Build A Long Lasting Campfire: Log Cabin vs. Self Feeding

Build A Long Lasting Campfire: Log Cabin vs. Self Feeding

This video is a response to Brenden who asked, “Could you make a video that tells me what I should do to make a long-lasting fire?”

Fires require heat, fuel and oxygen. All three need to be in proper balance for a long lasting fire. The way you arrange the the wood and the type of wood you use, will affect the how long the fire will last and the amount of heat that will be given off. I prefer burning hardwoods, such as oak, because they make excellent coals and burn slower than softwoods, such as pine.

Before I start building a fire, I collect tinder: This is the small material that will catch a flame. It can be dry grass, leaves, twigs, pine pitch or fire starter (such as, cotten-soaked vasoline). I sometimes make tinder by shaving wood to make a feather stick. I also collect kindling, pencil sized branches, (or split wood), that will easily catch fire. The largest pieces of wood, (fuel) are generally logs 1 to 5 inches in diameter.

Because heat rises with the flames, tinder is usually placed at the bottom, with kindling and fuel above. The materials should be close enough to transfer heat, but loose enough to allow air flow.

Since Brenden asked about making a long-lasting fire, I did a comparison test between two fire lays that are recognized for a long-burn time: 1) Log Cabin Fire and 2) Self Feeding Fire (sometimes called an Upside Down Fire, or Inverse Fire.) The wood for each fire lay weighed 16.5 lb ( 7.5 kg).

The Log Cabin Fire Lay is a classic structure. It allows air flow and elevates kindling above the initial flames of tinder placed within the sturuture. It may be helpful to dig a slight trough under one side for lighting the tinder.

The Self Feeding Fire Lay is supposed to create a long lasting fire that requires very little maintenance. It breaks the rule of using thin-to-thick materials that start from the bottom, but rather is constructed with the fuel logs at the bottom with kindling and tinder placed above. When the tinder is lit, gravity takes hold and the fire and embers descend onto the rule below, igniting each consecutive layer as it grows.

Learning Point: it would have been easier to light the Self Feeding Fire if the tinder were better processed (ground up / broken into smaller pieces). Next time I will process the tinder before attempting to light it.

Your comments and feedback are welcome.

Videography by Ken Kramm, April 2013, Sam Houston, National Forest, Tx, USA.