How to Build a Fire in the Wilderness

Whether you are in a camping, hiking or backpacking survival situation, a fire is very necessary. It can be your only source of heat during cold nights, and can also be used to cook your outdoor meals.

It might seem like a simple and obvious task, but there are many who struggle with constructing a good campfire. It can be especially difficult if you run out of matches while out in the wilderness.


It is important to know the right way to build a fire and how to start one without any special tools. Here are some fire tips to follow while you’re out in the wild.

Preparing a campfire

First, make sure the area you are in allows campfires, and check to see if they are required to be built in fire pits. Before starting, have some water available nearby in case the fire gets out of hand. It also helps to have a shovel in case you need to throw dirt on the fire if needed.

Make a proper fire pit if there isn’t one already built. Make a small ring with rocks and create a three-to-six inch depression in the ground. Search around for tinder (dry grass, shredded bark or fungus), kindling (dry leaves, small twigs or sticks) and dry wood logs.

Building the fire

The two most traditional methods of building a campfire are the “teepee” and the “log cabin.” The teepee is more common, but the log cabin is ideal for cooking over your fire.

To build a teepee-style campfire, first clump your tinder into a ball roughly four inches in diameter and place it in the middle of the fire pit. Stack some kindling into a cone around the tinder ball, and then lean your logs against the stack. Leave an opening large enough to be able to light your tinder in the middle.

Light the tinder and it should then spread to the kindle, and eventually the wood logs.

To build a log cabin campfire, first build a small version of the teepee using a tinder ball (as described above) and lean kindling against the ball in a circle. Then stack your wood legs less than a foot apart, alternating longways and sideways, making a square shape. Light the kindling in the middle.

If you don’t have matches

There are still ways to make fire in the wilderness without matches! Here are a few methods used by survivalists.

  • Flint and steel
  • Magnifying glass and sunlight
  • Steel wool and batteries: Touch the contacts of a nine-volt battery to some steel wool and blow gently to start a flame
  • Household items like candles, dryer lint, insect repellent or hand sanitizer