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Best campfire secrets

I've been working on perfecting my campfire method for a while now.  Teepee vs. log cabin, different types of starters...I've been trying it all!  I've found that dryer lint as my starter works really well.  And the best part is that it's free!  

What's your secret to the best campfire? 

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.
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11 Replies

I prefer the lean-to method when making my campfires. I never can get the teepee method to work for me, it always seems to collapse and smother the fire. I occassionally will use the log cabin method, but the lean-to method seems to work best. What I like most is that as the sticks burn and fall they form a nice bed of coals for continuing the fire or for cooking.

I also use dryer lint, but I will add petroleum jelly or vasoline to help with ease of igniting. I always carry both matches and flint/steel, and the lint does well to light with either of them.

I like to go with the lean-to method. When I'm backpacking I will dig down just a little bit to protect my starter from the wind. I will usually bring dryer lint. I like to bring those stick lighters to start my fire. Makes it easier even though it's not ultra light. I will bring flint and steel just in case. 

Looks like I am going to try the lean-to method this weekend.  Thanks for the tip @Tetons2  and @JamesTomlinson!

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.

I like the lean-to method as well! I will also use cottonballs coated with a little vaseline as a starter when I remember to prep ahead of time! Super effective.

One note: I always check local regulations and use existing fire rings where permitted! I also don't build them in the backcountry anymore, even where permitted! I've found that the risk of starting a fire in a remote location given how bad fire season has been just outweighs the benefit. But, I still roast marshmallows over my backpacking stove and bring twinkle lights to up the ambiance!

Great point about fire seasons and the backcountry. 

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I grew up in a family of scouts, and we all learned the conventional methods of building campfires from our fellow scouts. The lean-to method of building a campfire has been our tried and true method.

A couple of years ago I read an article on an outdoor enthusiast blog about a different, unconventional sounding technique of building a campfire.

I was a skeptic. I had my doubts. I watched no less than a dozen YouTube videos of folks that show the viewer how to make this type of fire.

If you've never seen it before, you may want to be sitting, because you might faint in disbelief when you watch this video on how to build The Upside-Down Fire.

It literally turns the conventional learning of how to build a campfire upside down.

I've tried it, and it works! Not only does it work, but once lit, it requires far less attention to keep it going, as compared to the other tried and true methods.

Campfires can be high maintenance, requiring you to be constantly tending to it. Well, kick back & relax as the Upside-Down Fire does all the work for you! A...

What an interesting concept, and that guy is hilarious!  Thanks for the share @aggieplanner !

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

My nomination for "Best piece of goofy/dorky gear" also applies here.

It is a collapsable, stainless steel straw-like bellows that you can use to blow air on a fire.




Over the years I have built campires in a variety of circumstances - some just for pleasure  and camaraderie and some when survival and/or emergency signalingl was involved.

I simply used the most fragmented tinder available (frequently newspaper) and piled on a stack of dry, dead, progressiely bigger sticks. A nice glob of pine resin was oten useful.  The result was a blended teepee/log cabin structure with an adjacent lean-to which burned quite readily.  With time I found that some sort of bellows tube, often just a nondescript piece of rubber tubing, really helped things along.

On one dreadfully damp SAR night rescue, we simply set a lit carbide lamp on the ground, piled the most nearly dry material we could find around and on top of it, and eventually got a cheery blaze.

In wet conditions,dry material can be found deep within sheltering trees.  It may well pay to collect such items before campfire time or bring them from home.  Cotton dryer lint (not synthetics) is defintely good material.

Over the years, I have built fewer campfires, especially for cooking.  A canister or solid fuel stove is safer and quicker, as well as less environmentally impacting.

There are conditions where a campfire is vital, but there are others where no open flame should be ignited.  There have been times when I have used a canister stove only with the greatest caution.  Dry ground and high winds mean no fire today.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.