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How to Start a Campfire (or Any Fire, Really)

The heat may be oppressive this summer, but it can still get chilly at night while you’re camping and, fortunately, you don’t have to be Jack London to make a fire that might save your life ... or at least keep you warm. That said, this ain't no magic show. If you don’t have tinder and a flame you’re going to be out of luck. It’s as simple as that. So, we’ll start there. <strong>Step 1: Plan for Fire</strong> Don’t make assumptions about what you may find in the wilderness, especially when it comes to your flame. Waterproof matches, a Zippo or a <a href="http://www.atgstores.com/search/survival.html">manufactured fire starter</a> are all good options, and they’re so compact it doesn’t hurt to carry more than one way to make a flame. Remember what happened in <em>To Build a Fire</em>? Yeah, don’t be that guy. Think “dry” when it comes to your tinder; the drier the better, really. Here’s a list of portable (or emergency) tinder items, some better than others: - Manufactured tinder balls - Moss - Paper / Toilet paper - Leaf litter / Bark - Small sticks / Twigs - Fur / Hair Make sure you have these items or are positive you can locate them at/near your planned campsite, in addition to the larger sticks and logs you'll need once your kindling is burning. <strong>Step 2: Select a Campfire Location</strong> Choose a spot downwind from your tent and with low wind exposure. You don’t want smoke blowing through your <a title="Tents" href="http://www.atgstores.com/tents_2439.html?linkloc=tn" target="_blank">tent</a>, or worse, accidentally setting it alight. If winds are high you may need to build a shield with rocks, larger logs or dig a hole for your fire. <strong>Step 3: ‘Layer’ Your Fuel &amp; Light</strong> Start with a loose pile of the smallest material you have (leaf litter, moss, etc.) and layer small sticks and twigs on top of it. Leave some space for air to move through the pile and so you can reach in to light it. Oxygen is your friend at this point and a little air movement will help the flame breathe. Fire that bad boy up. <strong>Step 4: Add More Fuel (‘Tent’ or ‘Crosshatch’ Style)</strong> Once your fire is burning well you can add larger pieces of wood. You can lean the logs over the fire in a tipi or tent fashion, or build a box of wood around it in a lattice pattern by overlapping pieces of wood if you have enough material. Let your resources determine your method and conserve wood if necessary. <strong>Step 5: Always Put Your Fire Out</strong> Never leave a fire untended and never leave it to burn after you’ve gone to sleep. Follow these tips and you should be able to stay warm and cozy no matter where you decide to make camp this summer.
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