Here are my top three reasons why fire is fabulous:
1. It can cook your food, and I love food 🙊
2. It’s warm and when out in the wild a bit of warmth can go a long way
3. The smoke keeps away Mosquitos which is a definite win
Great Georgie now as well as confessing to mental illness you have confessed to pyromania- fear not friends and please put down your tranq guns and straight jackets this post is all about safely making campfires when out camping or in severe survival situations, not about just setting fire to stuff geeez!!
As human beings we all share survival instincts, even if hidden deep deep down, and if out in the middle of nowhere in a potentially life threatening situation making and maintaining a fire is a definite way of regaining control and lifting moral. Thing is though we live in a world where we have electric fires, stoves and lighters- people we have gone soft and I think it’s time we all went back to our roots and learnt how to make a fire any cave-person would be proud of!
FIRST: The Site
Finding where to start your fire is a task that should not be taken lightly, things you need to keep in mind are; shelter from the elements, not being too near tents (those things burn down in around 7 seconds) and being away from very dry wooded areas as you do not want to create a forest fire. It may sound obvious but it’s often worth checking that you are allowed to make a fire in the area your in. Personally if I want to cook on a fire I like to create a bit of a fire pit- look for a spot that lends itself to this maybe a natural dip or a rocky ledge. I also surround the pit with rocks as they are not flammable and provide a useful surface for cooking if nothing else is available (think hot plates). The pit protects from wind making the initial spark process a hell of a lot easier and I think it’s easier to manage and maintain but it really is down to personal preference.
SECOND: Tinder and Kindling
For you laymen tinder is very dry and preferably fluffy stuff; bark in particular pine or birch are good, pine needles, loo roll, cotton wool etc but not leaves as they do not allow for any airflow. You want a good portion of tinder (around a handful unless like me you have tiny little hands in which case you need 2 handfuls) and if your new to the game more is definatley better. Kindling is small bits of wood that are easy to catch, I like to go for small twigs no thicker than a pencil. You want a twig that makes a good snapping sound when you break it as this shows that it is dry inside. If it is wet you need to use your knife to strip back the bark and possibly the outer layers of wood till you get to the dry core (don’t worry you will find it) pine is very easy to catch fire so if it’s wet that’s a good shout for kindling but generally I just go for thin dry twigs and don’t worry about the type of wood too much.
THIRD: Fuel For The Fire
All woods have different burn qualities and depending on where in the world you are you may have little or no choice as to the type of wood you use. Basically use common sense! Make sure you collect all your firewood before attempting to start the fire, there is nothing worse than managing to get a flame going only to discover you have nothing to put on it! Arranging your wood in size order can also be helpful, hopefully by the time you get to using the big stuff the fire is hot enough to dry out any wet wood but if it’s been really wet there’s no harm in stacking it carefully around the fire so the heat can dry it out or stripping off the bark and then make nicks or ‘feathers’ in the wood to help it to catch. Remember when wood collecting to only use deadwood on the floor of the area and never cut down trees for fuel!
FOURTHLY: Coaxing a Spark and Builidng the Bonfire
Having collected all your fuel its worth organising it into a wonderfully OCD size-type order starting with your skinny kindling twigs building up into larger logs! Place some of your tinder down where you have decided to start your fire and carefully balance your dryest kindling twigs up against the tinder into a pointy pyramid, this allows plenty of air to enter providing essential oxygen. Next cup a small section of tinder in your hand and use a lighter or match to set it on fire, or use a flint and aim the sparks right into the middle of the tinder. Don’t be worried about using your hands to cup around the little spark to help protect it from the elements, then you want to place (or poke with a stick) the tinder which should be on fire into the middle of your little pyramid. The key to getting the fire going is to keep plenty of oxygen going in, you can do this by blowing hard into the base of the fire which will add oxygen and spread the hot embers into the dry wood. Once the little kindling twigs are catching carefully start to build up the size of the fire adding in larger bits of wood. The crucial thing at this point is to not smoother the baby fire, add wood into the pyramid structure so that plenty of air can get in and don’t add too much all at once.
FINALLY: Something To Remember
As a wonderful guide called Alec once said “it’s not a case of if you can make fire it’s a case of will you keep trying until you succeed in making fire” so friendlings remember that next time your about to give up on your fire making, you can do it with a bit of perseverance 🙂