You’re Getting Warmer

How to build a campfire everyone will want to gather around.
Photo courtesy Jeremy Bishop/Pexels

THE KEY to a great campfire is preparation. Begin by gathering different sized pieces of firewood, if allowed. Some state parks prohibit using downed branches for firewood, so come prepared with wood you sourced elsewhere. Never, ever break off live branches or cut down a tree to use as firewood the same day.

In addition to this being wasteful, the wood will be much too green and will smoke you out. Also, don’t buy one of those shrink-wrapped bundles at the gas station and toss the pieces on as they are; they’re typically too big and will quickly smother your budding fire. Use a hatchet or saw to cut at least half of them into smaller bits.

Build a base of two large pieces of firewood (the largest pieces of wood in the bundle). Place them 6 to 9 inches apart and then lay two smaller pieces atop them to form a square. Place kindling inside the square. Kindling can be made of shredded newspaper or narrow slivers of wood sliced with a knife. In the center of the kindling, place your secret weapon: a firestarter. You can either buy a firestarter or make your own. Wads of dryer lint stuffed inside toilet paper rolls and sealed with paraffin work well, as do cotton balls soaked in hand sanitizer or Vaseline. (Gathered leaf litter and dry twigs will work if you didn’t come prepared.) Light the firestarter with a match or lighter. Its sparks will ignite the bundle of kindling.

After the fire catches, feed it with progressively larger pieces of kindling and wood, then bask in the warmth of the fire and admiration of your friends and family.