10 Types of Campfires Preppers Need to Know

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By Bryan Lynch •  9 min read

Knowing how to make a fire is one of the most important outdoor skills to know, especially in a survival situation. 

Having fire gives a person the ability to cook food, boil water, maintain body temperature, dry out wet clothes, have a source of light, keep insects and predators at bay, craft tools, and signal for help. 

Types of Campfires

In a survival situation, any type of fire is appreciated, but sometimes knowing how to build a certain type of fire can dramatically improve your situation. 

Before jumping right into the different types of fire, it may be helpful to quickly go over what is needed to get a fire started. 

Starting a Fire 

When getting ready to start a fire it is helpful to remember the fire triangle. This simple diagram reminds us of a fire’s requirements. Those three things are oxygen, an ignition source, and fuel. 

Oxygen is usually not a problem but too much or too little of it will hinder your attempts. 

An ignition source can be anything that will provide the heat to combust materials. This can come from friction, a lighter and matches, or a chemical reaction. 

The fuel is going to be what starts your firebase and keeps it going. This is broken down into three categories, they are:

Once you are ready to go, make sure you have everything you need where the fire is going to be made. This means having plenty of tinder and kindling within arm’s reach.

After the tinder has been ignited begin adding kindling slowly but consistently. Take care not to snuff out the fire. After a hot base of embers has been created you can start to place fuel around and above the fire. 

10 Types of Campfires & How to Build Them

Teepee Fire 

If you have ever seen the shape of a Native American Teepee then you know what this fire is going to look like. 

To build it, begin by placing your tinder and kindling in the center of your fire pit. Next, take larger pieces of wood and stand them up around the center so that they are leaning on one another.

Light the tinder and add kindling as needed until the teepee catches fire.

Log Cabin Fire 

The frame of this fire is going to be constructed from larger pieces of wood and assembled much like a log cabin. 

To begin, place two pieces of wood into the fire pit so that they are parallel to one another with enough space in between for the fire to be created. 

Next, place two similar-sized pieces of wood on top of the first two so they are perpendicular to the base. Repeat this process as much as needed until you have the size you want. 

Star Fire

This is a great type of fire to use when there is not a lot of wood available or you want better control of your fire.

To begin, place several larger pieces of wood on the ground so that their ends are pointing to the center of the fire. Use tinder and kindling to start a fire in the center of where the ends are pointing. Once a good base of coals is going, the longer pieces of wood can be pushed into or pulled away from the fire as necessary. 

This type of fire will not provide a lot of heat, but it will help to conserve fuel.  

Long Fire 

This type of fire consists of two or more large, long logs and can be set up in a few different ways. The logs can be set directly on the ground or they can be suspended in the air by placing wood underneath their ends. 

Use tinder and kindling to get a fire going in between the length of the larger logs. Once the logs are burning, they provide a great source of long, even heat and foundation to lay cookware on top of.

Dakota Hole Fire

When you are wanting to conceal the light of your fire or help protect it from the wind, the Dakota Hole is a good design to use but you will need a digging tool. 

To start, dig a hole that is at least one foot wide by one foot deep. Within the hole, dig a tunnel that is about one foot long with the end of the tunnel connecting to the surface.

Place your tinder and kindling in the large hole and get a fire going. The tunnel will provide airflow to the base of the fire and because the fire is burning under the surface of the ground it will be contained and difficult to see. 

Pyramid Fire 

This fire begins with large pieces of wood followed by stacking smaller and smaller pieces upward to form the shape of a pyramid. Each ascending layer should be laid down opposite of the previous layer. The fire can be lit from the bottom but more often, the tinder and kindling are lit and placed on top. 

Since a lot of the wood for this design is pre-stacked, this is a good frame to make if you do not wish to constantly add wood to the fire.

Swedish Fire

This design is quite a bit different from the rest on the list. It is also interesting how it is set up. The Swedish Fire takes a bit of preparation and you will need a saw or cutting tool of some kind. 

To begin, find a large piece of wood and stand it up vertically. Next, take a saw and cut several lines across the end of the wood so that the lines intersect in the center. Be sure to leave several inches of uncut wood at the bottom so that the log remains intact. 

Push tinder and kindling down into the cuts and light a pile of tinder and kindling in the center of the log. The fire will continue to burn downward and as it does, the surface of the log will provide a place for cookware.  

Upside Down Fire 

The upside-down fire is basically the reverse set up of most fires.

Begin by placing several large pieces of wood parallel and butting up next to one another on the ground for the base. Next, place slightly smaller pieces of wood on top of and perpendicular to the base. Repeat stacking smaller and smaller layers of wood upward until the wood is as tall as you want it. 

Lastly, place the tinder and kindling on top and start the fire. Keep feeding the fire with kindling until it begins to burn downward. 

Keyhole fire 

This fire is so named because it resembles an old-style keyhole. It is not the fire itself that resembles the shape at it is the fire pit.

To make it, one side of the pit needs to be in the shape of a circle. Then on one side of the circle create a connected area in the shape of a rectangle. The purpose of this design to have a better way of regulating the temperature of the fire, say for cooking purposes. 

Light a fire in the middle of the circle using any method you like. Once a good base of hot embers has been established the coals can be raked to the side and into the rectangular section. Wood can continue to burn in the main section of the pit while the coals off to the side can be used for cooking.  

Signal Fire 

Several of the above methods can be used to create a signal fire although something resembling the pyramid method does work well. A signal fire is only used during times of distress to be rescued, so there are a few key things to remember. 

Elevating the fire may help it to be seen. To do this create a platform that is several feet off the ground. Before stacking wood on the platform, it is important to add a layer of soil or sand as the base. This will help to prevent the fire from burning through the bottom. 

Next, make sure that the frame of the fire is as dry as possible, and is overstuffed with tinder and kindling. This will help to get the fire burning quickly. 

Smoke is an important component of many signal fires, but most of the smoke from a normal fire dissipates quickly in the air.What you want is a thick column of white smoke that will stay together longer and improve the chances of being seen. To produce a lot of white smoke, add green vegetation to the top of a hot burning fire. 

Since smoke can be a critical part of a signal fire, it is important to place the fire in an open area. A thick, overhead tree canopy will prevent a lot of smoke from getting through.   

Wrap Up 

I hope that you enjoyed the above walkthrough of different types of campfires. I am sure that there are a few fire designs that did not make it to the list but the ones that were covered are among the most popular and useful ones to know. 

Lastly, I would like to remind everyone to always be mindful of their surroundings before starting a fire, do not make a fire you cannot control, and be ready to fully extinguish the fire when you are done with it. 

Thanks for reading and stay prepared!

What are some of your favorite types of campfires? Sound off in the comment section below and let us know!

Bryan Lynch

Bryan grew up in the Midwest and spent every waking moment outdoors. Learning how to hunt, fish, read the land, and be self-reliant was part of everyday life. Eventually, he combined his passions for the outdoors, emergency preparedness, and writing. His goal was to spread positive information about this field. In 2019, Bryan authored the book Swiss Army Knife Camping and Outdoor Survival Guide. His second book, Paracord Projects For Camping and Outdoor Survival, is scheduled to be released on March 2, 2021.