If you can start a fire in any weather conditions with no matches or fire starting materials you’re greatly increasing your chances of survival. This is an essential bushcraft skill every outdoorsman should master!
The science behind making a fire can be quite hard to understand, so lets keep it as simple as possible! A fire is made up of 3 things: air, heat and fuel. Without any of these a fire will not be able to sustain itself. Getting the right mixture of air, heat and fuel is the key to creating and maintaining your fire.
Firecraft is one of the most important survival skills because fire provides so many benefits:
- Used to Purify Water
- Keeps Predators Away
- Provides Warmth and Security
- Cooks Food And Kills Bacteria
- Can Be Used To Smoke And Preserve Foods
- Sterilizes Equipment
- Illuminates Your Campsite At Night
- Can Be Used To Create A Rescue Smoke Signal
- Create Resources Like Clay Pots and Fish Glue
- Gives You A Comforting Psychological Boost
Choose The Ideal Location To Build Your Fire
Selecting the correct area to build a fire is very important. You also need to think about the type of terrain you’re making a fire in, what kind of man-made or natural fire starting materials you have (if any), how much free time you have, what type of fire to build etc.
You must always try to find a clear, dry area, that’s well protected from the wind. If you have a shelter you will need to consider how close or far away you’d like to have your fire and how much heat you want to transfer over.
Next Gather And Prepare The 3 Types Of Fire Building Materials:
Tinder, kindling and fuel are the 3 materials you’ll be using in various stages of the fire building process.
Stage 1: Tinder must be a powerful accelerant and fire starter which is used to initially get the fire going. There are plenty of readily accessible materials to use as tinder: birch bark, dead pine needles, pitchwood scrapings, sawdust, straw, certain kinds of dead moss & mushrooms, bird down, cattail seed heads, pocket lint, gunpowder, cotton etc.
Stage 2: Kindling is used to turn a very small tinder based fire into a large, more substantial build. Common materials for kindling include: very small branches and twigs, small pieces of split wood, tree bark or twigs imbued with flammable sap etc. The easiest way to collect kindling is usually to collect a bunch of small twigs and branches and then use the batoning technique to split many small pieces of wood from a larger log.
Stage 3: Fuel is primarily made up of dried logs and branches but can also include materials like dead stumps and tree trunks, split pieces of green wood, dry animal dug etc. Your fuel should ideally be a long lasting material that produces and clean, high-quality flame.
Remember all firewood isn’t created equal. Some woods will burn clean and give off lots of radiant heat, others will char and put off a lot of foul smelling dark smoke. By learning to identify trees in your area you can find the best firewoods by trial and error.
The Easiest Way To Start A Fire (Even in Wet Conditions!):
The first thing you want to do is clear a fire pit 1 meter in diameter. Around the perimeter place either rocks or thick pieces of green wood to stop any potential spread of the fire. Next you need to collect 2 piles of fire building material. One very small pile of tinder (enough to form a bundle you can hold in your hand) and one pile of kindling.
You want to collect the driest materials possible. If the ground is wet pick small twigs from branches that are above ground level. If you manage to find some wet birch bark you can peel back and separate the layers keeping only the dry ones. I like to collect a handful of twigs and wrap them in bark or dead pine needles.
In the case of wet conditions lay down a base of hardwood logs to keep your fire elevated. This strategy will make things much easier on you. Not only does it keep your fire off the cold, wet ground, but it also offers much better airflow.
Before lighting anything up you want to prepare the kindling. Form the pieces into a small teepee or log cabin likestructure with an ‘open door’ where you can insert the burning bundle of tinder. Wrap the tinder tightly into a bundle you can hold in your palm and light it while tilting it at a slight downward angle. Once it catches on insert the bundle into the kindling teepee.
The teepee and log cabin styles of fire work so well because they by design allow for a lot of air flow, also, as the fire burns it collapses into itself further feeding the fire. Other styles of fire you may like are the lean-to, the cross-ditch and the pyramid.
After the kindling has caught fire you can slowly start adding larger and larger pieces of wood.
Need To Minimize Smoke? Use A Stealthy Dakota Fire Hole:
The Dakota fire hole is an excellent option for staying stealthy and avoiding detection.
Starting A Fire In The Winter? Use A Log Base And Fire Wall:
Snow covered ground can make fire building a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be.
The most common mistake I see being made is trying to build a fire directly on the snow. You might get your initial bundle of tinder to light up, but once the snow underneath starts melting it will quickly start working against you. The best strategy to overcome this issue is to build a log base. Lay down two layers of logs and build your fire directly on top if it. Not having to deal with melting snow extinguishing your fire makes all the difference in the world!
If you’re still having trouble you can build a firewall around your pit. The straight fire wall and l-shaped fire wall are common options to redirect heat plus they can block wind, rain and snow.
Unorthodox Fire Starting Methods:
Convex Lens: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tHrdg-nVFM
Battery + Gum Wrapper: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Tny2rPAoPc
DIY Fire Starters:
Primitive Fire Starting Methods
Creating a fire by friction can be extremely difficult, but with enough practice it become faster and easier. This skill is one that can be mastered by many hours of practice. We recommend practicing using a wide range of materials and under increasingly difficult weather conditions.
Fire Plow Method:
Bow & Drill Method:
If it’s the middle of winter, or it just finished raining, you’re going to have a much more difficult time getting a friction fire started. With enough practice you’ll be able to use primitive fire starting skills much more effectively.
…fire is one of the most important bush skills there are, because it’s one of the few means available to make up for your deficiencies.