A few years ago I had been watching the discovery channel and saw a man building a campfire which burned all night. That got me thinking about the freezing nights I had during some of my campings. There are many mistakes you might make during your first hike – one of them would be bringing a poop sleeping bag, as I did. The one thing that made a difference was my sleeping bag liner; however, it wasn’t enough. Over the years I’ve learned several ways on how to make a campfire burn all night. In this article, I will elaborate on nine of them which, in my opinion, were most useful.
You can make your campfire burn all night by creating a pyramid fire shape, using a fire reflector or making a Finnish gap fire. You may also use more simple means, such as lighting a massive log properly, covering the embers with foil, placing ash and rocks inside or merely blocking the wind. More serious methods would be using mud to build a stove or creating a Swedish torch.
1. Create a Pyramid Fire
The first method I’ve found useful is to create a pyramid campfire. You shouldn’t confuse it with a teepee – the last is getting consumed fast.
To generate a pyramid fire, first, make sure you gather logs which are about the same size and thickness. If you found some which are a little bit thicker – make sure these would eventually be at the bottom.
Then, place a few parallel to each other. On the top of those, put a few more – perpendicular to the pile underneath. Each time you finish a new layer, make sure it contains one log less than the layer below it, resulting in a pyramid shape.
Once you’ve finished, use some kindle to light up the firewood which is on the TOP. With this method, fire moves downwards, which is somewhat opposed to intuition.
This way the air underneath stays at low temperature, preventing the light from consuming the whole pack at once.
2. Build a Primitive Clay Rocket Stove
Let’s admit it – there is nothing more pleasant than getting warm in front of our stove in a cold winter night.
But what are we supposed to in nature, so far away from home? Well, camping doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give up on old habits.
There is a way to improvise a stove in the wild, mostly by using mud. The reason fire consumes wood so slowly in stoves is that it limits oxygen consumption.
Ovens feature a pretty close structure that allows air to come from solely one side. The more you can restrict airflow, the longer your fire will last. This option may not suit most of you, mainly because it is a little messy.
However, if you don’t mind getting a little dirty and you are planning on staying in the same place for an extended period – you might find this one useful.
Besides, nothing would make you more proud than taking a picture next to a stove you’ve built entirely by yourself.
3. Make a Fire Reflector
We all know that fire requires both air and a consumable material. These two work together to haste and empower consuming.
As I’ve mentioned, air flow is essential, yet, wouldn’t be in your favor when it comes to long-lasting campfires.
If you camp on a hill, for instance, which is exposed to all directions – your fire will start quickly; however, it will end much as fast.
One way to block airflow is by creating a fire reflector. Every method that will accomplish that is reasonable. Nevertheless, my absolute favorite one, which had never let me down – is building a reflector which is made of firewood.
The reason I like this method is that it works in two different aspects. Not only it blocks air from enhancing your campfire, but it also directs heat towards your direction.
On that matter, I would also say that it is imperative to keep a sufficient distance between your tent and the fire itself.
4. Use a Massive Log
The rule of thumb here would be – the thicker the log, the longer it takes fire. One disadvantage is that great firewood tends to catch fire slowly.
Our goal here is to make a proper foundation before placing it in our campfire. My trick was to start a campfire for a short duration, maybe to cook some marshmallows and potatoes.
By the time I finished, there were a lot of red embers and burning coals from firewood which was already consumed. At that point, I placed a few thick logs which I’ve already collected beforehand – perhaps 5-7 inches width.
If I felt the fire needed a little push, I also added some tinder and broken branches that were in reach.
With patient, the wood finally lits up and once it does – you will be enjoying it for a pretty long time.
I’ve been trying to find some information regarding how long will logs be burning and found that for each ½ inch of wood you gain one hour of fire.
One disadvantage this method features is that the heat comes from one thick firewood is quite low. For that, you may also try gathering more than one large log; however, I’ve never tried this before.
5. Cover The Embers With Foil
This method goes a little around the issue; some would even call it cheating. I believe, that when it comes to keeping you warm at night of camping – all means are valid.
I will say now that I haven’t tried this one before; however, some readings across the internet suggested that placing a foil on the top of hot embers gets the job done.
The idea behind it is, as mentioned many times before, limiting oxygen consumption.
The foil doesn’t let air to come from above – instead, air gradually penetrates from the gaps between the foil and the surface underneath.
This wouldn’t keep FIRE lasting all night but will maintain HEAT coming from the hot foil and the embers beneath it – which is what matters.
6. Block The Wind
I’ve already mentioned building a fire reflector and placing a foil for wind blockage. However, these two methods are pretty tough if you are not appropriately prepared beforehand.
If you’ve just arrived at your campsite and found it difficult to make your campfire last longer – that might be the right solution for your situation.
There are many techniques to block the wind, and they all work pretty well. One trick that I like is to encircle your campfire with huge rocks.
Not only that it would turn your camping safer regarding spreading fire, but it would also block airflow.
Another approach is camping in areas which are dense with trees. Here I would also be careful not to build my campfire too close to a tree, so it wouldn’t accidentally spread the fire.
There are countless approaches to block the wind; however, you should keep in mind that these solely don’t guarantee your light will last all night long.
7. Create a Finnish Gap Fire
This one is perhaps one of my favorites since it doesn’t require any significant preparations and fast to accomplish.
What you do need from advance is three extremely thick logs and some kindling or tinder which can be easily found around campsites. Place the three firewoods in a pile and in between put a sufficient amount of kindling.
Then, light the gaps gradually by creating a few fire spots, using a lighter. The idea here is to attack the thick logs from different angles that would eventually gather up together.
In opposed to what I’ve just said, you do need to prepare the firewood beforehand. It is crucial that they are dry and dead for a while since damp would significantly slow down the process.
8. Make a Swedish Torch
This one I’ve already tried once, however, there is no doubt that I would do it again. I like this method since you don’t have to use an axe, which is heavy, you can use a knife instead.
First, find a thick log, preferred in an arid state. Then, cut through it the shape of a plus (+) and place some kindling and tinder in the little gaps you’ve just made.
Stick it to the ground, light up the small branches and watch the magic happens. The primary purpose for that is to be a torch that will show the way in darkness.
Nevertheless, I’ve found that placing several torches in the ground next to each other creates a long-lasting fire that sufficiently warms you up during nighttime.
9. Place Ash & Rocks Inside
Another trick to make your fire burn longer is throwing ash and rocks inside it.
Our intuition tells us one thing – that wouldn’t be wise, since throwing any none consumable materials inside would only suffocate the fire.
You should keep in mind that suffocation is what we are looking for. Letting your campfire to breathe appropriately would end up with one result – quickly combustion.
When you place ash and rocks inside it – you somewhat block oxygen consumption, so your campfire can warm you up longer.
The right approach here, in my opinion, is to enjoy your campfire as it is when cooking food or just warming up before sleep.
Only when you are ready to get in your sleeping bag – place the ash and rocks as I’ve just mentioned.
Which Method is The Best?
It’s hard to tell what is the right method for you since each got his approach to camping. In general, I would say it mostly depends on how well you get prepared for a wilderness journey.
For those of you who are just starting, I would say that using a massive log on the top of burning embers and the Finnish gap fire would be quite easy. If you are already used to a knife from previous campings, perhaps creating a Swedish torch or a fire reflector would be useful as well.
I will say here that nothing comes easy, especially when camping. If one method failed – it doesn’t mean you have to give up on it.
Try it again before moving to a different one – there is nothing more useful than experience.
What Should I Bring Beforehand?
As you’ve probably noticed, the method mentioned above require a specific type of gear repeatedly.
For a start, I would suggest you equip yourself with a proper, sharp knife, that might serve you in firewood cutting and kindling creating.
In a case you are more experienced, perhaps an axe would help, especially when it comes to building a fire reflector.
You should also take into account the possibility that you might have to light up wet firewood.
The in-depth guide I’ve just linked to discusses different approaches to deal with the situation so I will mention it here in short.
In addition to a significant amount of kindling and tinder which you can create with a knife, we firewood might require more severe means.
On that matter, I would suggest you get a Magnesium lighter – or perhaps bring yourself dry logs from home.
Making a campfire which would burn all night is a possible task and many times more comfortable than thought.
One of my approaches focuses on the way you build it – creating a pyramid shape campfire, for instance.
That will end up with fire which moves downwards instead of upwards, maintaining cool air at the bottom that would prevent hasty consumption.
Another technique is using a fire reflector, which you may build using logs and an axe you brought up front. The reflector will block the wind and allow heat to move towards you to warm you up.
More methods for wind blockage is placing rocks and ash inside your campfire, or perhaps even circling it with massive stones.
You may also use the embers remained to light up a gigantic piece of log that would burn for quite long.
In a case you brought a foil along the road – placing it on burning embers would slow down their consumption and would maintain heat for much longer.
My two favorites methods for overnight campfire are the Finnish Gap Fire and creating the Swedish Torch. These two I’ve found useful and probably do again on future campings to come.