Using the Elevator Fire Lay - Gray Bearded Green Beret

Using the Elevator Fire Lay

The Perfect Campfire

Every good campfire starts with a really good fire lay, and every fire lay has three elements in its “fire triangle”:  heat, fuel, and air.  You must have all three in your fire triangle to have combustion, or you’ll have smoke with no combustion at all. 

The principles of the fire triangle should be kept in mind when you construct what is called an “Elevator Fire Lay.”  It’s a superior campfire because it gives you the ability to introduce air very easily.

Air – obviously is free to use.  Don’t snuff it out with your fire lay.

Heat – comes from your ignition source such as a ferrocerium rod, which then transfers to your tinder bundle.  Inner bark from an Aspen or fat wood are plentiful in the Southeast and make a good tinder bundle.

Fuel – Use a variety of different sizes of sticks with the tinder being the smallest, and then the kindling.  A good rule of thumb for your kindling is to think of match sticks, pencils and markers.  Look for a mixture of those three sizes.  From there you need sustaining fuel to keep the fire burning.  Tinder accepts the heat from the ignition source, the tinder bundle transfers the heat to the kindling and kindling transfers heat to the sustainable fuel – target thumb size to wrist size.


To begin the elevator lay, place one of the larger logs in the back to become the pivot point.  Next, take a smaller stick for your “lift stick” and place it parallel to the first stick towards the back of the fire lay.  Then take a couple of sticks (marker size) and cross them from the lift stick to the pivot stick, forming the X at the center of the pivot log.  Now you will have the ability to lift the entire fire lay with the lift stick.  From there, take a mix of the three sizes of kindling and place them on either side and the top of the framework of the X, leaving an area for the tinder bundle.

The next step is preparing the tinder bundle. Fatwood is plentiful in the southeast and can be used in the center of the bundle to get the fire started.  If your tinder is very dry, you may not need fatwood to get the tinder to light. Place a green leaf on the ground to catch the fatwood shavings. Choose a small stick of fatwood with a lot of surface area and find the edge.  Your knife should have a 90-degree spine so you can shave the wood with that edge and not dull your knife processing tinder. The point of leverage is next to the knife handle where it is solid and will create consistent shavings.  Make a pile of shavings about the size of a golf ball on the leaf.  If your spine hangs on the stick, use the blade to smooth the area, then continue shaving with the spine.  Create a pocket in the center of your tinder ball and place the shavings in the pocket.

For the ferro rod technique, use a large rod you can easily handle with your hand and again use the spine of your knife. The goal is to shower sparks into the fatwood bundle to light it.  Place your foot next to the bundle and place your fist holding the knife on top of your foot with the blade across the tinder bundle. Your fist should be stationary.  Pull the rod across the knife’s point of leverage (near the handle), similar to the motion used to start a lawnmower with a pull cord.  Don’t pull the knife against the rod into the tinder ball, or you will remove the air in it.  If it takes more than three strikes to light the bundle, check your technique and your tinder.  Put your knife away, check the location of your ferro rod and reassess your technique.


Fire likes to climb.  Allow it to climb through the tinder bundle and then place it in the center of the fire lay.  Take a few sticks from the sides and sprinkle them lightly on the bundle.  If you have a lot of smoke, the fire needs air.  Because you have an elevator fire lay, raise the lift stick and the smoke should dissipate.  Give the fire a chance to catch, and when there is a thumb-size or larger stick burning, you can walk away from the campfire because it is considered sustainable at that point, and you can gather more fuel if you need it.  Continue to take sticks from the sides and put them on the top so the heat can travel up through them. If you put the sticks on too tightly and it starts to smoke, you can always introduce more air by using your lift stick.

The elevator fire lay is a great way to get a campfire established quickly.

For similar topics, check out my downloadable content here. Join us at a Live Event here!

I hope to see you around our campfire soon!


Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.