Log Cabin Fire Lay – Building the Perfect Criss Cross Structure

by | Oct 7, 2020 | Fire Building

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Is there anything better than keeping warm by a glowing campfire under a clear sky night? Building a fire is one of the foundational skills of bushcraft and camping. While everyone may have their favorite method, it’s no secret that the log cabin fire lay is among the most popular. 

There’s a good reason for that. 

The log cabin fire, also known as the criss cross fire, is one of the most effective and efficient fire craft designs out there. So today, we’ve decided to teach you exactly how to build a log cabin fire, and some of the advantages in using this design.

What is a Log Cabin Fire?

The log cabin fire gets its name from its house-like structure. Typically, it uses two larger pieces of wood for the foundation, and is built up by adding additional pieces of wood in a criss cross pattern The end result is a fire structure that closely resembles a traditional log cabin.

Best Materials to Use

Since the log cabin fire is so efficient, you can really use any wood you find to build it. However, that doesn’t mean that doesn’t mean some materials won’t burn better than others. When it comes to fuel for a log cabin lay, here are some of the best materials you can use:

  • Oak – Readily available through most of the country, oak is one of the best woods to use for your campfire. It burns slowly and steadily, and gives off a good amount of heat. 
  • Hickory – Even though it’s a bit more difficult to split, hickory is definitely a great option. As one of the hottest burning woods, it contains little moisture, and is perfect for cooking.
  • Cedar – More than just burning, cedar wood is perfect for preparing tinder and kindling as well. The flame cedar produces won’t be as large as some of the other woods you may find, but it produces heat. Scrape off some bark to ignite your fire as well.
  • Dry Leaves – Wherever you are, there should be an abundance of leaves. Dry leaves make for great tinder and kindling when you’re trying to get your log cabin fire going.

How to Build a Log Cabin Fire 

Ready to learn how to build a log cabin fire? We break down our simple six step process that will help you master the criss cross lay in no time. Better yet, once you learn the proper technique, you’ll never have to worry about staying warm again.

Step 1: Find A Good Spot

Every good fire starts with finding a good spot. Generally, there are two types of areas you’ll want to avoid. The first being wet or moist ground, which is common if you set up camp near a flowing river or waterfall. Moisture makes it more difficult to find dry materials, and also makes it difficult for your fire to get going.

Secondly, avoid areas with too much tinder. This includes combustible materials like dry leaves or grass that can easily catch fire if exposed to a spark. A dry area is ideal, just make sure to clear out a space for your log cabin fire.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

Once you have found the perfect location for your fire, it’s time to venture off to find your materials. Even though you may want to get your fire going right away, it’s best practice to gather all your tinder, kindling, and fuel before getting started.

The last thing you want to do is light your tinder, and watch it burn out because you didn’t have any fuel to feed it. 

Step 3: Construct the Foundation

Now that you have all your materials ready, it’s time to build your log cabin fire lay. To start, find the two largest pieces of wood in your pile. These are going to serve as the foundation for your entire log cabin structure.

Place the two pieces of wood parallel to each other. The distance between should be just slightly less than the length of the wood. This allows you to steadily stack additional pieces of wood on top of your foundation in a criss cross formation.

After your foundational pisces are in place, gather two more pieces of wood from your pile. These pieces should be similar in size, and larger than all the remaining wood in your pile. Place these next two pieces of wood parallel to each other, but perpendicular to the foundational pieces. You should be left with a square structure.

To complete the foundation, it’s time to add the platform. Using smaller branches or pieces of wood, begin creating a floor. You’ll do this by laying these smaller pieces of wood side by side, so that they create a platform which will be used to hold your tinder and kindling.

Step 4: Add Tinder and Kindling

The foundation you just created is going to be the home of your tinder, which is going to serve as the starting point for your fire. Take your tinder, along with some smaller kindling, and place it directly on top of your platform towards the center.

Step 5: Leveling Up Your Log Cabin

With your foundation and tinder in place, repeat the same steps to start building up your log cabin lay. Continue to use your larger pieces of wood first, so it creates a sturdy structure closer to the base. Save the thinnest and smallest pieces for the top level. 

As you’re building up your log cabin fire structure, it’s best practice to keep adding platforms every few levels. This helps the flame grow more quickly and efficiently. 

Step 6: Light Your Fire

You already have your log cabin built, so there’s only one thing left to do. Light your fire. 

The best way to light a log cabin fire is to light a fire from the base. Since you created a platform, there should be enough space for you to slide the fire underneath the tinder, and light the structure. Once you have, you can sit back and relax, and start getting warm.

The Benefits of the Log Cabin

There are tons of benefits to using a log cabin fire lay to build your campfire. First and foremost, it’s a design that is tried and true. When you’re in survival mode, you need a fire building technique you can count. The log cabin answers the call.

Another benefit of the log cabin fire lay is its ability to burn effectively and efficiently, even in poor conditions. Due to the criss cross structure, the log cabin design produces a large and warm initial flame, which is good for burning and drying wet wood. 

Final Thoughts on Log Cabin Structure

If you’re going to learn to build a single fire, it might as well be the log cabin. It’s incredibly easy to set up, and will get going quickly, even when the weather isn’t on your side. It’s great for cooking, and can be used both outdoors, and in a fireplace.

Brian Segal

As an outdoor enthusiast, I was drawn to bushcraft at a young age. I constantly find myself trying to learn and improve on my survival skills, and enjoy writing about everything I discover to help pass along to others.

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