It sounds easy enough right? Match, wood… no brainer. But after thirty minutes on your knees huffing and puffing only to have your paltry fire smolder out, you know the struggle. Every seasoned fire starter will swear by their particular method, but there are some basic tenants that are true for all fires.
- Birch bark makes the best natural fire starter. It’s practically invincible.
- Never use fuel on a cooking fire. You’re better than that.
- Never use green or wet wood. That means you never tear bark or branches off living trees. Find deadfall to use or pack in your firewood.
- Do not bring wood from home if you live in a different province or state. Firewood can contain invasive bugs which could wreck your favorite campsite.
- If the wood is very dry, you can pack up the whole fire and then toss in a match and walk away. Don’t look back; badasses never do. Actually, look back… fires are dangerous!
- If the wood is not well seasoned or it has been raining, start really small. Just a little birch bark and a few small twigs, then slowly build it up. Pack the rest of the wood close to the fire so it can dry.
- Oxygen; you need it, fires need it. Always pack your kindling with gaps so the air can get in. If your fire is struggling, blow gently on itko.
- Fire starters can be made from candle wax and dryer lint; just put the lint in the bottom of an egg carton and pour melted wax over it. Break off each egg section and use to light your fire.
- In a pinch, crayons and corn chips (like Dorritos) work really well too.
Building a Snack Fire
This is a good one for boiling water or cooking smores and will work nicely for heat too. It’s quick and easy. Place a couple of balled up pieces of paper or some birch bark in the center, then lay the kindling around in a teepee style. If the wood is wet, start small. Leave gaps between the kindling so air can get in. Light the paper or birch and blow gently on the flames.
Building a Cooking Fire
Place the bark or paper in the center with a little kindling on it. Now build a square around the kindling in a ‘log cabin’ formation, alternating parallel logs which leave gaps for air to get in.
Lay two parallel lines of rocks next to your fire. This is your ‘cooking channel’. Try to find rocks that are the same size and flat on top so you can rest your grill, pots and cooking pans on them without spilling.
When your wood has started to burn down, use a stick to scrape coals into your cooking channel. This way, you can alter the temperature by piling on more coals or scraping some back into the fire. You can also continue to make new coals on the fire which you can scrape into your cooking channel. That way you don’t end up with a half-cooked meal.