Let's focus our attention on small fire pits, with the intention of cooking over an open fire.
Camping facilities usually have designated pits that rarely exceed 18" in diameter. Most will consist of a metal ring, or bricks/stones, that are purposely installed to contain the fire size, and to keep the area clean.
Before you start your fire, consider cleaning the pit out. Removing 5 lbs of ashes, will help to ensure that your food doesn't taste like sut. You'll probably have brought some old newspapers and kindling from home. The camping facilities always have wood, so you're all set.
Use as little paper as possible, just enough to start the kindling. Don't smother it with large pieces until all the kindling is burning evenly. 2 medium size, 2" to 4" diameter, (hardwood preferably) until they've clearly started, and top with 2 large 4" to 6".
Remember, to properly cook over an open fire requires no visible flame. Give the wood a chance to burn and break down into red hot coals. Swing your grill over the heating area, and lower to approx. 6" to 8" from the hot surface.
These are only guidelines to get you started. Your best results, will come with time!!
To truely appreciate open fire cooking, you need to backpack through our National, and Provincial parks. Properly prepared, the experience can be very rewarding.
Consider the wind direction, and your surroundings when locating a potential site. Being close to a water source is always a good idea. Now, start by locating a flat surface, preferably near stones as they are none combustible, and will shield your fire from the wind.
Remove an inch or two of loose soil to form a spoon shape, no bigger than 16" in diameter. The loose soil should be piled up around the edges of your pit. Search the grounds for dry leaves, and dead limbs. Stripping those limbs with a knife will also help to start your fire. Even when the grounds are wet, below the first layer, and under trees, you can usually find something. (Don't forget to keep your matches dry)
Continue to feed the fire with small pieces. Now is a good time to set-up camp. Keep monitoring and feeding your fire. Gradually, increase the size of wood, and take out your cooking supplies. As the wood breaks down, and red hot coals appear, you're ready!!
Before calling it a night, that loose soil around the edge of your pit, can now be kicked in, to level that spot. Not only will this extinguish the remainder of the fire, it also discourages our furry friends from a potential meal. Good housekeeping is safe, and healthy for our enviroment. Leave your camp area better than you found it, and always respect fire bans, and local regulations.