Starting Fire

3 Fire-Building Techniques

Teepee, Log Cabin, and Lean-to are three options for setting up a strong fire base.

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This technique is the top choice of experts and readers. It’s easy to make and produces tall flames quickly.

1. Drive a forked, finger-thick stick into the ground at a 45-degree angle over your tinder pile. Lean another same-width stick into the crook of the forked end.
2. Add slightly thinner sticks, maintaining a balanced structure by adding like-size pieces at the same time on either side of your teepee.
3. Leave an opening all the way to the center on the lee side so you can deliver a spark or flame to your tinder pile.
4. After lighting, add more kindling to the outside of the teepee. When a good bed of coals forms, add fuel, starting small so as not to smother your flame.

Log Cabin

Damp logs, slightly green wood, and harder-to-ignite hardwoods dry in place with this technique.

1. Place inch-thick pieces of fuel wood on either side of your tinder pile, parallel to each other.
2. The next layer of fuel wood should be slightly thinner (thumb-thick), placed across the bottom two to form a square base (think: Lincoln Logs).
3. Starting with the third layer, place thin, well-spaced pieces of kindling flat across the center. Starting here leaves space to insert your match.
4. Continue with this overlaying pattern until you’ve made a square structure about seven levels tall.


If you can’t split larger logs, or it’s slim pickings for smaller fuel wood, choose this fire design, which gets a log burning fast.

1. Lay an arm-thick log in your fire area. This is the support and windbreak. Put your tinder pile directly beside the log and on the lee side of any wind.
2. Lean kindling and thin fuel wood against the log at a right angle, directly over the tinder pile.
3. Alternate between thin and thick pieces for easier fire uptake, and make sure to leave plenty of space between sticks so the fire can breathe.
4. To light, reach under the lean-to with your match or lighter.