There is nothing that makes a night of camping more ideal than the perfect campfire. But there are requirements to creating the perfect campfire and the ideal fire environment. First of all, you must have the appropriate area. In most campgrounds or RV parks, there are campfire rings in which you build your fire. If you are in a natural area, be sure you have a cleared area, ideally bare ground, on which to build your creation.
The other essentials are simple:
1) Firewood, preferably dry—It is possible to get wet or damp firewood to burn with the right combination of kindling, matches, newspaper and luck, but it can be difficult. A perfect campfire requires dry firewood. In much of the country, our best campfires were made from dry maple or oak. In the southwest, the best campfires are made with dry fir and ponderosa pine, with a fine bit of pinon pine to add the perfect campfire (or fireplace or woodstove) smell. Delicious!
When building your fire, you will form a teepee with your ideal 12-24 inch lengths of firewood. Inside this teepee you will put the remainder of your ingredients.
2) Kindling—You will also need small, thin pieces of wood that will start burning easily and will burn long enough to allow the larger pieces of firewood to “catch”. This is either small dry sticks you have gathered or one of your larger pieces of firewood split into thin strips. In the southwest, dried sage, as in sagebrush, is the best kindling. It is readily available and catches fire almost instantly, the perfect way to start your campfire.
In parts of the country where it is available, birch bark (not peeled off of trees as that kills the tree, but peeled from firewood or downed trees) is a nice addition to your kindling, as it will encourage it to start readily.
3) Newspaper—Newspaper is the ideal thing to help your kindling start burning,
4) Dry matches or a firestarter—this is a no-brainer and self-explanatory,
5) A fire stick–this is simply a stick to poke the fire and rearrange the wood—trust me you will want and need to do this as your fire continues to burn, so when you are out collecting wood, choose a stick that will be your fire stick
6) Water to put out anything you do not want to burn—Some wood will spark, occasionally dry leaves nearby will catch fire. Be sure to have water around to put out the things you do not want to burn.
7) The perfect companion—nothing enhances the perfect fire more than the perfect person or persons to share it with. You know what I mean. The perfect campfire with the right person is bliss!
8) Ingredients for s’mores, but that’s a subject for another post! Happy travels!