How to Bank a Fire

Knowing how to bank a fire is a great piece of knowledge to have when you're out in the wild.

If you’re a beginner to camping, you might not know how to bank a fire or even heard the phrase before!

To make it simple: banking a campfire means preserving the coals to start the fire again.

The most common way of how to bank a fire is surrounding it with stones. This accomplishes a few things:

  • It shields the fire starting from wind
  • Prevents fire from spreading
  • Most importantly: it keeps the ash and coals hot longer so the fire can be started again with ease

It’s an essential part of camping, so much so that most campgrounds already have a fire pit ready go.

That means that you probably won’t need to do this, but it doesn’t hurt to know why it’s a thing.

Surrounding your campfire with stones is the most common method of banking a fire. Naturally, you don’t want to make the circle too large or too small.

The stones don’t need to be large, but too small and they won’t do a great job of shielding the fire or containing it, for that matter.

So you’ve banked the fire, how do you start it?

After banking a fire and going to sleep, you’ll most likely awake to a bed of coal and ashes that doesn’t look so hot.

If your banking was successful though, there’s a pleasant surprise waiting for you underneath all of it:

Hot coals!

Fan away the ash using a hat (or even blowing it away will do the trick) to reveal them, along with some tinder ready to place on it.

Any light, dry material will make for good tinder in this situation (pine needles, leaves etc.)

After a couple of minutes it should ignite on its own and you can feed it with smaller sticks if you want to build it back up again.

It’s a really useful method that also saves a lot of hassle when you don’t want to spend more time than necessary starting fires.

Important fire safety tips you should be aware of

Always check with the campground to see if fires are allowed, and if so under any particular conditions. Oftentimes, fires are banned due to drought or not allowed to be on the ground.

It can be a real bummer to go camping without a fire since it’s such a core part of the experience. Everyone likes smores!

It’s also important to keep your fire to a manageable size. You don’t have to worry about it getting out of hand and can always throw a fresh log onto it when needed.

Also, make sure your fire isn’t too close to your tents or other parts of the campsite. It’s almost like some kind of rule that someone trips around it or knocks a piece off every time I go camping it seems like.

By separating its location, you eliminate a possible tripping hazard as well as making sure your camping gear doesn’t get a nice melt to it.

Lastly, don’t rely on fire starters to get a fire going. We all have a story or two of this hilariously backfiring when someone gets a little too excited with it!