" / > " / > Steps to the Perfect Campfire|December 2019| TPW magazine
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Three Steps for the Perfect Campfire

Everything’s better around a campfire. Even when your hot dog is a bit charred, it tastes heavenly when you’ve hovered it over the flames and chase it with a gooey s’more. Those ghost stories are even more spine-tingling when faces flicker in the firelight. Sing-alongs sound cheerier and cold toes feel toastier.

Check ahead to be sure your park or destination will allow a campfire. Collecting firewood is not allowed at parks, so plan ahead. Learn where to place a fire, how to build it and how to extinguish it safely.


Ideally, use an established campfire ring. If there’s not one, select a site away from trees, brush and grass. Rake away any loose plant material and put some rocks in a circle around the bare earth. Make sure the wind isn’t blowing too hard.


Start with tinder (bring your own dryer lint/paper or use dry leaves, shavings or grass). Form a little tepee over the tinder with thin twigs. (Remember, fire needs oxygen and always burns “up.”) Make a larger tepee over this with thicker sticks, eventually adding on bigger logs. Use a match to light the tinder and watch it catch fire till it collapses on itself, then add more wood.


Don’t wait till the last minute to put it out. It takes time to quench all the embers. Sprinkle water over the charred wood and embers, stirring it with a stick to reach below the surface. When the steam quits hissing, you may be nearly done. Test it by holding your hand nearby to gauge the temperature. Don’t leave until you are sure no embers remain.

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