How to Start a Campfire

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 19,997
    Camping expert Tim MacWelch of Earth Connection demonstrates how to build a campfire.

    Tim MacWelch: Hi, I am Tim MacWelch of Earth Connection School of Wilderness Survival and Ancient Skills in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This is our video clip series on how to go camping. In this clip, we are going to start a camp fire. Now as we mentioned earlier in this series, you should always have more than one way to make a fire, every time you go camping. Even on little day trips when you are not planning to stay over night, it's always a good safety idea to have multiple ways to make a fire, in case of emergency. Fire will give you heat and light to see by. It will signal for your rescue. It will boil water to purify. It will cook your food and it will give you comfort in the time of trouble. So we have simple butane lighter. We also have a metal match safe. Full of little matches and the sticker strips that strike those matches. We can start a fire with the direct flame of the lighter or the matches. Now when storing the matches in a match safe, it's always advised to have the abrasive side of the striker strips facing the wall of the container, away form the match heads, so that they don't accidentally rub while you are jogging or hiking and ignite inside of this tube. To start our fire we need lots of little skinny twigs, the smaller and skinnier the better. We want to gather them from a high dry location if possible. Now some parts require that we select our fire wood from dead stuff that's actually on the ground. So we may need to use different tactics when camping in different locations in order to follow the rules and play safely. We have selected a place for our campfire which is relatively free of leaves, twigs and other flammable material. This is ideal for safety. We also want to have some water standing by, in case we need to put that fire out quickly. One thing that's always helpful to light a fire is tender. Tender is very fine, dead, dry plant material. They can catch a spark or tiny flame and let it grow into a larger, harder flame. This happens to be dead, rotten bark from a Tulip Poplar tree. Many different trees will produce this fibrous bark, which we can tear or pound into fluffy tender, which we can use to light a fire. Now we can simply light a match and apply it to the tender or flick our lighter and apply to the tender and then start laying these twigs over top of it, to start our campfire. But I want to show you two different unusual ways to light this fire. I am going to take some of this tender; it's nice and fluffy, and dead, and dry. I am going to my lantern. Now it's day time and this is a big heavy lantern, a little heavier than you normally have, when you are out backpacking. But I am after just one part of this lantern right now. I am after this reflective cup. I am going to take out the bulb, set this aside so I don't loose it. I have a reflective cup, in direct sunlight, like we are experiencing right now, I can take a bundle of dead, dry plant fibers as tender. Line this cup up facing into the sun and insert these fibers, I'll move them in and out of the cup, until I start to see a little bit of smoke. There is one point inside of this reflective cup where all of the light bounces and converges and that little hot focal point can be hot enough to start a fire on a sunny day.

    So, one other element that we can use to make a fire besides butane lighters and stick matches is electricity and steel wool. Now typically steel wool doesn't show up a whole lot in your camping equipment, but it might after this. We can use it to clean our knives and to scale outer pots. You want to get zero, zero steel wool or zero, zero, zero steel wool or something with even more zeros. The more zeros the better it will burn. And here how it works. We get all our fire stuff ready, we get some tender which is the dead dry plant base material. We take our steel wool, touch it to both posts of our battery and it begins to combust. So we place it in the tender and we blow it into the flame. So there's our flame, so we'll go ahead and take our little small sticks, place them over a burning tender. You always want to keep these fires small, so that you can control them, you don't need a big fire to cook on. You just need a little small fire for heat, and light, and cooking. Now I am going to show you how to use a pot to cook over this little tiny fire.