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How To: Build a Fire Pit

Building a fire pit is a necessary skill if you ever plan on venturing out on your own. Surviving in the wilderness becomes a lot easier when you have fire. A fire pit can help make that possible. When you’re creating your pit there are two main things you should keep in mind. Safety and fundamentals are priorities. We will also discuss some additional tips and tricks at the end of the article.


Choosing the right location is your first task. You should chose a spot away from trees, shrubbery, dry grasses or anything else that can burn. You will also need flat ground. If you don’t have this you will need to clear a space. It would be dangerous to build a fire pit next to something flammable. If you are not on flat ground you risk that the coals could roll or your wood could fall.

When deciding upon a location you should also take the wind into account. You will need to have a larger space if you are experiencing, or think you may experience, high wind speed. Again, this is to be sure that embers are not being displaced to somewhere that could easily catch fire.

Be sure to look up and down when you choose a location. First, look up to be sure there are no overhanging branches directly above you. Embers from the fire could rise and catch low branches on fire. If there is not a space without any low hanging branches you may need to take some time to clear away a space. When looking down you will be looking for exposed tree roots. Again, be sure you are working on flat and even ground.

When building a fire pit you will need to base to either be soil, gravel, or sand. Do not build a fire pit on top of leaves or other plants. This is why it is so important to find a clear open space. Remove any debris so you are directly on the soil floor. You may need to remove some earth to find the soil beneath. Do not skip this important step.

Be sure to have water nearby in case of an emergency. If something does end up going up in flames that is not supposed to you’ll need water to put it out.  Be sure to have a bucket, pot, or water bottle available just in case.

Anytime you are building a fire you should take safety seriously. Skipping or missing any of these steps can not only lead to wildfires but can cause lasting damage to the environment. The majority of wildfires are caused by human error so be sure you aren’t becoming part of that statistic.


Decide what size pit you need. This depends on what you are using it for. A fire for warmth may not be the same size as a fire for cooking and preparing food. This will be especially true depending on how many people will be utilizing the fire pit. If you are the only one using the fire then pit that’s 2 feet in diameter will suffice. If more people are going to be around it you will want to double that number. You’ll also want to take into consideration the size utensils you are using on the pit if you are using it for cooking. Your fire pit will need to be larger than your pot or pan in order for the meat or food to cook evenly.

Start digging. You’re going to need to dig a bowl shaped hole at least 3 inches deep at the center. I wouldn’t go deeper than 8 inches but it doesn’t need to be exact. This bowl shaped hole will help to concentrate the coals. It will also provide more light, more heat, and less smoke.

Once you have dug your depression and have decided the size of the fire pit you can use rocks to build a ring around the outside. This helps with keeping the coals inside the pit. It also helps with safety. Rocks are not flammable so they are not able to catch on fire. Just be surer you aren’t using rocks that have been submerged in water.

Extra Tips

If you have the space, and the time to make it, you can make a separate spot for cooking your food. Create a small bump out on your fire pit and encircle it in rocks as well. This will allow your fire to continue burning and allow light and heat while you’re cooking. Simply move the coals over to the designated cooking spot. If you place a pot or pan over the fire you may loose so heat and light. Having a separate cooking bump out on your it will ensure you can have all three happening at the same time.

Choosing the right kind of wood will help determine how successful your fire is and how long it will last. Use kindling (small pieces of wood) to start your fire. Once you have it lit and it is burning you can place larger pieces on top. Hardwoods will burn hotter and brighter and will give off less smoke. Examples of hardwood are cherries, oak, and maple. You should also be sure the wood you are using is dead and dry. Green wood, or wood that is still living will be extremely smoky and may not even burn at all. DO not use branches from a living tree. Instead, find branches that are dead and have been lying on the ground. If you are unsure if a branch is dead you should try snapping it. If it snaps it is dead. If it bends and sort of peels apart then it is not dry enough to use.

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