Camping 101: Fire Building

by Albus Du

Great! Now that you’ve decided to go camping, you are wondering one very important thing, what to eat? Camp cooking can range from the simplest of simple meals, to elaborate roasts and paellas that sprawl across the tables as far as the eye can see. However, since this is Camping 101, not Camping 202, we’ll focus on the simpler meals that you could make without much muss or fuss, and with less of a financial investment (or none at all).

By far, the cheapest way to cook while camping is with an open fire. Since you will be presumably camping in a forest, with dead trees you can pick up and burn, the only cash you need to spend is a few dollars on matches or a lighter, and some lighter fluid. In order to keep a fire going, you need to fulfill all three points of the fire triangle, heat, fuel, and oxidizer, in this case, oxygen from the air. Keeping these three things in mind, you should first gather materials to burn, and assemble the structure of your fire. There are a myriad of structures you can choose from, from teepees, to log cabins, to lean tos, however, the simplest one, the one I would recommend to beginners, and the one I use, since I am lazy, is a lean to. Smaller, drier things catch on fire more easily, so start off with dry grass, or a few paper towels, and place this stuff in the bottom of the fire pit. This stuff is called tinder. On

top of that, lay a few smaller sticks, no thicker than a pencil, and very dry. This is called kindling. Make sure to not crush the tinder with the kindling, since you want good airflow around the central nest. Next to your nest, place a large log and lean some smaller logs against it. Make sure that there are still gaps between the logs, this allows for air to flow, and the fire to breath. These are the fuel and oxidizer portions of the fire triangle, now you just need heat. At this point, I would stick a long necked lighter or some lit matches in through the side, or gaps in the logs, but it can be kind of difficult to light a fire that way. It took me years of learning to figure out how to do that well. That is why, for beginners, I would recommend dousing the entire thing in lighter fluid at this point. That will virtually guarantee that the fire will catch. Be careful here however, lighter fluid evaporates quickly, so light it immediately after dousing. If you don't, the fumes from the lighter fluid could catch fire and singe off your eyebrows. Also, never squirt lighter fluid into an already lit fire. The flame could travel up the stream and burn your hand off.

Great! Now that your fire is lit, all you have to do is constantly tend to it, feeding it wood, and blowing fresh air over and into the flames. A fire is like a child, it requires constant attention, it can sometimes be frustrating, it can easily get out of hand, and once it matures a bit, it’ll cook your food for you. With an open fire the first thing that comes to mind is spit roasting, when you take a thing, put it on the end of a stick, and roast it until it’s ready to eat. By far the easiest things to cook this way are hot dogs. Just cook them until they begin to sizzle, and enjoy.

All this being said, I do have to inform you to be careful. Fire can be very dangerous. Make sure your area is clear of any easily flammable objects before you light the fire, and make sure you are lighting the fire in a designated legal fire pit. Check your local regulations before you start.

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