Building the right campfire

It seems like autumn is everyone’s favorite season and October is everyone’s favorite month. It must have something to do with the beginning of the Holiday Season, cooler weather, seasonal treats, and flannel shirts. Even though autumn isn’t my favorite season (summer will forever have my heart), I’m still more than willing to welcome the changing of the seasons with open arms. Not going to lie, the distinct smell of autumn really helps with the change. What’s the smell that comes to mind when I think of autumn, you ask? It’s certainly not the smell of an overpriced cup of pumpkin spice latte from some trendy coffee shop made by some hipster barista.

The magnificent smell of burning hickory wood from a campfire traveling through the cool crisp night air is what tickles my mustache. Campfires serve so many purposes: encourages hangout times with old friends, keeps you warm, you can cook tasty food and treats over a fire, and we can’t forget the fact that it’s a great first date idea.Justin Fricke The Weekend Warrior with his handlebar mustache tending to a campfire in his Eddie Bauer down jacket

Yes, I had a handlebar mustache…and it was awesome

With everything campfires are used for, which design is the best design to build? The answer is that it’s situational, meaning that when you want to cook over an open fire, there’s a  perfect design for that and when you want to just sit around and stay warm, there’s a perfect design for that as well.

Before I get into how to build and when to use these three most common designs, let’s cover a few things. Be sure you have a clear area with no chance of catching some loose foliage on fire and accidentally starting a huge forest fire, you don’t want Smoky the Bear coming after you. That being said, have an emergency water supply near the campfire, just in case. Make sure you gather enough tinder, kindling, and timber (TKT) and have a lighter or enough matches with you.

  • Tinder is small loose and very flammable material that’s the first thing to get lit.
  • Kindling consist of twigs and smaller sticks that’s lit by the kindling since it can’t get lit by a lighter. It’s also used to get the flames going.
  • Timber is what everyone looks for first and eventually, you’ll need the most of this stuff. Gather bigger sticks, limbs, logs, etc. depending on how long you want to have a campfire and how big you want this fire to be. The heat and flames from the kindling is what’s used to light the timber on fire.

Let’s first start with the Lean-To design.

How do I set it up?

  • Place a larger piece of timber in your fire ringLean-To Campfire
  • Bundle up your tinder at the base and then put the kindling on top
  • Lay sticks up against the bigger piece of timber and over the tinder and kindling
  • Light your tinder and huddle around the fire

This is perfect for building a fire in windy conditions and if you want it to last for a long time without having to mess with it and constantly resupply wood on top of the fire. It’s great for backpackers since set-up is pretty minimal and they don’t have to spend much more valuable time gathering timber. It’s also great if you’re setting up camp on a windy mountain ridge since the larger piece of timber is going to block most of the wind from hitting the fire.

the-log-cabinNext up is the Log Cabin.

How do I set it up?

  • Take your tinder, bundle it up and lay it at the base of where your fire’s going to burn
  • Grab your timber and place two pieces parallel to each other, keeping the tinder in the middle
  • Set two more pieces of timber across the two pieces on the ground, completing a square
  • Keep doing this until it gets to your desired height all the while shoving your kindling into the openings
  • Light your tinder and watch this log cabin design go up in flames

When you want top roast some weenies and mallows over an open flame, this is the design for you. It takes a little bit longer to make compared to the Lean-To, but the flame is going to be centralized in the middle opening, creating an intense heat that’s optimal for cooking food. Use this design in calm conditions so it doesn’t get knocked over by the wind and enjoy watching the flames spout from the chimney.

Last and my favorite is the Tee Pee.

How do I set it up?

  • Start with a sturdy piece of timber in the centerTee Pee campfire design
  • Place plenty of tinder around the base
  • Lean some timber up against the piece in the center, making sure to leave an opening on one side
  • Light the tinder and start feeding the flame with the pile of kindling you have nearby
  • Close the gap with more timber once the flame is dancing around

You’re going to want to make sure you have a lot of timber gathered up because the fire burns through wood like no other with this design, but it gives off a lot of heat. The Tee Pee is optimal for big group gatherings since it gives off a lot of heat. If you’re comfortable tending to the fire often, it makes for a great “date campfire” to impress that special someone with your fire making and tending skills.

What’s your favorite campfire design?

Any good campfire stories to share?


  • There are other ways to build these campfires, this is just my preferred method
  • NEVER throw gasoline, diesel, or any other type of fuel on the fire aside from wood


  1. Heather Balogh says

    Haha, love the handlebar mustache 🙂 Great tips–some people really struggle with building fires so I imagine this would be useful!

    • The Weekend Warrior says

      Glad I can get the approval of an avid outdoorswoman like yourself…Not going to lie, I definitely miss the handlebar from time-to-time


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