How To: Build a Fire Pit

If we were playing word association and I threw out camping, I bet a number of you would think fire. Even with a propane camp stove and grill, a camp just has to have that smoky smell, that flicker of yellow and orange, and the pop and crackle of burning tinder. Whether your intention is to roast some hotdogs and marshmallows, warm a chilly evening, or simply add to the beauty of the camp setting, a camp fire completes the experience.

To be able to enjoy your fire, a good fire pit is a necessity. Established camp sites will likely have them ready to go, but if you’re planning to visit an unestablished campsite and want to build a fire pit, here’s a quick walk through.

Before we begin, let’s start with the fun part (or at least you’ll have more fun camping if you know to look for these things in advance)—safety first!

It’s been estimated that human-built fires have burnt over two-million acres of wildlands. No one wants to add to that number so here are just a few safety musts: Be certain to choose a spot with no overhanging debris or anything that may fall across the pit later. You’ll need to find rock for lining your pit, but don’t use river rock since it may have some water incased in it that, upon heating, may expand and cause the rock to explode.

Here’s a list of things you’ll need:

  • A shovel, trowel, stick or rock for clearing any and all organic material from the site
  • Large rocks, for lining the pit
  • One large container, filled with water—again with the safety
  • Bonus item: Mound of inorganic soil or sand—not unlike the water, this could save the day

With all preliminary safety concerns covered, pick your construction site and . . .

  1. Clear an area between 10 and 15 feet in diameter with your shovel (or its likeness) down to the bare mineral earth, being sure to remove bits of grass or twigs from the area.
  2. Dig your pit in the center of your hard work, about a foot deep.
  3. Line the rim of the pit with rocks—again avoid river rock.
  4. And finally, line the inside of the pit with sand. This last bit will deter possible underground fires from springing up somewhere later

Check out our other posts that explain how to make great fire tinder

And that’s the nutshell. Please feel free to comment and share your tips or experiences.

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