ultimate fire building guide

The Ultimate Fire-Building Guide

The art of fire-building traces back thousands of years. Technological advancements have made constructing a roaring fire much easier, but the basic techniques of supplying fuel, oxygen, and combustion have remained unchanged for centuries.

Whether you are in a survival situation or building a fire to roast marshmallows in your backyard, knowing how to construct a fire quickly and easily is an essential skill for everyone who spends time in the outdoors.

With help from our Field Staff, we have put together a no-nonsense guide to building a safe and fast campfire. The following techniques are tested and proven to work in almost any situation.


Fire-Building Guide

For building a fire, you need to consider a few key things. First, you need fuel (wood). Depending on what sizes you have available may dictate what type of fire you will build (more on this below). Second, supplying steady oxygen by constructing a style of fire that allows ample airflow will help tremendously. Weather conditions and the dryness of the wood will also affect what type of fire you will build. Let’s take a look at what the Zippo Field Staff has to say about their favorite, and proven, fire-building styles.

Log Cabin

As the name suggests, a log cabin fire is constructed by laying similar sized tinder sticks in an interlocking stack (similar to the sides of a, you guessed it, log cabin). This style of fire creates a ton of airflow and is ideal for igniting tough to light tinder or if you are in wet conditions.

Start with a bundle of dry wood shavings or a fire starting material [this will link to the Cedar Fire Starter] and begin stacking woods around this bundle. We like building a smaller log cabin style structure inside of larger pieces of firewood. Once the interior gets going, the larger pieces of wood are already in place; no more smothering a fire by adding solid wood. This technique is a light it and forget it method.

The log cabin style works well if you have cut and split firewood, and the sizes are very similar. They just stack up straight. – Randy Kee


The cone shape of this fire takes advantage of rising heat and flames to ignite the tinder easily. The purpose of building this style of fire is for fast ignition. At some point, the fire will collapse; the support wood will burn, and the fire will fall apart. If you built the fire correctly, you will more than enough coals to add larger wood to keep the fire going.

Build the teepee structure around a bundle of dry tinder or a fire starting material. Again, start with small sticks around the tinder and slowly build it out with larger split wood or logs. Once the interior gets going, the larger pieces of wood are already in place.

Make sure to build a wood base on which to build the teepee. It takes the fire up off the ground and allows for better air flow. – Rodney Clauson


Some of our Field Staffers have come up with varied methods for fire building. From years of outdoor experience in hunting, fishing, and camping situations, these have been tested and proven to be great alternatives to the traditional log cabin or teepee-style fires.


Instead of a typical teepee with smaller sticks in the middle and building the bundle around it, mine is more of a bundle. I start with small sticks on the bottom, adding bigger sticks as it gets taller, where all sticks will be in line. I have three different ways without using matches and then the Zippo fire starter, but the bundle style is my go-to for starting a fire easily. – Shawn Lewis


I use a lean-to style, modified teepee. It’s how I’ve always done it. A piece of wood on the upwind side to help get things going. Has always worked well for me! – Tom Cruickshank


Get Prepared With The Emergency Fire Starter

  • Made In The USA
  • Case Only Weighs 1 Ounce – Ideal For Hiking Or Backpacking.
  • Floats In Water, With Water – Resistant Seal.
  • Directional Flint Wheel Throws Maximum Spark.
  • Includes 4 Waxed Tinder Sticks.
  • Tinder Sticks Provide Quick Lighting-Perforated Spine Tears Easily.

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Zippo Emergency Fire Starter Specs
Height: 6.1″ (15.5cm)
Width: 3.9″ (9.9cm)
Depth: 1.7″ (4.2cm)
Weight: 3.4oz (.207 Kg)

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