As you’re beginning your foray into the world of learning survival skills, you’ll become familiar with tasks like building a shelter, performing first aid in the field and mastering navigation. Along with these skills is one that’s essential to survival in a variety of ways -- how to build a campfire.
What is it about building a fire that’s so important for survival when you’re trapped in an emergency situation?
Watch this video testing various types of tinder to see which one burns best.
- Fire keeps you warm.
Depending on the environment where you’re trapped -- warm and dry, frigid and wet, etc. -- building a campfire could be the difference that saves you from discomfort, hypothermia, frostbite or even death.
- Fire gives you a way to signal your location.
When you’re stranded in an emergency situation, you’ll want a way to notify those searching for you of your whereabouts. Especially in the dark, fire is helpful for informing searchers of your location.
- Campfire furnishes the heat needed to make both water and food safe to ingest.
If you have a fire, a pot/skillet and access to food and water, you’re able to refuel your body by hydrating yourself with purified (boiled) water and refueling your body with cooked food.
- Fire provides light and comfort.
A fire is also a great survival tool because it emits light that’s comforting and allows for you to study your map, compass, etc.
Now that we’ve established why building a fire is important, what do you need to build one?
- A location.
Pick a spot away from overhanging branches, seep slopes, rotten sumps, logs, dry grass, leaves and blocked off from strong wind to begin building your fire.
- Tinder & fuel.
You’ll need tinder to get your fire started -- either a packaged tinder like Ultimate Survival Technologies WetFire™ Fire Starting Tinder that you bring along, or other materials like birch bark, tree moss or pocket lint. The wood fuel you’ll use to build your fire should be small pieces of dry, dead wood from trees and shrubbery; if possible, avoid chopping or splitting to help conserve your energy. Make sure you have twice as much of all these materials as you think you’ll need. Remember a good firebuilder never needs gas or kerosene to start a fire. Note: If you’re building a fire on top of snow, build up a raised “platform” from green wood to keep the fire you start away from direct moisture.
- A spark.
To spark that flame, you’ll need a tool to start your fire like a water-resistant and wind-proof lighter, weather-proof matches or flint and steel. Carry a combination of these items in different places on your person to ensure that you’ll have a working option ifyou need it.
- Once the fire is started.
Keep the campfire small. A good bed of coals or small fire surrounded by rocks gives plenty of heat. Add larger sticks as the fire builds up. Put the big pieces on last, pointing them toward the center, and pushing them into the flames.
- Never leave a compfire unattended.
- Putting out the campfire. If your campfire is not completely out the wind can rekindle the embers and start a wildfire. Follow these steps to ensure safety.
1. Keep water handy. If that's not possible, be prepared to throw dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.
2. Be sure your match is out. Break it so you can feel the chared portion before carefully discarding it.
3. If you have water, drown the fire and make sure all embers and sticks are wet. Move rocks to check for burning embers underneath
4. Stir the remains, add more water or dirt and stir again. Make sure all burned material has been put out and cooled.
5. Feel all materials with our bare had to make sure no materials are burning.
Once your fire is started, be sure to closely monitor it and have means to put it out -- water and moist dirt or sand -- just in case.
Note that beyond acquiring the know-how to perform these survival skills, perhaps the most important survival skills of all, though, are your communication skills: Before you head out on an outdoors trip, always be sure to let family members or friends know where you’ll be heading and how long you’ll be gone. By doing so, your chances of getting out of an emergency situation in a timely matter is much more likely.
Enjoy your next (and safe) hiking and camping adventure!