Camping Advice and Tips: How to Bank a Fire

Learn what it means and how to bank a campfire

••• Monica Prelle

If you are just getting started camping you might be wondering what does: banking a fire mean and how it it done? Learning how to have a proper campfire is important not only for fire safety, but also to keep the campgrounds clean and nice for all campers that follow. Banking a fire is a common sense camping tip and is an easily learned skill. 

Camper's Question: What does banking a fire mean and how is it done?

"I would like to know exactly what banking a fire means and how it's done.

For years I have seen the phrase 'bank the fire' and wondered. It sounds like something magical one does to a fire so that it's still smoldering in the morning, thus making the building of the morning fire a snap." - About Camping Reader 

About Camping Expert's Answer:

Banking a fire is actually nothing more than the name implies and is something every camper should learn. It is a simple and effective way to keep your fire safe. To bank a fire means to build a wall around the fire pit out of rocks or stones, or to build the fire next to a rock or dirt wall such that it blocks the wind. If the coals from the fire are protected well enough, there usually will be enough heat in them to easily start a fresh fire in the morning.

Ever notice that many campgrounds have fire rings at the campsites? These rings serve several purposes: they contain the ashes, they provide a cooking surface, and they block the wind.The fire rings are essentially banking the fire for you.

If you are building your own fire pit it is important to take this step to safely contain your fire. It will keep the ashes from blowing around, and will also make the fire burn hotter directing the heat to the campers sitting around the ring. 

Campfire etiquette and safety is essential for any campers that want to have a campfire.

 Starting a campfire is easy if you take the right steps. 

Campfire Tips and Advice 

  • Before starting a campfire at a developed campsite, in a national or state park, or in a U.S. Forest Service dispersed camping area, be sure to check the fire regulations and restrictions for the area. These rules and regulations can change seasonally, so be sure to find a current posting on fire restrictions. 
  • If it is permitted in the location where you are camping, gather wood for your campfire. Look for dry limb and tights that are on the ground. do not break branches off of living trees. Some regions do not allow firewood gathering, so you'll need to bring your own wood or purchase firewood from the campiest or a local store. 
  • If your campsite has a fire ring, use the existing fire pit. Do not move or create a new one. If there is no pit and you are permitted to build a fire, use you new learned skills on how to build a fire pit and bank the fire.
  • Once you have a fire pit built, you're ready to get your fire started. Place the dry leaves and twigs you gathered in the center of the ring leaving plenty of air space and shape the pileof twigs and sticks in a cone-like or teepee shape.
  • Around the small leaves and sticks build a larger teepee of branches and logs. Light the dry leaves from the bottom with a long lighter or matches.
  • As the fire builds, continue to add larger lags to the outside of the teepee carefully placing them so the teepee does not collapse. 
  • Always keep the campfire small and manageable.Never leave your campfire unattended and drown the fire completely out before you go to bed or leave camp. 

Updated and Edited by Camping Expert Monica Prelle