How to Build a Fire – The Different Methods

Everyone has their favourite method of building a fire. Sometimes it’s because a mentor has passed down a specific method and it’s become a tradition. Other times it’s just a method that has been discovered, and then adopted as the standard way.

There are a variety of different ways for laying a fire, and each one has its own advantages. Here are a few standard methods which all are quite effective. The one you use might also depend on the specific situation that you find yourself in.

The Cross-Ditch Method of Building a Fire

Cross-ditch fire method

• Dig a cross in the ground, about 25 – 40 centimetres in size.
• You don’t have to go down to deep, just about 7 centimetres down.
• Place quite a bit of tinder in the middle section (i.e. where the lines cross)
• Now build a little “kindling pyramid” just above your pile of tinder.
• Light your tinder


The shallow ditch that you’ve dug allows air to blow in under the tinder to provide a natural draft, and thus feeding oxygen to your flame.

Check out this great Backpacking Book (click the image)
Check out this great Backpacking Book (click the image)

The Tepee Method of Making a Fire

Probably the most popular of all methods.
• Arrange a few sticks and your kindling in the circular shape of a tepee (like a cone shape)
• Place your tinder in the centre of the Tepee
• Light your tinder
• As your kindling begins to fire up and the tepee burns, the outer logs will begin to dislodge and tumble inwards and thereby feed the fire.


This method is reliable and the fire should burn well, even with wet wood as the fire dries the wood while it’s in the Tepee.

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The Lean-To Method of Building a Fire

Start by finding a strong green/living stick (this is to prevent this stick from burning as quickly as the rest of your fire fuel)
• Clear a small area for your fire
• push the green stick into the soil at a slant (approximately a 25-degree angle)
• make sure the end of the stick points in the direction of the wind
• Put some tinder under this stick (which is now your ‘Lean-To stick’)
• Lie pieces of kindling/smaller sticker against the lean-to stick
• Light your tinder
• As the tinder begins to ignite the kindling, gradually add more fuel (sticks etc.).

The Pyramid Method of Building a Fire

Another of the oft-used methods.
• Place two small logs parallel along the ground
• Arrange a level of smaller logs to run on top the parallel logs. Make sure this layer is compact and tightly grouped together
• Add another few layers logs (about three levels), each layer smaller the row below it.
• The layers must not run in the same direction as the layer beneath it. It should be at a right angle to the lower level
• Make a starter fire at the top of your the pyramid
• As that initial fire burns, it will gradually begin to light the logs below it.


This method presents you with a fire that burns downwards and, in doing so, you leave it for the night and not have to worry about giving it constant attention.

Your Choice

Choose the method that best suits your needs, situation and limitations (time and material).

Let me know which you most prefer and enjoy your fire making!

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