One of the greatest things you can enjoy while camping is your own campfire. But if you usually prefer to leave the fire building to your other half, you’re probably not alone. It goes without saying, though, that it helps to be self-sufficient in all matters, including building a campfire. And not to generalise, of course, but men, it seems, can easily be distracted by other activities around the campsite (such as drinking beer with other males while peering into an engine bay and muttering away).
If a fire has been part of your planned agenda for cooking or warmth, you may have already gathered some larger timber earlier in the day, with only some kindling required and some know-how to make it all happen. So ladies (and gents), here are my hot tips for campfire success.
Common sense goes a long way when building a fire. Clear flammable material such as dry leaves from around the base of the fire, and allow a good distance from tents and vehicles. Ideally, you’ll use an existing fire pit or an area where fire has been made before. Avoid areas with overhanging branches, close to trees or exposed roots.
Just like a fire grate in a fireplace at home, a campfire needs a solid foundation that will support larger timber as the fire grows without collapsing and snuffing the fire. Hailing back to my Girl Guide days, there were two common approaches – the Tepee and the Log Cabin. Personally, I find the Tepee more likely to collapse and snuff the fire, whereas the log cabin has better structure. Whatever method you choose, the base of the fire needs to be stable enough to support other timber until the fire takes hold.
STARTING WITH A FLAME
Fire starters are the easy choice. Scrunched newspaper was formerly a firm favourite, but with the electronic age, these days there’s less around. Dry pine needles, with their high oil content, work well, as do potato chips.
Slowly add smaller twigs and sticks in a criss-cross pattern to allow for good airflow. Progressively add slightly bigger timber in a similar manner, resisting the temptation to put on too much wood which can smother the flame.
All being well, you will already have chopped some wood earlier in the day, leaving a nice pile at your disposal. As the fire burns, add some larger pieces to help it grow.
Another way of enjoying a campfire is to use a portable fire pit. They get the fire off the ground, exposing a greater surface area of heat. The Drifta Snow Peak and Ozpig are two examples. The Ozpig is a fully-enclosed number, meaning it won’t drop ash onto the ground, which also makes it suitable for use inside an annexe, particularly with an angled chimney piece to poke the emissions beyond the roofline. The other benefit is the reduction in wood use. With a reduced draught compared to an open fire, you can still experience the joys of a fire without burning a huge amount of wood. The Snow Peak fire pit folds flat for transport and has holes in the bottom for added draught. Both offer optional cooking accessories, which provide a second use for them.
Whatever you use, a campfire adds that special ambience to any camp. Whether it be the smoky infusion to a tender steak or the warmth and glow to the campers around it, enjoying a night under the stars next to the warmth of a fire you created is the ultimate camping experience.
But don’t just take my word for it, try it out for yourself.
See you on the trails.
The full feature appeared in Caravan World #552 June 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!