What to Do Before Starting A Campfire: The Best 4-Step Checklist

what to do before starting a campfire

Learn about what to do before starting a campfire. Gone are the days when we would ignorantly throw a pile of wood on the ground, pour a liter of oil on top, and light a fire ablaze. One, that isn’t safe or environmentally friendly, and two, that is inefficient. We now have a responsibility to take care of nature and our loved ones by using safe and sustainable methods of fire-starting. But don’t worry; we’ve assembled a simple four-step procedure for what to do before starting a campfire, for safety, convenience, and effectiveness.

What to do Before Starting a Campfire:

Step 1: Check your area.

Be sure to pay attention to where you are camping to mitigate potential forest fires and to be considerate to nature. Any flammable materials of some sort should be as far away as possible. Also, consider an area sheltered from wind, as fire is seriously volatile. Another thing you should consider is checking if there are local or park fire restrictions. This should be done before starting a campfire.

Regarding care for nature, In order to Leave No Trace, one must only use materials that have already been disturbed before and to use any such materials minimally. Choose an area that has minimal vegetation, as fire can sterilize soil. If your campsite has a fire pit installed, lucky you! Only use that and do not attempt to set up a fire elsewhere.

Step 2: Gather your materials.

For a successful flame, you will need tinder, kindling, and firewood. Tinder is things like pine needles and grass, and kindling is small sticks and twigs. You can probably find these around your campsite. As for firewood, if permitted, cut down nearby trees. Read about the specifics about the difference between the types of fuels here. Again, use such natural resources sparingly. Otherwise, bring some wood beforehand. If there is an established fire pit, you could pick up some lighter fuel to get a fire going easier. Using such fuel a non-established pit can cause the fire to get out of hand. Also, pick up at least one bucket of water for emergency or normal putting-out of the fire. It’s also recommended to bring a shovel so that you can flatten out the area and put out the fire at the end. Most of all, bring a lighter or match to get your fire going!

This camper made sure he brought all of the firewood to the pit before he lit the fire.
Photo by @ronoc_ragnarok on Instagram

Step 3: Clear the surroundings.

Move any flammables away from the designated/chosen fire site. Flatten the area around you (or choose an already flat location to build your fire). The ground should be dry and without any sort of vegetation. Try clearing out everything within 5 feet of the campfire. Any belongings should be placed even further away.

Step 4: Make a safe fire site.

If you already have a fire pit, then you can skip this step. Otherwise, we strongly advise you to make a fire pit for safety. Simply grab a few large stones (remember to adhere to Leave No Trace principles) and place them in a circle around the proposed location of the fire. This helps contain stray embers, limit potential burns, and keeps the ashes in one spot for easy disposal. You could even go as far as digging a circular hole of some sort to keep the fire in, but you should check with the park to see if you’re allowed to do that.

This was an extremely safe fire site!

Congrats! You made it through the article! You’re now a pro at starting a campfire safely! But staying safe while using a fire is another topic altogether. Check out Campfire Safety 101 to have a fun and safe campfire experience.

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