Teepee Fire Lay – How to Build this Classic Campfire

by | Sep 30, 2020 | Fire Building

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There are some things in this world that are just classic. Think of 1957 Ford T Bird, sipping hot chocolate while A Christmas Story plays in the background, and roasting marshmallows over the timeless teepee fire lay. 

That’s right, we said it. 

When it comes to building campfires, is there any method more classic than the teepee fire? Honestly, just writing this brings me back to my first camping trip when I was put in charge of getting the fire going. I had absolutely no clue how difficult it would prove to be.

Luckily, my dad gave me some much needed guidance. He showed me the ropes, and taught me how to build the perfect teepee fire lay. Today, it’s my turn to pass that knowledge on to you.

What is the Teepee Fire Lay?

The teepee fire lay gets its name from its unique structure that looks just like the traditional conical tent, or tipi. Kindling and branches are angled to rest against each other at the highest point, leaving an open chamber where the fire is started.

Because of its unique design, the teepee fire creates a lot more surface area for the kindling and branches to catch fire. It burns fast, and efficiently, which makes it the perfect fire building method for people of any skill level.

Materials You’ll Need

To build a teepee fire lay, you’ll need to gather all the necessary materials. There’s nothing particularly different about what you’ll need. The only thing that is recommended is that you collect branches of around the same length and width, so that you can build a stable structure. You’ll need the following:

  • Fire starter – A lighter or matches would be ideal, but anything that can create a spark or ember will do.
  • TinderAny combustible materials, such as dry leaves, grass, or wood shavings.
  • Kindling – These are smaller branches or split wood that you will use to create the initial structure. The idea here is to use materials that will easily catch fire when exposed to an open flame.
  • Fuel – Once your fire is going, it’s important to have larger branches or logs to use as fuel. If you stay with kindling that is too small, your fire won’t last very long.

How to Build a Teepee Fire

Fire loves chaos, but that doesn’t mean you should strive to build a chaotic fire. The teepee fire method is pretty straightforward, but there is still an art to the madness. We’re going to teach you how to master the teepee fire build in just six easy steps.

Step 1: Find a Suitable Area

This may seem basic, but you wouldn’t believe how many people overlook this crucial first step. Where you build your fire will directly impact your results.

Look for an area that’s clear of brush and any other tinder that can cause your fire to get out of hand. On the other hand, avoid surfaces that are damp or wet, which can cause your fire to go out much quicker. The ideal location for your fire will be an open area with a dry dirt ground.

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

Again, another step that seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised. It’s of the utmost importance that you collect all the necessary materials for your fire before you start building, because it will set you up for success.

For example, imagine if you just have your tinder ready. Once you light it, it burns quickly. Too quickly for you to actually go out, gather the right kindling, and build your teepee before your flame goes out. Also, you don’t want to leave your fire unattended. 

Step 3: Construct Your Platform

If you’re building a fire under less than ideal conditions, like just after a heavy rainfall, you need a platform. Even if all conditions are perfect, we still recommend that you build a small platform for your fire to burn on top of.

Platforms do two things. First, it helps create more space to help circulate the air to help your fire go. Second, a platform helps protect your fire from the ground. Direct contact with dirt, or any moisture on the ground, can cause your fire to go out. Which is why a platform is so helpful.

Step 4: Build Your Teepee Lay

Now that we got the basics out of the way, it’s time to get to the most important step. Building your teepee lay. Don’t be intimidated, it’s much easier that you think.

To build your teepee structure, it helps to have a branch or two that forks on one end. The ‘Y’ shape helps lock branches into place, making your life a lot easier.

If you don’t have a forked branch, don’t worry about it. Take two branches, and angle them so that they meet at the apex of your teepee. Hold them in place with one hand, and use your free hand to angle another branch so that it rests securely onto the two branches you already erected.

As you add the fourth branch, you’ll notice that the branches are all relying on each other for support. Slowly begin adding smaller branches until you build the conical shape of the classic teepee tent. Remember to leave a small opening for you to slide your tinder into the chamber you’ve created.

Step 5: Light Your Tinder

Your teepee is built, so it’s time to get this thing lit. Take your tinder, and whatever fire starter you have, and create your flame. Once you have your smaller fire, slide the burning tinder under your teepee, and watch it closely to make sure that everything starts catching fire properly.

Step 6: Add Fuel to Your Fire

As your teepee fire is burning, you may think it’s time to sit back and admire your work. The smaller branches you used to construct your teepee fire lay are delicate, and will burn quickly. To keep your fire going you’ll need to add more fuel.

This is where things can get tricky.

As your teepee lay burns, it’s naturally going to get weaker. You can continue to add smaller branches, but you’ll need to keep adding fuel at a rapid pace. What you want to do is add larger logs so that the fire lasts longer, and you can take some time to relax.

From here, you have two choices. You can let your teepee collapse, and pile on some new fuel. If you want to keep the classic teepee structure, then you can carefully angle larger branches the same way you did with the smaller branches earlier.

Advantages of the Teepee Method

The teepee fire lay is the most classic fire building method because the numerous advantages it provides you. Let’s talk about what some of the teepee fire lay advantages actually are.

We all know that heat rises. When you watch any fire, the flame travels upwards, which is why the teepee fire thrives. By angling branches to lean on each other, you create a lot more surface space for the underside of the branches to quickly catch fire.

Aside from catching fire quickly, the teepee fire also gives off an incredible amount of heat. Way more than the Dakota fire hole or lean-to fire

That just about wraps it up. We’ve covered exactly how to build the teepee fire lay and the advantages of using this fire building method.

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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