How to Build a Self-Feeding Campfire

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and "lazy person's memoir," called Borg Like Me.

3989 Articles

By Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and "lazy person's memoir," called Borg Like Me.

3989 Articles

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You may have seen pictures on social media or videos on Facebook showing various ways of building a self-feeding campfire. Some people say to build a reverse fire (wood piled largest to smallest), others swear by a horizontal log fire (where you split a long log in half and then build your tinder fire inside the spaced-apart halves of the log). Off all of the schemes I’ve seen, this one, described by former biology teacher turned outdoor enthusiast and YouTuber Bob Hansler, seems the most efficient.

There’s obviously a lot of set-up involved. In the video, Bob stresses that the angle of the feed rails needs to be just right, the logs need to be very straight, spaced properly, and it’s important how you light the tinder fire. While you can tell he certainly has created the ideal conditions, he gets an over 14 hour burn out of his fire, including weathering a downpour of an 1-1/4″, six hours in.

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It may seem like a lot of work (and a lot of wood), but anyone who’s ever been camping in cold weather and tending a night fire, knows you don’t get a lot of sleep, and it’s a lot of work throughout the night. I guess a self-feeding fire is just front-loading that work.

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One of the YouTube commenters offered a great improvement to the set-up:

Try taking out one side. In it’s place, put large heavy rocks that will keep the logs from rolling towards you. Make sure those rocks aren’t found near water, as they may explode when the heat expands their moisture. That side you took out is where your body will go, perpendicular to the fire. The log side will also act as a wind protector and reflector.

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I’m not sure how many people are actually going to build this type of fire under a normal outdoor/camping situation, but the demonstration is interesting and it’s nice to know that you could construct such a fire if a situation were to call for one.