The Perfect Campfire
Any outdoor gathering is better with a fire.
It’s mid-Fall. The days are getting shorter. The nights are longer. Holidays are coming soon, bringing family, responsibilities, and stress.
Luckily the perfect solution is only a campfire away. Grab some loved ones (or go solo), and escape to the backyard or anywhere else you can burn something safely (and legally). Not much is better than a cold beer in front of a roaring blaze.
Since humans began grunting at each other, socializing around a campfire has been the original relaxation pastime. Staring into the flickering firelight you’ll find a sense of peace, safety, and warmth. Some would say it was the original television set, and as someone who’s spent hours sitting with my friends and staring into the flames it’s hard to argue that fact.
Let’s face it, any outdoor gathering is better with a fire. The smell of woodsmoke when it’s cold outside is unlike anything else out there.
Building a fire isn’t difficult, but there are a few steps you can take to make the experience as painless as possible. The faster you get the wood burning the sooner you can kick up your feet and focus on what’s really important, like hanging out with your friends and enjoying the smooth life!
So let us help you help yourself with these tips to building the perfect campfire.
With minor debate there are four main types of campfires.
- The classic ‘teepee’ method, where you create a small cone of kindling over combustible material, and top it with a larger cone of logs. Light the material, ignite the kindling, and watch it consume the larger logs. This method burns wood rapidly as the consumed logs stop supporting each other and collapse into the coal bed, putting out a lot of heat in a short time.
- The lean-to. This type of fire creates a small ‘roof’ of logs laid down against a large log or rock on top of your material and kindling. Best used in breezy areas, the large log will act as a wind-break and allow your wood to ignite from the bottom while protecting your smaller sticks from blowing out. The heat distribution isn’t great but it’s better than not having a fire at all.
- The ‘spoke’ or ‘star’ method. One of the most common types of campfire, you start similar to the teepee, and spread your larger logs in a spoke or star configuration around the central flame, pushing the unburnt ends into the center as the wood is used up. Simple, easy, and gets the job done.
- The platform. My personal favorite, and the best option for maximum heat, minimal fuss, and longest burn. Great for the long nights when you plan on spending a while outside.
We’ll be covering this method below.
Step 1: Prep your materials. For the ideal fire you’ll want a large supply of small, thin sticks for kindling, thick (4-6”) foot-long logs, and some type of combustible material. Make sure your kindling isn’t too thick (.05 to 1” max) or it won’t catch easily.
If you want to ensure a good burn you can’t go wrong with a firestarter, but if you follow the tips below you shouldn’t need anything more than some pine straw or a few crumpled pieces of paper. I recommend junkmail and political mailers. They’re cheaper than toilet paper and a lot less useful.
Step 2: Select a flat, dry location out of the wind. Use a fire-ring or large stones to contain the ash and provide a handy platform to prop your boots up.
Step 3: Stack your larger logs into a square. Two on one side, then another two perpendicular to them, until you have 4 or 5 levels with an open center. The higher you build it the more heat will be put out and the less wood you’ll have to add once it’s blazing well. The gaps between the wood will allow airflow in and warmth to flow out while maintaining the stability of the whole platform.
Step 4: Create a small depression in the center of the square and fill it with your combustible material, and then put a cone of kindling over the pile. Always add more material than you think is needed, since this type of fire makes it difficult to access the center once it’s burning.
Step 5: Light your material under the kindling, then quickly lay a few medium-sized logs over the top of the structure like a flat roof. As the inside catches the heat will be directed upward, quickly igniting the cross-pieces. Once those burn and fall into the center the temperate will be intense, consuming the rest of the stack.
Step 6: Arguably the most important. As the blaze reaches full height, crack a cold Keystone Light and enjoy your masterpiece of a perfect campfire, nature’s best entertainment console.