Successfully lighting a campfire requires planning and a little bit of finesse – it’s something of an art form – but anyone can do it, with a little practice. There are many ways to go about building a fire, but we will describe here the “pyramid” method.
To start, you’ll need kindling and some newspaper (or other scrap paper). Kindling means little twigs and small branches.
All you need is a handful of small twigs of increasing size. Start with several tiny twigs, like the size of a Q-tip, gather about four or five of those. Then gather about ten to twelve sticks that get bigger and bigger, both in length and in diameter, up to about a foot in length and an inch or two in diameter. Lay all the twigs next to the fire pit, within easy reach. Also cut open your bundle of firewood, find the smallest pieces available, and keep those ready also.
Next, start building your pyramid. Take a sheet of newspaper and crumple it up into a wad; place it at the center of the fire pit. You probably only need one sheet of newspaper; you need only a small wad to start. Then lean the smallest twigs around the wad of newspaper, so that the tips of the twigs come together on top of the newspaper, as if the twigs were forming a little teepee over the newspaper. Around the smallest twigs, lean a few twigs that are a little bigger in a similar manner. But only add a few of these slightly bigger twigs at first, you need to be able to light the newspaper first. Now you have the start of your pyramid.
This structure works well because leaning the twigs together in a pyramid over the newspaper centralizes the fire in one spot, and allows plenty of oxygen to reach the flame.
Now you get to light the fire. Using a match or a lighter (a match is easiest, because you can reach farther inside) reach in between the twigs of your pyramid and light the bottom of the wad of newspaper. For best results, light the wad at several different points around the outside of the pyramid.
Now comes the finesse. Once the newspaper gets going and begins burning the smallest twigs, quickly add bigger and bigger branches. But you need to be careful, don’t smother the fire by adding to much wood at once, but also don’t let the fire burn through all the fuel that you’ve added. It’s a balancing act, you want to add more wood when the first is burning well, but not too much wood.
If some of the bigger branches aren’t catching, try leaning in (not too close, don’t burn your eyebrows off!) and blowing on the fire. This really works! It can be the difference between getting a fire going or not. Another trick is to roll up one sheet of newspaper into a tight little roll and stick it under tricky branches that don’t want to catch. The extra fuel of the paper can get them going.
Keep adding bigger and bigger branches until all of your biggest branches are added. Once those are burning well, add the smallest pieces of wood from your bundle. Your fire must be burning well but you don’t want to smother it by adding the bigger pieces too soon.
Once the smallest pieces of the bundle are burning, start adding bigger pieces, usually one or two at a time. By now, you should have a nice, cozy fire going. Congratulations, now grab some marshmallows and enjoy!