One of the great memories from my youth is having a back garden campfire with a large group of friends. The fire burned and crackled into the early hours and we sang along to the entire Queen album ‘It’s a Kind of Magic.’ I’m not sure we cooked anything though undoubtedly we drank..

The best campfires live long in the imagination and are a great way to create magical moments for our kids (now our own partying days may be somewhat diminished.)

How To Light A Fire

Fire lighting is simple in itself but even the most experienced of us struggle at times. There are a zillion tutorials online so here’s my simple version and then it’s over to you – the best way to learn is to practice.

girl-squatting-down-next-to-pretend-fire-with-tripod-of-sticks-overEven a fairy fire must be laid correctly..

You Will Need: –

Matches or a fire lighter/flint of some kind

Fresh air!

Kindling – small, dry twigs, sticks or other easily flammable material
Starter wood – medium sized sticks that will catch easily from the kindling
Logs/larger wood – big pieces that will burn long and hot to keep the fire going

men-woman-and-girl-sorting-sticks-for-campfire-in-sandSizing the wood

Tipi, Log Cabin or Platform Style Fire?

There are many ways to lay the wood for a fire (which I won’t go into here) whether it’s in a grate indoors or outside on the ground or in a firepit or a washing machine drum – learn how to make one here; make a firepit from a washing machine drum.

My best advice is to practice different ways and see which works best for you. The below tips will make for easy firelighting ,whichever style of fire you choose to build.

What To Do

  • Place kindling at the bottom. It ignites quickly and easily but burns out fast
  • Stack starter wood over the kindling. It needs to be small and dry to catch quickly. Stack to allow air to the flames. This can be in a tipi shape, a criss-cross log cabin shape or as a platform. Experiment and use your favourite.
  • Place larger logs around the edge to add once the starter wood is burning, allowing them to dry beforehand. They should catch and burn slowly, keeping the fire alight
  • Light the kindling. You may need a fire starter to help the kindling catch. You can buy these but they give a chemical taste if used for cooking and give off smelly fumes. The best way is to make your own (see below).
Caroline helping the fire, Courtesy Cool of the Wild

Why not try a campfire in the snow? Read snow fires and night sledging to get inspired.

Fire Starters

For some ingenious ideas on making natural and recycled fire starters check out Cool of the Wild‘s excellent post homemade firestarters. My favourite, below, uses tumble dryer lint, egg boxes and melted wax crayons. It’s a real must-read article.

Courtesy Cool of the Wild

No matches?

To try firelighting without any matches, as in the recent Swallows And Amazons DVD, check out this article by the excellent Family Adventure Project.

More Reading

My own post on survival techniques for kids shows how to create kindling embers using sticks. Keeps the kids entertained on any campfire adventure.

For more campfire information see also ritual Christmas tree burning, how to make a firepit and garden cookfires.


However you light your fire, have a great time and STAY SAFE.