5 campfire building techniques

By: Michael Borg, Photography by: Matt Fehlberg

Five sure-fire ways to stack the logs in your favour.

No camping trip is complete without a roaring campfire, so follow these tips and we guarantee your campfire will be burning the brightest. 


The whole idea of the log cabin campfire design is to elevate the kindling above the initial flames of the tinder used to start the fire. This allows the kindling to catch light easily, while allowing plenty of ventilation. To build one, simply place some kindling on the ground in the centre of your future fire, and place a medium log or stick either side of it. Then add a second layer using two more sticks resting the other way and keep building it up. You might need to dig a slight trough under one side so you can access the tinder to light it.


One of the most common ways to build a roaring campfire is the tee-pee design, and for good reason, too; it’s just simple and reliable. To start, place your sticks in the shape of a tee-pee leaving a gap in the front to light your tinder up with. The trick here is to use medium-size sticks, but don’t layer it on too thick as the fire will still need to draw oxygen in from the gaps. As the fire takes off you can add a few larger logs to the mix.


Possibly the easiest and, quite often, the most effective of the lot is the lean-to campfire technique. To kick this one off, you simply lay a dead log on the ground, place your tinder right next to it nice and close, then lean your kindling directly over the tinder pile so it rests on the larger log. You’ll need to ensure the log isn’t too thick otherwise the kindling will be too high above the pile of tinder to catch light. Once again, there’s heaps of airflow, but the real beauty is it gets working in the larger log right from the start.


If you just couldn’t be stuffed throwing more and more logs on to the fire as the night progresses, this one’s for you. This one breaks the rule of using thin to thick materials that start from the bottom and burn their way up. Instead, it starts with the tinder and kindling on top, and uses gravity to burn its way down to the larger logs down the bottom. In fact, this campfire design is actually a very efficient method, because as the embers drop down it only really lights up one layer at a time. The result – a longer lasting fire with half the maintenance!


Wood embers (or coals) burn hotter than the fire flame itself, and they maintain a much more consistent heat as well. So you’re much better off letting a whole bunch of logs burn down until there are embers before adding any food, rather than cooking over a fire that’s all flame and no coals. This is particularly true for camp oven cooking! If you’re in a hurry to get some good coals going, use smaller pieces of wood that burn to coals quicker, and add more as needed to maintain the heat. And as we mentioned before, it’s important to remember to use a good dry hardwood to keep the heat as consistent as possible!


Well, there are no excuses now! That’s pretty much everything you’ll need to know to build a cracking campfire for your next campsite. So for your next camping trip, put a bit of thought into the campfire. It’s not hard by any means, but when you think about it it’s a pretty bloody important piece of the puzzle.

I guarantee it’s one of the main things you’ll remember about the trip, if you get it right!

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Check out the full feature in issue #102 July 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.