How to Build a Fire: Tips for Fireplaces, Campfires, and Working in the Rain

Now more than ever, it’s an ideal time to make the most of the camping season. And if there’s one thing a great camping trip needs, it’s a great fire (not to mention your handy camping tentsleeping bags, and some easy-to-make camping meal). Likewise, a great backyard sit-around requires flames. A warm, crackling fire is also the perfect grace note for a quiet night at home with a significant other or a good ol’ classic book, or better yet a significant other and some bourbon.

Over the years, The Manual has offered a plethora of tips and tricks on how to build a fire both out on the trail and at home. We’ve collated and condensed this information down to one handy guide to help you build the perfect fire both in a fireplace at home and at a campsite in the great outdoors, including tips for working in the rain and without matches. With everything you need to get your fire roaring, consider this your go-to guide for when you’re ready to light it up anywhere and for any reason.

How to Build a Fire in the Fireplace

how to build a fire fireplace

You’ve likely heard that old cliché, “Keep the home fires burning.” Well, you first have to start your home fires before you can keep them burning. Though we live in a world of gas furnaces and cooktops, a modern man would do well to learn how to start a fire.

Whether you’re looking to woo a lover or get started on your reading list, a crackling fireplace can warm your body, heart, and soul. The primal dancing of the flames is at once soothing and exhilarating. While building a fire in a fireplace is relatively easy, a few simple tricks can hasten the fire-building process and prevent you from making a fool of yourself.

  1. First, use your fireplace shovel to clear away the ashes from your previous fire.
  2. You must open the flue or damper. There should be a lever, chain, or handle near or inside your fireplace.
  3. Place two large, dry, split logs (here’s how to split wood) parallel to each other inside your fireplace. The idea is to create a sort of “nest” wherein you can start your fire.
  4. Twist some newspaper and arrange it in a nest between the two logs. If you have a steel grate, you can shove some newspaper beneath the grate.
  5. Place your smallest kindling on top of the newspaper, then place larger pieces of kindling on top of the two parallel logs, creating a bridge of sorts. If you don’t have any small kindling, consider splitting some off a log with a hatchet.
  6. Make sure you allow some space between the pieces of wood, as ventilation is important for delivering oxygen to the fire.
  7. If you’re having trouble with downdraft, ignite a piece of newspaper and hold it up to the flue opening. This is called “priming the flue.” The hot air will help reverse the direction of your chimney’s draft, preventing it from blowing down your chimney and into your home. You may need to do this a few times to ensure that the draft is going in the proper direction. Opening a door or window while you build your fire will further stabilize the air pressure and encourage an updraft.
  8. Ignite the newspaper nest in multiple spots and watch your fire burn. If the logs are properly seasoned, this arrangement should be enough to get your fire going.
  9. Add new logs to the fire as needed. Put them on in a perpendicular fashion to the existing logs, like you’re building a log cabin.

Note: Resist the urge to use gasoline or some other combustible liquid when starting a fire in a fireplace. Not only is this extremely dangerous, but it’s also basically cheating.

How to Build a Campfire

There’s something about getting a fire started in the wilderness that’s satisfying on the most primal levels. When you’re out for a week of backpacking, that fire may be your most technological tie to civilization for miles. Getting a fire started, though, takes more knowledge than just stacking some wood and sticking a lit match near it. If you’re planning on cooking over your flames with some camping cooking gear, then you’ve got to do even more planning. We tested a few different preparation methods to find the best options for every campsite. Next time you’re getting ready to heat up some fireside coffee or grill the catch of the day, you can do it over the perfect campfire.

Tinder and Kindling

A roaring campfire doesn’t start out strong enough to eat huge logs; you’ve got to build it from a few sparks and keep it well tended to get that hotbed of coals. Selecting tinder can be as simple as pulling some dried bark off a dead tree (if one is around). However, we prefer to leave nothing to chance, so we always bring our own. If you want to impress your friends, pick up a tin of Light My Fire’s TinderDust. These leftover shavings from the brand’s Tinder on Rope kits are up to 80% resin from Montezuma pine wood, so they’ll burn even when wet. Paired with a set of UCO’s Titan Stormproof Matches, you’ll have a small blaze going in no time.