1. Pick a spot to build your campfire. One school of thought is to find a nice clearing to make a fire. That just doesn’t work for me. I prefer a sturdy tree (or group of trees) or a large pile of brush in which to construct my campfire. It provides a nice preexisting structure to make the creation of your masterpiece much easier. Also, keep in mind that a forest canopy overhead provides great shelter for your fire from the wind and rain.

2. Find something to burn. The forest is full of many flammable things, many of which won’t try to scurry away from you when lit. I prefer new, attractive green wood to the old, rotten stuff you find on the ground. Alternatively, there are plenty of things in the camper or RV that will burn just as well, if not better, and will make a more colorful flame to help set the mood of the evening. Pile what you’ve scavenged as high as you can because there is nothing more impressive than a great beacon of light, pointing toward the heavens.

3. Gasoline. Lots of it. Every good fire requires an accelerant — that much I learned from all of the CSI episodes I’ve watched — and your campfire is no exception. Dump most of it, if not all of it, on the pile. (You can save some for later fires. Or not.) It is also quite awesome to pour a trail of gas leading up to the pile from some distance away in the woods, creating a cool “running start” effect when you light it. Some people will argue that using gasoline might be going a little overboard; however, a campfire is all about the night’s entertainment and a bit of showmanship. Otherwise, we’d all be carrying space heaters and kitchen stoves out into the wilderness with us. Right?

4. Make a spark. Matches work, but not too well when it’s damp or windy out. Lighters work, but they can leave a bit of a butane taste on your s’mores. I’ve found that gunpowder in an empty beer can with a newspaper fuse makes the perfect fire starter. Just light, throw, and you’ll quickly see the blinding light of your new campfire. Make sure all of your friends gather closely around, so they’re sure to get the best view of the grand start.

A note on fire safety

Proper care should be taken any time you’re working with your secret lover, fire. So be sure to have some extra bandages on hand and a few extra beers to disinfect wounds or to act as an anesthesia if necessary.

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