Just because you have a stove in your RV doesn’t mean you can’t have a campfire. Here are my tips, tricks, and safety advice on how to build a campfire when RVing.

Photo by Alain Wong on Unsplash

Some of my favorite childhood memories involve a campfire and hearing stories from mom, dad and my grandparents — and cooking s’mores. For me, the ritual of building and lighting the fire with my family is a nostalgic one and I still love it to this day.

Back then, we were in a lowly tent in a campground by the lake. Now it’s touring in a luxury RV with my own children, creating memories for them.

Lighting fires when RVing presents its own challenges. Let’s look at where and how to build a fire, as well as some safety tips.

Safety First

Fires, especially around RV’s, can quickly get out of hand. There are lots of flammables around, so choosing a good spot is paramount. You don’t want your campfire to be memorable for creating a major incident.

While safety is mostly common sense, let’s just detail a few things that you need to be aware of before you build a campfire.

Put some distance between your RV and the campfire. You likely have highly flammable items in or next to the RV, like fuel and propane tanks. These could explode if you build a campfire too close.

Another consideration is your RVs awning. These are generally made from thin vinyl and will easily melt if caught by flying embers. Worst case scenario, they could catch fire.

Make sure your RVs fire extinguisher has been tested recently and keep it close to hand when playing with fire. 

If you plan to use any flammable liquids to get your fire going quickly, use them sparingly. Be careful not to get them on your clothes and don’t oversoak your kindling.

Finally, think about campfire safety for kids, both big and little ones. Keep young children away from the fire completely. They will be fascinated by it and attracted to it but can easily get burnt. Make sure older children are aware of the dangers.

Establish a circle of safety, about 4 feet away from the fire and ensure they stick to it. Never leave children unsupervised around a campfire.

Finding a Suitable Spot for Your Campfire

Your campground might have a firepit you can use for your campfire. If they don’t, check that’s it’s ok for you to build one. Some campgrounds have rules, restricting or prohibiting campfires.

Make sure the area where you plan to build your campfire is free from dry grass, leaves and debris. These are all flammable and will spread a fire in no time at all. Also, check out the trees around you, to ensure there are no low hanging branches.

Choose an area which is free from hazards, for about 15 feet around the fire. The ground should be flat and, ideally, dirt or gravel. Additionally, monitor the wind direction; flying embers can travel and be a danger to both you and other campers.

Time to Build a Campfire

You’ve chosen your spot, now clear anything out of reach that might be flammable, like twigs, leaves or extra firewood.

Dig a pit about 12 inches deep and surround it with some stones to form a ring.

Next, you need to collect fuel for your fire. You need three types, which are;

  • Tinder: This is small twigs, dry leaves, forest duff and needles.  This small stuff will catch light easily and get your fire going.
  • Kindling: These are slightly larger sticks and twigs which are thin, no more than an inch in diameter.
  • Firewood: These are larger pieces of wood which will keep your fire burning.

All the fuel you collect must be dry and should have already fallen from bushes and trees. Don’t ever cut branches or trees for firewood. Besides this action not being kind to the environment, the wood will be wet and won’t burn. 

Many of us have our own way of actually building the fire. Traditions have been handed down the generations with everyone a different way of doing this. If you’re don’t know how to build a campfire at all, here are a few methods you can use.

  • Teepee: Build your own campfire tent by stacking the kindling over the timber in the shape of a teepee.
  • Lean-to: Just as it says, secure one piece of kindling at an angle over the tinder and lean all the smaller pieces of kindling against it.
  • Log Cabin: Stack pieces of kindling at right angles to each other all around your tinder. Build it up with the smallest pieces of kindling at the top of the walls of your “cabin.”
  • Cross: Place the kindling in a criss-cross pattern over your pile of tinder.

With any of these constructions, make sure you leave room for air to circulate. Fire needs oxygen to burn, so airflow is important. The maximum recommended size for your campfire is 2 feet square and 2 feet high.

Light Your Fire

Photo by Sebastian Pociecha on Unsplash

The best way to light your fire is with matches or a lighter. Try and avoid using accelerants. It may take a few attempts to get the tinder to light, but if you persevere, it will work.

You can blow at the base of the fire to help things get going. This will add oxygen to fan the flames.

Be careful where you discard your match. The best and most logical thing to do is throw it into the fire. 

Add more firewood to keep your fire going. Remember to store any spare wood upwind of the campfire. You also need to supervise the fire at all times, it can quickly get out of hand and you don’t want to start a forest fire.

At the end of the night, you must ensure your fire is completely extinguished before you leave it. Either douse it thoroughly with water or mix soil and sand with the embers until they are all cool.

Time to Enjoy Your RV Campfire

Campfires are a perfect way to spend an evening bonding with family and friends. It’s a great time to prize the kids away from their technology and get them chatting. 

When you take the time to prepare a fire properly and handle it responsibly, it’s fun for everyone. Just stay safe and remember the two golden rules: never leave your fire unattended and make sure it’s out at the end of the night.

So, step away from the stove and go cook yourselves some tasty treats on the open fire. 

Mark runs Campsmartly.com. He started camping over 20 years ago and wants to show you how to enjoy the wild in comfort and responsibly.

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