There are a million ways to start a fire. Some are faster than others, some are more efficient than others. Some are even cheaper than others. No matter the method, If you put the right amount of heat on a combustible object you will eventually start a fire. I say eventually because the whole turning a stick on a pile of shavings takes forever. Granted it works, or so I am told. I gave up and pulled my lighter out of my back pocket. In my defense, my kids were hungry.
You can say there isn’t really a science to starting a fire, but in all actuality there is. Rather than boring you with scientific details of it all, the little stuff burns the fastest, and the soonest. Start with the small thin material then grow in size, until you have a bed of coals that will catch just about anything you throw on it.
Gathering your material is the first thing you need to do before ever trying to start a fire. There are safety reasons involved here, as well as headache prevention. Who wants to start a fire, then have to go look for more logs before it burns out? It isn’t a good idea to start a fire and walk away from it. Logs and sticks can shift, and roll away from a fire at a moments notice. This could cause a much larger fire than you intended to have.
Most campsites no matter where they are located will have trees. Some more than others. If you haven’t packed or purchased firewood you will need to find some. Unless you are camping at a highly manicured campground, you won’t have any problem finding what you need. The woods are littered with everything you need to start a fire. There is no need to bring an ax, and lumberjack skills to chop down a tree. I’m fairly certain that you won’t be allowed to chop down a tree unless it is private land. Even then it isn’t necessary. An ax might would be a handy tool to have for chopping up fallen limbs and other large debris found on the forest floor.
Walk through the woods and gather a hefty handful of dry leaves. In my opinion, dried pine needles are the best at starting fires. They burn hot, and fast. Leaves and blades of grass work well too. Gather an arm full of dried sticks. The majority of what you will be burning will consist of dried fallen tree branches. Depending on how long you need the fire to burn you may need a vast amount of these. Make multiple trips if necessary.
Clear the area of anything combustible. Paid campgrounds, will have designated fire pits. Ensure that there is not a mound of leaves covering the pit. Clear a ring five feet around the pit. This will ensure a safe burn without catching the whole campground on fire. If you are camping in the woods, clear a large area around your intended fire spot. Digging a pit isn’t a bad idea. The dirt can be later used to put out the fire, and the pit keeps everything inside. If rocks are available create a ring to house the fire.
Start with the small tender. No, I am not talking about the social media site. I’m talking about the very small organic matter that burns fast! Leaves, pine needles, even dried blades of grass work great. Create a small pile of this in your designated burning area. Light the tinder with a match, lighter, or flint and steel. If you are patient you can try the stick method.
One strike of the match or lighter is all you need to get it to light. Only if the material is wet, or the weather is really windy, will you need multiple strikes. The tinder will burn fast, and hot. If you have enough of it, you can get small sticks to catch. You won’t be ready for logs yet, but you can start throwing on some twigs, but do so quickly. If the material is wet this may take a while.
Fire needs oxygen to burn. The added air will allow it to heat up hotter, and faster. Just don’t be in a hurry to start throwing on stuff that is too large. Twigs that are about the size of your fingers are what you are looking for at this point. Keep blowing on the flames and tinder until the twigs catch fire. You may have to add some more tinder until they do. Once this happens you will need to add more and more twigs until you have a fairly decent size fire.
Place the larger logs onto the fire once it is burning fairly strong. Don’t place a larger log than the fire, it will smother the flames and instantly put it out. Blowing generously on the fire beneath the log will generate more heat and cause the log to catch much faster.
Placing the logs centered over the fire then crisscrossing them until they form a t-pee shape is one way. Fires built with the purpose of keeping you warm are best suited this way because the flames will be larger. Therefore creating more heat.
Cooking over wood heat without a stove or rack to place a pot on can be challenging, but not impossible. You can use the logs themselves to create a place to put your pots. Organize the logs side by size in sets of at least four. Layer the next set of logs the opposite direction. Create a base of at least three layers, more if you are making a large meal. Pay attention to the logs as they burn so it doesn’t cause the pot to tip.
Always watch a fire, and never walk away with hot coals in the pit. Cover the fire with a non-combustible material to put it out. Water, dirt, and sand are great options to extinguish the fire. Continue to watch the area for a few minutes after covering to ensure that the fire is out.