Offbeat Adventure

How to Build the 7 Different Campfires You'll Need This Summer

One of the best parts about summer is gathering around the campfire with your loved ones. There's just something about the sound of crackling wood and that smoky smell that gets into your clothes that evokes the comforting feeling of summer. The only thing that isn't comforting? Struggling to get that dang campfire to stay lit. If you want to master the flame, read up on these basic campfires to ensure you'll know what to do the next time you head out into nature.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Before jumping into the types of campfires, let's start with the basics of fire building. A campfire needs oxygen, heat, and fuel to keep everyone warm around the campfire. You always need dry wood to start a fire — wood with any water in it won't be able to light. Digging a hole in the dirt and hunting for dry kindling is a classic bonding activity for any camping trip, but if it's rained recently, you may want to purchase firewood from a local store (just don't bring it from home).

Types of Campfires


Learn this one first before attempting any of the others. This style of fire is a great place to start if you're a beginner, as it's simple yet effective. This is a good fire for gatherings with lots of people, especially those who haven't built a fire before.

How to make it: Grab the smallest and driest pieces of kindling you can find, then make a small, teepee-like structure with them. Make sure the structure isn't too tight; you'll need to leave an opening for the next step: putting some tinder, like twigs and grasses, inside the center of the structure. Finally, light the tinder. You want to give the fire a place to concentrate its flame while still allowing a good amount of air to come in. Once your fire gets going, add more wood to help the fire slowly build.

Log Cabin/Criss-Cross

This is the ultimate fire for times when you need a fire going for warmth, but don't want to have to keep stoking the flames.

How to make it: Place two of your largest, sturdiest logs horizontally as your base, then place two logs on top of them vertically to create a three-dimensional #hashtag. Then work your way up with smaller logs and leave space in between them. Finally, add tinder or even a small teepee structure at the base, then light your fire.

Platform/Upside-Down Fire

This fire is a superb style for cooking hot dogs, s'mores, or even food that requires a cast-iron pan. It's perfect for when you need a fire to last a long time — people will want those hot dogs all day! When this fire is done properly, it can burn all day or night.

How to make it: This fire is also nicknamed the "upside down fire" because your largest logs are used as the base and the small pieces of wood that make a teepee go at the top. Lay two or three of the largest logs down horizontally and then place smaller logs vertically on top. Continue this until you're ready to put your small teepee of kindling on top. Then light the fire and let it burn down until you've got glowing wood coals.


Low on firewood? Try this easy campfire. Instead of burning all of your wood at once, this style burns a few logs bit by bit to keep the fire going for as long as possible without adding more wood.

How to make it: Create a small teepee with sticks and kindling, then lay out four to six logs around it, each with one end barely touching the teepee and the other facing out — you'll want to create a sort of wood asterisk. Then light the teepee and adjust the logs as it burns to ensure that every log is slowly consumed by flame.


The lean-to is a popular shelter to sleep in while you're camping to protect against harsh weather conditions. The lean-to campfire style does the exact same thing, and it's an excellent way to provide warmth through wind and rain.

How to make it: Place one big log down as the windbreaker, then lean smaller firewood on it perpendicularly. You'll build your mini teepee beneath the lean-to, which will protect it from the elements.

Swedish Fire

You don't need to be in Sweden for this creative fire. This is a lifesaver if you want to have a fire but don't have a lot of logs, since it only uses one. You can even use the top as a stove. You will need a chainsaw or some other tool for cutting wood.

How to make it: Find the thickest log available and place it upright like a drum. Hold it vertically in the campfire ring and make chainsaw cuts beginning at the top, as if you were cutting a pie into four wedges. Careful — you want to keep six inches from the base of the log uncut; if you cut it all the way to the bottom, you'll have to start over. Then put kindling in the center and between the wedges, light the fire, and you're good to go.


Named after its keyhole shape, this fire gives you the best of both worlds. On one end, you've got the main fire to keep you warm, and on the other, you've got hot coals that are perfect for cooking.

How to make it: Start by marking out a keyhole shape in the dirt with stones, creating a circle at least 2 feet (61 centimeters) in diameter attached to a rectangle big enough to accommodate the cookware you want to use. Next, create your favorite fire in the main ring — a teepee or log cabin works well here. Light the fire about an hour before you plan to cook so it has time to create the coals you need. Rake those coals into the rectangle section as they become available, then place your cookware on top and get cooking!

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Once you've got one of these campfire styles going, it's time for the songs, laughter, and maybe even some ghost stories. "Spooky Campfire Stories: Outdoor Myths And Tales For All Ages" by Amy Hoitsmas will be sure to knock the socks off of everyone around the fire. We handpick reading recommendations we think you may like. If you choose to make a purchase, Curiosity will get a share of the sale. 

Written by Annie Hartman July 18, 2018

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