Fuel for Fire – How to Light your Campfire

The great outdoors are a magnificent sight to behold. However, when it comes time to cook or the evening gets cold, it can be difficult to have a comfortable time without a fire for warmth.

In case you find yourself out in the woods and in need of a fire, it can be quite a difficult job to get one started. 

Fortunately, this article will teach you all you need to know about keeping a fire going by using the appropriate fuel types. You may be surprised to know that when it comes to fuel for the fire, there are quite a lot of options.   

Types of Firewood

In regards to wood fire, there are three main types of fuel that you will need. The first is tinder, the second is kindling, and finally, there is fuelwood. Each of these fuels has different characteristics which make them suitable at specific stages of the fire. 

Moreover, all three are readily available in any woodland environment, so finding the three should not be much of an issue. 

Prepping for The Fire 

There are a few steps you should go through before you start with your fire. The first is to clear the area on the ground where you want to build it.

In case the ground is not clear, you run the risk of moisture from soggy debris or green plants making it difficult for your fuel to catch a spark. Moreover, clearing the area helps ensure that the fire does not spread out of control accidentally when it gets bigger. 

The second step is to gather the three types of fuelwood. It is generally difficult to gather fuelwood after a fire has been started as it needs constant attention and monitoring, especially in the early stages. If you end up looking for fuel while the fire is still young, it runs the risk of burning out. 

Finally, it is highly recommended that you have something to turn the fire off. This is usually a bucket of water; however, if water is not available, you can also use dirt or sand to turn off the fire. The important thing is that you have it on hand before starting the fire, just in case you need to turn it off for any reason. 

The Fuels 

When collecting fuel for the fire, there are three categories you should be on the lookout for. Each has different characteristics which make it suitable for different stages of the fire. 

  1. Tinder 

The first type of fuel is Tinder. This is used in the initial stages of the fire when trying to get a spark to catch. 

Tinder is crucial for any fire and without it, it is almost impossible to light one. Nowadays, however, matchsticks serve the same purpose as both tinder and a spark. If you have a matchbox with you, you can skip gathering tinder. 

For those without matchsticks though, tinder is any fuel that is relatively small and not too dense. Dried grass can be excellent for this job, so can be dry bark or wood shavings, if you can get them. As long as something is small, does not have too much moisture, and is not too dense, you should be alright. 

Since tinder is only used at the very beginning of a fire, you should not need to gather too much, a couple of handfuls should be enough. Although it is always recommended to keep extra on hand just in case more is needed. After all, it is better to have collected some extra tinder than to have your fire go out because it ran out of fuel. 

Once the initial bundle of tinder catches fire, you will need to add the next fuel, kindling to help it grow. 

  1. Kindling 

Kindling is the next step up from tinder and helps the fire grow to a size where it is able to burn proper fuelwood. If you were to add fuelwood to the fire before adding kindling, it would just burn out. 

When collecting kindling, keep an eye out for relatively thin branches and twigs. Generally, kindling should not be thicker than a pencil. Another factor to consider is the moisture content. If the branch or twig is still fresh, it will not catch fire and your little blaze will fizzle out. 

To check whether a piece of kindling is appropriate, simply try snapping it. In case the fuel bends or warps, that is a sign that it is too wet and cannot be used. If it snaps cleanly when you apply force then that means that it is dry and good for use. 

Sometimes, however, especially after rain, you may struggle to find appropriate kindling that is not damp or wet. Fret not, there are still a few things you can do in this situation. The first option is to simply whittle away the damp parts of your kindling with the help of a knife. 

In case the sticks are too damp, you can consider splitting the wood and removing some of the dry material inside. In such an instance, it is recommended that you gather slightly larger sticks than normal-sized kindling. This is because when you split it, you will only get a fraction of the wood as dry and usable kindling. 

Another thing you should consider is using pine wood if possible. Pine is better at catching fire and hence, even if it is a little damp, it should still burn better than other damp woods. 

Once the fire has grown sufficiently large, thanks to the help of kindling, you can finally move on to the final fuel. 

  1. Fuelwood 

Fuelwood is the bread and butter of a good fire. The other two fuels are simply transitory, this one, on the other hand, will be the staple of your blaze. 

Fuelwood can vary in size. However, for a campfire, something the thickness of your wrist should be good enough. If you want to have a really big bonfire, then something the width of your forearm should suffice. This is not an exact measurement but at this stage of the fire, it does not need to be. 

When adding fuelwood to your fire, make sure you start off with smaller and drier pieces. Whenever working with fire, you do not want to jump sizes all of a sudden. Instead, the transition should be gentle and gradual, allowing the fire to catch up with the new wood size. Otherwise, you risk smothering it. 

Once the fire has had a few pieces of fuelwood burn for a while, there should be coals forming. At this stage, your fire has become pretty reliable and the risk of it going out is more or less gone. Moreover, you can even add damp fuelwood to the fire now because it should be hot enough to dry the wood out. 

Another thing to remember is that the type of wood you use will affect the characteristics of your fire. If you need something bright and intense, pinewood will work wonders. It will, however, also burn away pretty quickly and need replacing. 

In case you want an overnight fire or something that does not require constant feeding, you should consider hardwoods like oak and maple. These do not burn as intensely as pine but they last much longer.  


The great outdoors can be magnificent when it comes to enjoying nature. However, with a glowing fire to provide light and warmth, they can be even better. 

Now that you have read this article, you are armed with the skills necessary to make a fire of your own. We wish you the best of luck!