The teepee fire is usually the first method of fire building that people learn. If you were a Boy or Girl Scout, you probably learned this to earn a badge. This method is great for beginners, as it shows the process of how a fire expands from the tinder to the larger fuel wood.
Gathering the Wood
You’ll need to find 3 different types of wood to build a teepee fire:
Tinder – Dry grass, pine needles, or sticks smaller than a matchstick work well for tinder. If the conditions are wet, try looking under the bark of the trees. You may have to peel a bit off before you get to it, but eventually you will see the dry areas. Even if you can’t find dry bark, you can break it up enough that you can dry it out with just the heat of your hands or by placing it in your pocket for a while. The job of the tinder is to start burning fast and hot.
Kindling – Kindling consists of sticks that are bigger than a matchstick, but not much bigger than a pencil. The job of the kindling is to take the spark or flames from the tinder and ignite. It burns longer than the tinder does, but it doesn't last as long as the big pieces of wood.
Fuel Wood – Anything larger than your thumb is fuel wood. Even large logs can be used as fuel wood. This is the bulk of your fire and will keep it burning for a while.
Prepping for the Fire
If you don’t have a defined fire pit, you'll have to make one. Be sure to clear a spot well of leaves or paper that could catch fire and blow into the woods.
Place a layer of sticks, about the size of your thumb, on the ground with a little space in between them. This will help keep your fire up off the ground, which is especially helpful if the ground is cold or wet.
Place a pile of tinder on top of the platform you just created. Now it’s time to build up your teepee.
Building the Teepee
- Build the bones of your teepee by using the small pieces of your fuel wood. Take four pieces and place them on each side of the pile, inserted into the ground and leaning toward the center of the fire, resting on one another for support at the top.
- Place more tinder inside the basic shape you created.
- Start stacking the kindling all around the outside of your teepee, but leave a space open for the “door” of the teepee.
- Place a layer of your fuel wood around next and continue until you have your fire the size you will need.
- If you have any wet wood, put this on the outside as the last layer. This will allow the initial fire to dry the wood out before it gets to it.
- Using the “door,” light the tinder on the inside.
- If there is no breeze, you may have to blow on it a little to get it going.
- As the fire burns, you may want to add wood to keep it going, depending on how long you want it to last.
You may notice as your fire burns that the teepee starts to fall over. It’s ok if it doesn’t hold its shape, because the teepee shape just helps to get it going. Once your fuel wood is burning well, you can add more on top without worrying about the shape. Just don't add too much too fast, or you could smother the fire and put it out.
Once your fire has burned for a while and you have nice, hot coals, make some delicious campfire food, like these On the Fire Reuben sandwiches, Dutch Oven Breakfasts, or Sausage Potato Green Bean Foil Pack Dinners.
What type of campfire do you like to make when camping? Tell us in the comments!