when bowing.
  • Fireboard is a flat piece of dried, dead softwood approximately a half-inch thick.
  • Spindle – an 8-inch-long, 1-inch-diameter piece of dried, dead softwood. Both ends of the spindle should be reduced into blunt points.

How Do You Start a Fire?

  • Step 1: Make a “burn-in hole” in the fireboard with a knife, large enough to fit the spindle for drilling.
  • Step 2: Carve a V-shaped notch in the fireboard where you drill to collect the resulting coal and hot dust. To catch the embers, place the fireboard on top of a leaf or piece of bark.
  • Step 3: Wrap the bowstring around the spindle, place it on the fireboard, and place the socket on top of it to secure it.
  • Step 4: Press down on the socket and move the bow back and forth until it begins to smoke. Continue to move the bow rapidly for another minute or more, until an ember forms.
  • Step 5: Transfer the burning ember to your tinder bundle using the leaves or bark.


Items Required:

  • A fireboard is a flat piece of sotol wood with a 6 to 8-inch groove (or hibiscus, cedar, juniper, and other softwood).
  • Plow – a 2 to 3-inch-wide flat piece of wood with an angled head that fits into the groove of the fireboard.

How to Start a Fire?

  • Step 1: Create an angled plow with a head that fits into a 6 to 8-inch groove on the outside of the fireboard wood.
  • Step 2: Holding the plow at a 45-degree angle to the base piece of wood, quickly move the plow up and down the groove until burning coal forms.


Items Required:

  • Fireboard is a half-inch thick flat piece of dry, dead softwood.
  • Spindle – A softwood or pithy wood spindle that is 18 to 24 inches long and roughly the breadth of your pinky. The ends of the spindle should only be slightly pointed.

How Do You Start a Fire?

The same concept as the flaming bow… except you generate the spin motion with your hands.

  • Step 1: Make a burn-in hole with a knife, making a small depression to fit the spindle.
  • Step 2: Carve a V-shaped notch in the fireboard where you drill to collect the resulting coal and hot dust. To catch the embers, place the fireboard on top of a leaf or piece of bark.
  • Step 3: Place your hands on either side of the spindle and insert it into the burn-in hole.
  • Step 4: Rub your hands together to move the spindle and press down to create friction.

Using the Sun to Start a Fire


Ice and sunlight are required.

How Do You Start a Fire?

  • Step 1: Find a piece of clear ice and shape it into a lens with your hands (you don’t want your hands’ heat to melt it).
  • Step 2: Hold the ice lens like a magnifying glass, focusing a beam of sunlight onto your char cloth or tinder.
  • Step 3: Keep the ice steady until the tinder begins to smoke and then ignites.


  • Plastic – a plastic bag, a water bottle, or a balloon filled with liquid are all required.
  • Sunlight.

How Do You Start a Fire?

  • Step 1: Half-fill the Ziploc bag or clear water balloon with water (or pee) and twist until it forms a liquid sphere but does not break.
  • Step 2: Hold the bag up to the sun, concentrating the light into a magnifying glass-like beam.
  • Step 3: Hold the tinder steady beneath the beam until it begins to smoke and ignite.

If you don’t have a plastic bag, you can fill the top concave area of a clear water bottle with water.


  • Glass lens or metal – magnifying glass, pair of glasses, soda can or mirror are all required.
  • The sun’s rays.

How Do You Start a Fire?

The key to any of these approaches is to focus sunlight into a beam hot enough to spark a fire. To concentrate sunlight into a white-hot beam, use a piece of glass, the bottom of a soda can polished to a shine with toothpaste or clay, or a mirror.

  • Step 1: Place the glass, soda can, or mirror in direct sunlight.
  • Step 2: Insert your tinder or char cloth into the brightest section of the beam and watch it light up.

Using Sparks to Start a Fire


  • Flint rock is required.
  • Striker made of steel.

How Do You Start a Fire?

  • Step 1: Place a small piece of char cloth or tinder on top of the flint and hold the two in one hand.
  • Step 2: To generate sparks, strike down at a 30-degree angle with the steel striker. The spark should strike the char cloth or tinder and start to smolder.
  • Step 3: Carefully place this ember on your tinder and softly blow on it until it catches fire.


Items Required:

  • 9-volt battery or two AA batteries are required.
  • The steel wool.

How Do You Start a Fire?

  • Step 1: Place a little amount of steel wool in a tinder bundle.
  • Step 2: Lay the steel wool on top of the 9-volt battery. The wool should quickly catch fire.

You can also use two AA or AAA batteries, but you must tape them together so they line up in series. To complete the circuit, take a piece of steel wool and wrap it around the positive end of the first battery and the negative end of the second battery. This circuit generates sparks that ignite the steel wool.

Your device may not be powered by dead batteries in your home, but there is generally enough power to cause a spark on the steel wool.

Using Chemicals to Start a Fire

Dangerous. Only to be used in a life-or-death emergency circumstance.


  • Potassium Permanganate is required.
  • Glycerin.

How Do You Start a Fire?

Chemicals are unlikely to be available. This strategy, however, is worth highlighting.

  • Step 1: Pour some Potassium Permanganate over a rock and make a tiny well in the center of the pile.
  • Step 2: Mix some glycerin into the potassium permanganate and wait for it to burst into flames.

While hiking, keep the potassium permanganate separate from the glycerin. You can also substitute sugar for glycerin. Simply combine equal parts potassium permanganate and sugar and crush them together with the blunt end of a stick to ignite a fire.


  • Ammonium nitrate is required.
  • Salt.
  • Powdered zinc.

How Do You Start a Fire?

  • Step 1: Using a rock, thoroughly grind approximately four grams of ammonium nitrate and one gram of sodium chloride (table salt).
  • Step 2: Finally, add 10 grams of zinc powder.
  • Step 3: Add a few drops of water to initiate an exothermic reaction that will result in the formation of a flame.

Be cautious when transporting these chemicals in your bag. You don’t want them to accidentally combine and catch fire while trekking.

Take Care of the Fire.

Never, ever leave a fire unattended, especially when camping. To keep the fire going, move and rotate the wood as needed, and keep adding pieces as needed. Having one specific fire stick for shifting wood is beneficial, as are leather gloves for adding additional firewood or moving large chunks.

Put out the Fire.

Put out the fire before retiring to bed. Check with property management or park services to discover if they have a favored technique for putting out a campfire.

If they don’t, you can do the following steps:

  • Begin by scattering and distributing the wood and coals in the fireplace.
  • Fill a pail with water and begin sprinkling (not pouring) it on any residual flames and hot embers.
  • The water is sprinkled to prevent strong steam and unintentional scorching. If you are concerned about this, you can safeguard your hands by wearing the leather gloves you have.
  • Stir the embers and ashes occasionally and continue to sprinkle to ensure they are all extinguished.
  • As the steam subsides, you can start pouring instead of sprinkling the water.
  • Before you leave the fire area, the coals should be cool. Hold your palm just above them to test if they are warm.

In an attempt to put out the fire, do not use dirt or sand. Use only water. Dirt can insulate coals, allowing them to burn longer and sparking wildfires when exposed later.

How do you start a fire when it’s raining?

To start a fire while it’s rainy, seek spots that are better shielded from rain, even if they’re only partially protected. Then, shave away the moist bark with a knife until you reach dry timber. Make shavings of dry wood for kindling, then repeat the process with wet wood for kindling and larger pieces of wood; an ax may be useful for breaking up larger pieces of wood. Finally, start your fire in an area that is free of water and strong winds.

How can you make a fire in the snow?

A dry base is required to ignite a fire in the snow. Locate a dry, snow-free spot or use a rock as a base. Witch’s Beard is a green lichen that hangs from trees and is extremely combustible. For kindling, look for wood that has been sheltered near the base of dead trees or in undercovered regions.

How long do the various approaches take?

Friction methods such as the bow, plow, or hand drill can take up to 20 minutes. It takes about 5 minutes to make a spark with rocks, but it may take much longer to find the perfect pebbles. Ice, plastic, glass, or anything else that uses the sun to focus will normally just take a minute or two, but it may take some practice to learn the optimum technique to focus it. Flint, batteries, and firesteel will all produce an immediate spark, but it may take several sparks to start the fire. Chemicals frequently react in less than 2 minutes.

Final Thoughts

In an ideal scenario, all wood and coals would be reduced to ash before the fire was extinguished. Make every effort to extinguish the fire and avoid leaving huge, burned chunks of wood. Remove any heavy coals or wood from the firepit and carry them with you if possible. In the firepit, you can also compress coals until they are ash.

Do not burn rubbish unless the flames can completely consume it (paper, cardboard, etc.). Remove any tinfoil or cans thrown into the fire as you clean up and depart the campsite. If you created the campfire, disassemble it and tidy the area as thoroughly as you can.

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