Three Ways to Build a Perfect Campfire

A guide, with pictures. Gather ‘round.

By The Editors
October 13, 2015 9:00 am

1815: Building a fire is compulsory for any man hoping to make it through winter.

1915: Upper crust and cityfolk now equipped with coal furnaces, but suburbia and beyond very much still in the business of wood-burning.

2015: “Hon, will you turn down the thingy? It’s too hot in here.”

For the modern man, fire-building may not be an essential survival skill. But make no mistake, the art of stacking wood is very much still an essential life skill. It warms, it cooks, it signals emergency. So unless you’re planning on spending the rest of your life in a living room, it’s best you learn how to build one.

But not every fire is created equal. Some lay better than others, depending on your environs. Below, the three basic campfires every man should know, and how and when to use each.

Lincoln Log

Use For: Cooking, revisiting childhood memories

Building Method: Stack logs around a tinder pile in alternating directions like you would those Lincoln Logs you played with as a knee-high. Repeat — using smaller logs for each subsequent layer — until you form a small cabin. Light tinder. The Lincoln Log fire creates a uniform heat by sucking air in from the bottom and releasing it up top. Plus: the wood configuration mimics a stove range, making it the most efficient for campfire cooking.


Use For: Light source, raging bonfires

Building Method: Around a pile of tinder, arrange a few pieces of kindling. Then lean larger fuel-burning logs to form a tepee that encircles the tinder and kindling. Light tinder. The tepee is one of the most popular fire lays because it’s dead simple to burn while providing a strong, constant light source.


Use For: Warmth, adverse weather conditions

Building Method: Place a large piece of wood downwind (alternatively, you can use a rock), and lean firewood along the main piece of wood. Nestle tinder underneath. Light tinder. This is best fire to lay in rainy or windy conditions. The tinder stays dry, the fire won’t collapse and it’s easy to build out once it gets going.

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