Fire Building

It's Almost a Necessity

Fire is one of the most versatile and useful tools for survival. It can assist with signaling for help, purifying water, cooking food, heating a shelter, and keeping wild animals at bay. The light and heat provide a huge mental boost as well, turning a dour, bleak evening into one that provides hope for the next day.

Additional gear items are provided when fires are started at the fire building station. Some of these methods are difficult and require practice. Make sure to try out a couple of the techniques demonstrated in the videos.

Safe Area

Clear an area for the fire. To keep the fire contained, it is important that you build a barrier so your fire doesn't catch to nearby grass and leaves. When possible, use an existing fire pit. Another option is a Dakota fire hole, explained in a later video.

Dry Platform

Building a fire on the ground will be more difficult due to the moisture in the earth. Use some sticks, planks of wood, or other dry material in the bottom of the fire pit. If building in really bad conditions, such as snow or mud, you'll want the platform made of green wood.

Building a platform works well for established fire pits, which tend to collect rainwater and are often wet.

Gather Wood

Tinder: Extremely fine and thin items that will catch fire with just a spark. Get two large handfuls or more.

Kindling: Dry material from pencil to thumb thickness. Grows the flame into a fire. You'll want at least a full armload or two.

Fuel: Larger logs to sustain the fire. Gather much more than you think you'll need.

Thin shavings of wood, thin layers of birch bark, dry grasses, dry moss, newspaper, cattail fluff, seed pods. Catches the tiniest spark or ember and helps build the flame.

Thin, dry pieces of wood or small sticks. Ideally, these would be split out of the inside of a dry log. Pine fatwood (sap-filled wood) works well because the sap is flammable.

Firewood is the main source of fuel for your fire. It should consist of dry logs. You'll go through a lot of fuel and it provides the embers that are best for cooking.

Build the Campfire

The style of fire you build depends on what you know and the environment. A strong wind would blow over a tepee fire, but a lean-to or other sheltered fire could withstand it. All of the fires on the left put the tinder below the kindling, but a fire can be built with tinder on the side or even above the kindling. Your goal is to make sure the initial heat is focused on more kindling or wood to get the fire started.

Light the Fire

Strike your flint and steel, flick your lighter, or focus the sunlight. Get the tinder lit by catching an ember within. Gentle blowing or waving the tinder from side to side will increase airflow. When it catches flame, put it in the right spot in your campfire to light additional tinder and the kindling.

Several videos below describe techniques for starting a fire.

Put Out the Fire

When done, let the campfire burn down to eliminate partially burned wood. Pour water and thoroughly quench the fire. Mix up the wet ashes and the soil underneath. It should be cool to the touch to ensure that wind can't bring the fire back to life.

Leave No Trace

Distribute the ashes, then cover the area with the material you cleared away earlier to make a safe area.

Paul Kirtley has WONDERFUL INSTRUCTIONS walking through this process.

David West
Friction Fire 4 Ways... Fire Roll, Hand Drill, Bow Drill, and Bamboo Fire Saw

He's got a lot of other videos that detail each of these methods and several others. Instead of ashes in the fire roll, you can use sugar, flour, and other powders.

Scouting Magazine has several FRICTION FIRE TIPS.

How to Start a Fire in the Wilderness | Basic Instincts | WIRED

Really thorough explanation of a hand drill and bow drill, filled with many useful tips. The video even shows how to make a 2-ply cordage and different ways to build fires.

Survival Theory
Making Fire In The Rain Using Natural Materials

The weekend could be stormy, so it is good to have some tips for finding dry tinder and preparing a dry fire during rain.

You'll see that bark is used to make a dry platform, keeping the fire out of the mud.

Birch bark is great tinder because it starts on fire readily even if it is wet. Make sure to peel it apart to make paper-thin layers, which will catch fire much easier.

Fire Plow: Tips and Tricks

Short video that provides useful knowledge to assist you with the challenge of starting a fire.

Another video shows the SAMOAN GRIP and how to transfer the ember to a tinder bundle.

The King of Random
Sandwich Bag Fire Starter

Shows how to focus the sun using water in a plastic bag. The same technique can work with some of the disposable, rounded-top water bottles. The tips here also help with using a MAGNIFYING LENS to start fires.

The King of Random
How To Fix A Fire with a Broken Lighter

Instead of catching the ferrocerium flakes, you can also use the lighter to throw sparks directly onto a fluffed cotton ball, especially one that has a bit of PETROLEUM JELLY mashed into it.

How to Start a Fire with an Aluminum Can & a Chocolate Bar

This one is a little difficult if you haven't practiced the technique.

The King of Random
QC#56 - Gum Wrapper Fire Starter

Clever use of materials. Works with different sizes of batteries. Can also work with some other FOIL-BASED MATERIALS.

The Dakota Fire Hole - Survival Hack #49

This is an alternative to using a fire pit. Depending on where you are, this might be an appropriate technique.

Outdoor Boys
14 Ways to Start a Fire (No Matches or Lighter) - Fire Starting Techniques.

Fire roll, spontaneous combustion, steel wool, lithium battery, fire piston, potassium permanganate, flint and steel, fire plow, smashing metal, focusing sunlight, bow drill, hand spindle.

Corporals Corner
Emergency Blanket Fire (With a Bonus)

Mylar space blankets can be used as tinder in an emergency situation, as can duct tape. Also, if you dig a hole to form a parabola and line the surface with the Mylar, you can focus sunlight to start a fire.

Scrambled O
NEW Featherstick Technique

Feathersticks are a fantastic way to get dry tinder for starting fires. This shows how to make a featherstick using a method not seen in many places. Shows the traditional way and compares the techniques.