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How to Build a Teepee Fire & When to Use It

We are talking about the classic campfire when we talk about the teepee fire. The teepee is a great way to build a fire that allows all kinds of airflow and, when done properly, is basically one of the simplest fires that a person can build.

This fire is a great way to teach kids how to make fire because they can be involved with all parts of building it and if they can strike a match then they can start a teepee fire. The gathering of tinder, building the teepee, and finally lighting the fire is a lot of fun for kids.

However, in a survival situation, if you know how to gather tinder, then you will be able to make this fire fast and warm yourself, cook food, and boil water. This takes care of many of your immediate survival needs.

In this article we are going to look at the parts of a teepee fire and how to build one from the ground up.

Teepee fire

The Parts of a Tee Pee Fire

Fire Ring

No matter what kind of fire you build you should establish a place where your fire is going to burn. This way you do not have to worry about burning down the woods around you. A fire ring can be made of rocks or even larger pieces of wood fuel.

This is especially important when you are building a fire like a teepee fire which is built up as much as it is out. If your teepee fire falls over while it is starting you want it to fall over in a fire ring so that it doesn’t start or spread a fire.


Your tinder is one of the most important parts of any fire but also a teepee fire. In a teepee fire, you are going to have a nice spot inside the teepee where you can shove your tinder or tinder bundle. This is another benefit of building the teepee fire.

I like very fine tinder for the teepee fire mixed with tinder that bunches easily and provides mass. This fire is pretty easy to light so even a small amount of fire, like a single match, with a robust tinder bundle of fine fibers and dry grasses will get it going. Dried flowers, leaves, river birch bark, and dry grasses are all great tinder options.

Gather a lot of tinder because your teepee is going to be built on it. You should have a tinder bundle of dried grasses and other things that is at least the size of two softballs. This will make for the easiest teepee fire.

Dry leaves, twigs and bark for fire tinder


Your kindling is a very important part of the teepee fire. You want to have a couple of different sizes of kindling. Smaller pencil-sized sticks are going to be essential to get your fire going. Another pile should be larger kindling.

These larger kindling sticks are what you are going to use to build out your teepee structure.


Fuelwood is essential when you are building a teepee fire. However, I like to see a good fire with lots of kindling before I start to add larger fuel. I am looking for a nice healthy bed of coals to be established by the tinder before I add larger fuel.

You can also encircle the teepee with larger fuel at the base of the fire. this is a good way to get larger pieces of wood burning.

Have plenty of fuel for your teepee fire

How to Build a Teepee Fire

The building of the teepee fire is not necessarily complex. It just requires that you lean sticks against one another to create that familiar teepee shape. The larger your tinder bundle the easier it is to lean these sticks.

I like to lay down about 3 medium-sized branches to build the fire on. This is a great practice because it takes your fire off the ground and even provides a little fuel to burn beneath the teepee. I do this for any type of fire that I am starting. If you are harvesting river birch bark or pine needles for your tinder, you should look for those branches for just this purpose.

These two trees have high levels of sap and terpenes in the wood so they catch fast and burn hot. That is perfect for the early stages of a fire.

Use your bundles of tinder, dried grass, and whatever else you have gathered as the core of your teepee. Take your nice full ball of tinder and place it at the center of the branches you have laid on the ground.

As I mentioned the more tinder you have the easier it will be to build your teepee. From here you are going to begin to lay your smallest kindling against the tinder. Keep laying pieces around the ball of tinder and your teepee will begin to take shape.

Next, you stack on some of the larger kindling and once you have your larger kindling all around the teepee it is time to light the fire.

Lighting the teepee fire just involves bringing some kind of flame or ember to the ball or tinder at the core of your teepee.

Once the flames begin to rise above the kindling you can start adding larger fuel in the same leaning teepee fashion.

Tinder is Key

Tinder is key to a successful teepee fire

Look, leaning sticks against a ball of tinder and lighting it is a pretty straightforward method of fire-making. This is why it is one of the most popular types of fires to make. The key to this fire is the tinder at its core.

Most people who struggle with this fire do not gather enough tinder, they struggle to lean larger sticks together because there is nothing for them to lean on. If you have lots of kindling and lots of tinder you are going to be able to start this fire.

Like most of the fires we profile here at Survival World, you can get out this weekend and build a simple teepee fire. So, get out there and make fire!

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