Nothing unites a group of people quite like gathering around a bonfire. Whether you're roasting marshmallows, telling ghost stories or keeping warm, there's no better place to hang out. But fires can also be dangerous. So, when you're building a bonfire, it's essential to follow the proper safety rules. To learn all the bonfire tips and tricks, we asked BestReviews outdoor expert Amos Terry. Here's everything you need to know about starting a bonfire.
Whether you're camping, relaxing at the beach or throwing a party at home, it's essential to check the local laws before building a fire. For instance, some counties have “spare the air” days where all fires are prohibited, or your city may fall under a red flag warning in the drier months when fire danger is high.
"All of your materials should be dry and cured, meaning they’ve spent months or years split and stacked out of the elements to cure properly. Wet woods will not burn or will burn very inefficiently," Terry advised. "You also want a mix of hardwoods and softwoods. Softwoods will catch and burn more quickly, allowing you to ladder your fuels to denser hardwoods. Softwoods are woods like pine, redwood, fir and spruce. Hardwoods are things like oak, almond, walnut and hickory."
While there are a variety of arrangements for your wood, Terry prefers the “log cabin” method. To create this method:
For a safe and effortless way to make kindling, opt for this splitter that forgoes all moving blades and sharp objects swinging next to faces and hands. Plus, it requires less force to split firewood than a standard axe. It's also virtually maintenance-free.
Instead of spending time digging a large bonfire hole, this smokeless Solo Stove bonfire pit is quick and effortless to set up. It has a sleek, stainless steel design and weighs only 20 pounds; with the included carrying case, it's easy to transport. In the Testing Lab, we found that it burned wood efficiently and admired the built-in ash catcher, which makes for easy disposal.
For safety, it comes with a metal round spark screen to protect from flying sparks, a built-in wood grate for better airflow and a poker tool to lift the screen and control the flame.
Terry recommends this reliable hatchet for breaking down small wood even smaller and chipping off kindling and tinder.
Terry prefers this lighter for the long reach and flexible neck that make it easier to light those hard-to-reach bits of tinder you boxed in with logs.
"Introducing airflow helps a ton in the incipient stage of the fire and can help small fuels catch more efficiently," Terry said. It's lightweight and collapsible.
For breaking down large rounds or big pieces of wood, opt for this wood-splitting axe that features a hardened forged steel blade that stays sharp. The Fiskars splitting axe also features a shock-absorbing handle.
Never fumble around in the dark again when creating a bonfire, thanks to this convenient headlamp. The LED lights generate a bright beam that lasts for up to 10 hours.
For those who prefer to use charcoal for their bonfires, this chimney starter drastically cuts down the time it takes. It features a heat shield and a stay-cool handle for safety.
This propane torch with a trigger start ignition quickly gets a fire started, whether you're having a backyard bonfire or want to start a campfire. Also, the flame control valve easily sizes flame and extinguishes it when finished.
If the weather isn't cooperating or you need to light a fire pit or campfire fast, opt for these all-weather and waterproof fire starters. It will start a fire if it's directly lit or struck with a magnesium flint striker.
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Bre Richey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.