The peak of masculinity lies within a man’s ability to pull off a number of feats in front of his boys or, more importantly, whichever chicks he’s trying to impress.
After all: Why do dudes work out, dress well or smell nice (err, acceptably)—or do anything, really? The answer: to impress women. The fact is, the manlier the task, the more impressed the lady—and when it comes down to it, building a fire from scratch is pretty high on the list of manly skills (we’ll slot it somewhere between lumberjack competitions and MMA fighting).
Hence this practical question from Andrew G, a certified city guy from Queens, NY: “How do I go about building a fire pit on a camping or beach trip?” Lucky for us, and Andrew, Ryan Cunningham of beyondthetent.com has lent his pyromaniacal wisdom to the cause. Follow these steps to really set things ablaze on your next trip.
1) Check local laws
Does your city require a permit for a pit, demand that it be 25 feet from structures, or ban pits outright? Find out first to avoid a nasty surprise. Ditto if you’re on the beach or in a park, where there are often special rules around fires.
2) Pick a spot where nothing else will ignite
Embers drift, so unless you plan on inviting the fire department and getting a few sternly worded emails from Smokey the Bear, build the pit far from any flammables (gear, trees, dry grass, dry pine needles).
3) Mark the firepit circle.
Cunningham suggests using rocks or logs, then digging a shallow hole. You want a hole that’s deep enough to keep coals centered, control airflow, and minimize smoke. If it’s windy out, dig the hole a foot or more deep and pile dirt, sand, or rocks on one side’s top edge as a windscreen.
4) Build the fire.
For a fast, hot fire for cooking, use lots of small sticks. For a bonfire, start with twigs/small debris, then add wrist-diameter wood. For a more in-depth explainer on deep woods firestarting, check out our guide from a deep woods survivalist.
5) Crack open the brewskis.
We have a few we’d like to recommend.
6) At night’s end, leave no trace.
Put out the fire completely with water or dirt—don’t leave buried hot coals to burn unsuspecting walkers’ feet or accidentally catch someone’s tent on fire. Fill in the pit and carry away logs/debris. Leave the area as beautiful as you found it.
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