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01/03/2012 / thriftomancer

How to build a campfire

I apologize everyone, but this post’s not quite what I wanted it to be. The original plan was to build a campfire and light it, but that’s not possible for me at the moment as:

  1. My little brother used most of the firewood during his birthday bonfire. (Which I don’t begrudge him in the slightest. Happy b-day, bro!)
  2. The wood we have left is wet because it’s been raining. In December/January. (That’s got me upset.)
  3. I’ve been unable to secure a burning permit, which means doing this in the daylight so I can get good photos will end with the fire department showing up in my driveway and giving me a stern talking to. And maybe a fine.

So, instead of me personally erecting and immolating a pile of wood for your edification, I’ve found you a lovely library of videos on the subject from the web. They’ll do a better job demonstrating how-to than I would anyway.

These are all the videos that a search of “campfire” on The Expert Village’s Youtube channel turned up. I didn’t watch them all, as there are quite a few. (197 at the time.)

This playlist has fifteen videos covering basic skills and info on sound campfire building. These I did watch and they’re not bad. The guy doing the demonstration is a little awkward, but he knows what he’s talking about.

This playlist is full of similar stuff, but a little more in-depth and with more of a focus on being low-impact. I.e. not scorching the earth with your campfire when you’re out in the woods and, if possible, leaving no trace of you having camped in a spot.

(Note: These videos are for building campfires. Key word there is ‘camp.’ This is what you do when you’ve planned to be outside roughing it and have brought all the supplies you’ll need to build, light, burn, and cook safely. They’re not meant to demonstrate what to do in a survival situation.)

I’ve also gone out and found several videos of what not to do when lighting a campfire. For example:

Do not stand downhill of a fire you’re using gasoline to light. (You can stop watching after the first five seconds.)

In fact, just avoid gasoline. (The demonstrative part is at 1:14.)

But if you must, at least keep your wits about you and make it look cool when something goes wrong. ( I would have used the original video, but it’s apparently age restricted for reasons unknown to me.)

Not sure how much wit was actually involved, but he acted quickly, didn’t splash anyone with burning gas, and I must admit that trails of fire look cool.

Now, because he’s a rad dude, my little bro wanted me to share this picture from his bonfire with all of you to show that, while I constantly point out possible risks and warn about safety, we do some dumb, dangerous things too.

Let me ask you this: Have any of you ever thrown several fistfuls of fine sawdust on a fire?

Campfire + Sawdust

We have.

A normal handful will make a fire flare, but that level of… Bigness was achieved through well-organized teamwork. When the fire was already going strong, my bro and his friends threw on a large load of dry pine branches to make the fire flare up. At which point they simultaneously threw handfuls of coarse and fine sawdust into the fire from all sides. Note that they moved everything (chairs, tables, snacks, ect.) way back from the fire circle so they had escape routes in case things went south.

Now, I’m the first to admit that that’s a dangerous trick for the throwers and everyone else around the fire. Anything that makes a fire get that big almost instantly is bad news safety-wise, but that didn’t stop it from being fun.

I guess what we’re trying to say is that it’s okay to do dumb things as long as you’ve thought about what you’re planning and have taken the necessary precautions to prevent dumb from becoming a Darwin Award.

On that note, watch those videos, be smart about being dumb (which is to say safe and prepared), and have fun roasting some marshmallows. (Or just eating the chocolate for the s’mores and then having a marshmallow fight like we usually do. With us the best laid plans for snacks and chow always go awry.)

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