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So, you’ve parked up, gone for a brisk walk to explore your surroundings and are now feeling a bit peckish. While the gas hob in the camper is a practical solution, there are few more magical activities than cooking for your loved ones over an open fire with the smell of wood smoke in the air.

While arranging campervan insurance is a vital part of ensuring a successful trip, there’s not much harm in brushing up on your campfire building skills too.

Follow our quick and easy guide and you’ll be roasting marshmallows – safely – in no time!


Why build a campfire in the first place?

Your campervan has so many creature comforts it can be tempting to just snuggle up inside once night falls, but you’ll be missing out on what many people feel is the whole point of camping!

After all, a campfire doesn’t just provide light and warmth, and heat for cooking. It can also serve as a beacon, and an insect deterrent.

The unforgettable storytelling, the aroma of wood smoke, the snap and crackle of burning logs, the warmth, the deep connection to our most distant ancestors, all add up to time well-spent outside.

 It is, to many people, as much a part of the experience as clean air, stargazing, and waking up with the birds. And what better way to teach essential forest survival skills to the next generation?

But before you grab those lighters, make sure you are allowed to build an open fire on your chosen campsite.

Some sites don’t allow them, while others will make you use a fire pit instead. It’s always best to check the rules, rather than getting asked to leave!

 A campfire close-up with short logs burning

How to build a campfire

Step 1: Check the weather report! If rain is expected the wet ground could put a dampener on any fire side hopes. Make sure to pack sufficient newspaper, cardboard or lint to act as dry tinder. It might also be wise to bring your own dry logs and sticks. Just as with arranging campervan insurance, being prepared for the worst will save you from getting everyone’s hopes up if you already know rain is on its way!

Step 2: Choose a spot for the fire to sit. Many campsites provide places to make a fire so be sure to follow any guidance they give. If there isn’t a designated area then construct the fire on bare dirt as it’s the safest and most convenient option. Wherever you site the fire always make sure it’s away from anything flammable and away from vehicles.

Step 3: Dig a shallow hole in the ground in which to build your campfire. Make the centre the deepest point to allow for easy fire control – this can act as a container for the ashes afterwards, too.

Step 4: Create a circle around the hole using medium-sized stones collected from the area. This will set a useful safety boundary and help to contain the fire.

Step 5: Collect something to extinguish the fire if it gets out of control – such as a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher.

Step 6: If you didn’t bring any with you, then gather up tinder and kindling wood. Collecting tinder in the form of dry leaves, dry bark, dry grass and any dry bits of wood is a great job for younger campers to get involved with. Small dry branches and twigs make effective kindling wood and are easily gathered in small arms. A tip for the youngsters – dry wood snaps and breaks easily. If the wood bends then it’s too wet and won’t burn.

Step 7: Older children and adults can collect firewood from the area surrounding your site. These dry pieces of wood should be about the length and width of your arms.

Step 8: Place tinder towards the centre of the fire pit.

Step 9: Gradually stack the kindling wood in the shape of a pyramid or tepee over the tinder. Keep stacking until it makes a solid structure, then place the firewood against the sides. Leave a space so air can flow into the centre. If you pack the fire too densely the oxygen won’t be able to flow.

Step 10: Use a match or lighter to set fire to the tinder. This can be a delicate operation so take it slowly and be patient. Blow gently on the tinder to give it more oxygen and encourage the flames to take hold.

Step 11: As the fire burns and wood starts to disintegrate then add more wood to keep it going! Don’t add too much wood too quickly or you could suffocate the fire.

Step 12: Leave no trace – once the fire has died down, sprinkle water over it to put out any flames. Once completely cool mix the ashes with the dirt at the bottom of the fire pit. Scoop up the ashes and dirt and spread them out around the site. If you dug your own fire pit, then replace the dirt in the hole.

 A girl watching a campfire

Dos and don’ts of campfire safety

  • Do build a bonfire when the weather is good.
  • Do burn small quantities of fuel to minimise the amount of smoke and maximise control.
  • Do follow any campsite rules on fires.
  • Do keep your fire contained in one small area.
  • Do make sure ashes are cold and there are no glowing embers before leaving to go to bed.
  • Don’t leave your fire unattended.
  • Don’t burn toxic materials – such as plastic.
  • Don’t light a fire in strong winds or near hanging branches, fences or sleeping spaces.
  • Don’t use accelerants to boost your fire.


Find campervan insurance with Motorhome Protect today

Whether you own a Classic VW or one of the latest campervan conversions, the specialist team at Motorhome Protect can help you find the right campervan insurance cover for your needs.

The team has many years of experience in this specialist insurance market, finding cover from our panel of leading insurers for models by VW, Ford, Fiat, Toyota and many more.

Arranging your insurance through Motorhome Protect can also give you a range of optional extras including:

  • Unlimited EU cover
  • Breakdown cover in the UK and Europe
  • Up to £3,500 of cover for your camping personal effects
  • Cover for vehicles worth up to £150,000

Keeping your trusty campervan protected is straightforward and never a chore with Motorhome Protect.

Get a quick quote today.

Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.