A campfire is one of the most important parts of an extended journey into nature. Its bright soft light illuminates even the darkest of nights while keeping you and your loved ones warm and well-fed. However, it’s not uncommon for fires to die out or smoulder due to one small mistake. This can lead to a rapid loss of heat, which is problematic if you’re seeking warmth or a consistent temperature for cooking. Read on for our 6 top tips on how to make a fire burn hotter for whatever purpose you need it to serve.
How to Make a Fire Burn Hotter
When a fire burns, it releases both heat and light as energy. The hotter the fire, the more energy is released. The temperature of a fire increases as the fire consumes more fuel in the form of kindling, wood, or coal.
In order for a fire to burn hotter, the fuel source must be burned more efficiently. This means that after combustion has occurred, all of the heat or energy released by burning should be transferred into your environment instead of escaping as smoke and rising into the atmosphere.
There are many ways to make a fire burn hotter and most options are simple, affordable, and relatively quick to implement. Read on to discover some of the most effective ways you can get your campfire burning bright and hot.
1. Cure Your Wood
It is important to use dry wood when making a fire. Wood that has moisture content will produce less heat than dry wood since the water must evaporate before it can burn. Removing the water content from your wood is known as curing or drying the wood. This process is very simple and takes time more than anything else.
Cure your wood beforehand to ensure that it is completely dry when you’re ready to start your fire. This can be done by splitting the wood into smaller pieces and leaving them out in the sun for a day or two before you plan to light your fire. You can also lay your logs next to your fire pit, circle, or grill while other logs are burning to speed up the drying process.
If you don’t have the time to dry and cure your logs, you can purchase them straight from the store or a local lumberyard. These logs will be labelled as seasoned or cured and are ready for use immediately.
2. Use The Right Size and Type of Wood
Smaller to medium pieces of wood work best for creating the hottest fires. This exposes additional surface areas of the wood which allows for more oxygen to flow through each log and build heat in the fire faster. You can cut larger logs into quarters or purchase wood that is already cut into smaller pieces. In addition to buying or splitting wood down to a smaller size, you can also collect tree branch clippings from your yard work and use these as small hot-burning logs.
Wood Type Matters
The type of fuel that is used in the fire will determine how hot it burns. Softwoods are best for creating the hottest fires because they are less dense than their hardwood counterparts and will therefore burn more quickly. You can also mix softwoods with your traditional firewood to increase the temperature of your fire.
Another benefit of using softwood is that it is easier to cure in the sun or by laying it next to an active fire. Keep in mind that hardwoods are more commonly used in wood fires since they last longer and therefore give off a low radiant heat over time. You can keep some of these on hand in case you want to slow the burning rate down in your fire.
Here are some great softwoods that will help you to create the hottest fire possible:
- Buckeye Wood
- Poplar Wood
- Cedar Wood
- Spruce Wood
- Fir Wood
- Juniper Wood
- Pine Wood
3. Stack Your Wood Into a TeePee Shape
The best wood stack for a hot-burning fire is the traditional teepee stack. This form is conical in shape and allows for the most amount of oxygen to flow through its centre, which helps it to burn hotter.
To stack your wood into a teepee, take two logs and lean them vertically onto each other. Then add a third log and create a “tumble stack” where each log supports the other. Add kindling and tinder to the centre base of the logs so that flames can build on the underside of each log. When your fire is lit, continue to add to the teepee shape one log at a time to sustain your fire.
A teepee wood stack imitates the shape and airflow of a chimney. This position makes it easier for the fire to breathe and will allow you to burn through larger pieces of wood that are too big for a traditional log stack.
4. Improve Your Fire Ring or Pit
One reason it can be so challenging to maintain high heat levels in a fire is that the heat rapidly escapes from it. Heat retention is largely dependent on the materials that you use to build your fire ring or pit. Ideal materials for a high-heat retaining pit are stone, brick, and steel. These materials tend to absorb heat from the fire rather than letting it escape vertically.
Experiment with different types of heating methods before building your own backyard pit or fire ring. You can find many free tutorials online that will show you how to build an effective one from scratch or from well-sourced materials.
You can also improve your existing fire ring or pit by building a stone ledge around it to contain the heat within its borders and make it easier for you to control how much air reaches the logs from underneath.
Another option that is better for more portable fire builders is to make or invest in a fire reflector. These are flat and wide metal surfaces that reflect the heat of fire downwards. This helps to contain its heat and makes it easier to control the flames as well.
5. Add Oxygen to Your Fire
Oxygen is an essential ingredient for any fire and the more you have the hotter it will burn. A fire that is starved of oxygen tends to create smoke and billowing grey clouds rather than a bright, hot flame.
The teepee stacking method mentioned above is a great way to start your fire with high airflow since oxygen can flow both through the center of the logs as well as between the individual logs.
Stoking a fire with oxygen is an important concept to understand because it can also be your best tool for managing the heat output of a fire. If you want to build up high temperatures quickly, stoke your flames with lots of oxygen by fanning them back and forth or blowing on them gently through bellows or tubes that direct air into the flames themselves.
A bellow is a great tool to quickly increase the heat of a fire. Bellows are a common tool in a blacksmith shop and they are simply made of two or more pipes that you can use to blow air into your fire. You can either create one from scratch, purchase an industrial-style bellow, or make a simple paper version with nothing but some old newsprint and tape.
Using a hand fan is another great way to add oxygen to your fire. Just a few minutes of fanning is enough time for the flames in a pit or ring to build up high heat levels very quickly and sustain them over an extended period of time.
6. Use a Firestarter
If you are having problems getting your fire to ignite or keeping it lit, then an effective way of overcoming this is by using a fire starter. There are many types of fire starters available on the market, including natural ones made from flammable materials such as pine resin, cotton balls coated with petroleum jelly, or waxed string dipped in paraffin.
Firestarters come in many different shapes and sizes, so it is worth experimenting to find one that works best for your needs. If you are trying to build a larger fire, then use more substantial materials such as starter logs that burn for long periods of time. Smaller fires can be lit with smaller fire starters such as starter sticks, little cups of sap and woodchips, or twine balls coated in wax. Add small sticks and dry grass to further the flames and keep them growing steadily.
You can also make your own firestarters with simple household items, which is great if you are on a budget and want to do something sustainable with products that would otherwise be thrown away. Here are several quick and easy ideas for you to test:
- Cotton pads soaked in melted candle wax
- Dryer lint stuffed in an egg carton with wax poured on top
- Cotton pads coated with petroleum jelly
- Shredded paper mixed with wax
- Sawdust mixed with wax
- Pinecones dipped in cooking oil
- Corks saturated with rubbing alcohol
- Add a dried orange peel to the fire
There are many other ways to get a fire going, but the key is to have patience and experiment with different methods until you find one that works best for your needs.
How to Make a Fire Burn Hotter Safely
In order for your fuel to burn efficiently, ensure that you are building your fire in an appropriate location and structure. In general, it is best to build fires away from trees or other flammable materials, since they could catch on fire if too much heat is released near them.
Make sure your fire is built on a level and stable surface so that it does not collapse during combustion. Try to build the base of your campfire at least one foot away from flammable materials such as grass, leaves, or other combustible organic matter.
When building fires in open areas, always ensure that they are started in a safe zone. Make sure that your fire is at least ten feet away from any structures or other combustible materials such as cars, tents, and buildings.
When handling your hot fire, never go near it without gloves and protective gear. The metal edges of your fire pit or grill can become extremely hot during a fire, so be sure to use appropriate safety equipment while handling them. A shovel is an excellent tool to use when moving hot embers or ashes.
When extinguishing your campfire, always ensure that it is completely out before leaving or going to bed. If you are unable to monitor your fire for several hours, cover any remaining embers with soil and water them down until they have been extinguished entirely.
A fire that is not handled with care can become dangerous quickly, so it’s important to be aware of what you’re doing at all times while dealing with hot flames and materials.
A good rule of thumb for making sure your campfire stays safe is never leaving it unattended since this could allow it to spread out of control. Make sure your fire is properly extinguished before going to sleep or leaving the area around it, and keep a supply of water nearby at all times in case you run into any trouble while tending to your hot flames.
Fires are a vital part of many outdoor activities due to their capability of providing warmth and light. In addition to the tips above, we have one more suggestion – keep a large amount of firewood on hand! Very hot fires burn quickly since they release a high amount of heat, so having wood nearby will ensure that you have an ample supply to keep your fire going. Be ready to place a new log on as quickly as every 5 minutes if your fire is reaching its hottest point.
Try one or two of these tips with your next fire or utilize all of them to ensure the hottest fire possible. As you become more familiar with how to best build a fire, you will be able to create long-lasting and hot flames that any camper would envy.