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All About Camp Fires

Discussion in 'Other Camping' started by Northern Dancer, Nov 24, 2014.

  1. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist


    It's a cold blustery evening in this neck of the woods and I was sitting here in my arm chair thinking about this guy that I observed last Saturday desperately trying to put together a fire. Pathetic! I thought to myself, "Should I go over and give him a quick lesson on how to?" "Gnaw, he's already embarrassed himself, why add fuel to the fire?"

    So...this is what I teach in the Art of Camping. SHORT FORM.

    Because a regular class entails that you learn, mark, and inwardly digest what is taught AND [more importantly] demonstrate the same with acute accuracy. You do it again until you have it right.


    There are five types of "campfires" :
    • There is the ever popular campfire - a smaller fire for a smaller group.
    • There is the bonfire - usually for a larger group. Some call it a "barn fire" .
    • There is the cooking fire - to cook a meal without making sacrifice to the gods. Sometimes called a "prospector's fire".
    • There is the artificial fire - found on backyard patios and such - usually propane or electric [you can now transport them to camp sites]. I call this fire by another name...??
    • and then last, but not least, there is the trash fire - used by unscrupulous individuals that we will not be looking at.
    I am going to spend time on the campfire - for smaller groups and the cooking fire.


    Interested? Follow on to part 2
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2014
    killeroy154 and campforums like this.
  2. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    winds are still howling outside but the fire in the hearth glows bright and warms up the space.

    Part Two of Campfires

    In the last thread we mentioned the kinds of fires and now we want to share how to be really successful in making the campfire - for smaller groups and the cooking fire or as I called it the prospector's fire.

    Ready? Here we go.

    The first thing to keep in mind even before we begin is safety. As Smokey the Bear says, "...only you can prevent forest fires." That's true - then there are the other issues such as - don't burn down the tent; don't fall into the fire, watch children - and let's deal with playing with fire before you make the fire. It doesn't hurt to keep a water bucket [filled] close by for emergency stuff.

    Keep the fire contained and in the designated place - nothing more exasperating when a arriving at an interior camp site to see three, four or more fireplaces.

    So let's get on with it.

    The Campfire - romantic, memory setting, pleasant, generating warm feelings of contentment and peace.

    There are three kinds of wood you will need.

    FINGER WOOD - this enables you to start the fire with little fanfare. Pieces of wood that your fingers can handle and break. Sometimes people will use birch bark. Make sure that it comes from dead trees.


    PLEASE avoid leaves, pine needles and junk - let's keep it neat and clean and avoid the unwanted smoke. [Note - I do use small pine cones that I find on the ground.]

    Pile a substantial amount of finger wood into pile one.

    HAND WOOD - this is wood that you can break with your hands. You will need a good pile of this too. We often call this wood - kindling.


    KNEE WOOD - this is wood is about the size of your knee. Not to big or long, you want to manage the pieces with little effort. Make a pile of knee wood.

    SO - if you can't use your fingers, hand or knee you are not making a campfire.

    We have the wood organized into three piles [enough to last the whole evening] - now what?

    You are going to have to decide the structure you want. Some will use a t-pee style [illustration 1], perhaps a log cabin type [illustration 2], or even a combination of the two.

    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTUEMMol8WyRJfsW8FZ7TFbLybt3pw_BRCGNxRd9YKGZKH6BqpI7w.jpg upload_2014-11-24_19-38-29.png

    Then you decide the kind of lighting device, a spark device, long matches, a barbecue lighter.

    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRHH82yckBBOxI_n2jDv87mT2YersHmdQ1xiBI9whV_9jvLXCXn.jpg images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRx4A8CSKpv_Be9OQvz22a4HuprwPMbvDs_Jv2lQfyveOY6jTfApw.jpg images?q=tbn:ANd9GcS1r-RMsWW3E6yPcv2bMSfbHDs26UFAYdKzIzAzuIxUNdpjuZ0gRA.jpg

    You have your tinder [finger wood in abundance] in the middle of your structure, then the hand wood or kindling and then your knee wood. 1-2-3 now light.

    You can use fire starters.

    images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQ6OQlKVWr-bHV9v0vEbuJF4hMvzWWZF0flG-uosAFR5w3tImYOMA.jpg images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT_SE9AfLuaIJVhapB6eyeeF_UjmdlV0Y4W_H_2qARONcfCFoTY3g.jpg
    There are lot of commercial products on the market but I prefer to use my own. Even a single tea light will work fine.

    ...so beautiful taint it? :)

    So what about the prospector's cooking fire? For the individual or a small group of up to four people.

    You use finger wood and hand wood. If you are cooking for self I use finger wood only.

    As I ask people, "What is the size of the fire that you cook on at home?" Not much bigger than a man's hand. You should be able to sit in front of your fire and manage a fry pan or pot very easily. The flame should be direct just like the little camp stoves that you can purchase.

    I have lots of ideas and experience. Making stoves, various kinds of stoves and such. There are reflector fires, trench fires, rescue fire and on and on... ASK - it's always fun to share. :happy:
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2014
    killeroy154 likes this.
  3. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Gosh, you got me all fired up reading about the five types of fires.

  4. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    Very interesting information and I am sure that if Smoky the Bear was here he would add in by saying to Northern Dancer, a big thank you for sharing his words and of course to all who read this post a big,

  5. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    Ha Ha... there are others to of course - the reflector, altar, fish and etcetra.

    I had a buddy make a sleeping fire that seemed to work. I thought it far to long for the effort. He said that it worked for him. What you do is dig into the ground, lay out a fire the stretch of a man's body, wait until hot coals are left, cover it in, place a sleeping pad over it and walla - you have a warm bed for the night. Not for me. A good solid sleeping bag with grounding will do me fine.
  6. campforums

    campforums Founder Staff Member

    My campfires are always bonfires :D
  7. kevinkimers

    kevinkimers Novice Camper

    Excellent information. One thing I have noticed in many of my camping trips is that not everyone knows how to properly build, maintain, or put out a camp fire. I have had to get on to several campers because their camp fire was improperly built or placed. Before you ever do anything your suppose to find out the proper way to do it first.

    I always dig a hole and put my camp fire in it. The dirt I pulled out is piled around the rim and when I'm done with the fire, I push the dirt back in covering it after I pour water on it. It keeps the wind from it and makes it easier to maintain and put out.
  8. kevinkimers

    kevinkimers Novice Camper

    I know right? He's so cruel.:( How dare he only give us the veggies but no meat.:arghh: That is just not nice. :p

    @Northern Dancer This will be a great lesson. Can't wait to read the rest of it.
  9. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    Good stuff - it's all about basics or as I say essentials. Say what you want - if it works, it works, if it doesn't, it doesn't - you go on to something that does.

    Sounds like you have a lot of good experience - thanks for sharing - and please don't stop. :)
  10. kevinkimers

    kevinkimers Novice Camper

    I've done that before and it saves your butt believe me. We were camping one winter and there was a freeze over (-17 degrees) while we were camping. Luckily we decided to do that that night. The tent we had had no bottom and was made of canvas (forgot what it was called), It allowed us to have a fire in the tent. Because we put our fires in holes in the first place we decided to just do a sleeping fire. We were nice and toasty for the night. We did not even know the temp dropped until the next day.
  11. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    THANKS! I'm really enjoying what you have to share too - keep it up.

    :( Oh my, look at the time, it's 1:13 P.M. here, I'd better get back to work.
  12. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    My buddy said that too - but I was a little skeptical. He didn't have any complaints in the morning. I enjoy - hot tent camping - and we have two trips planned for early next year. I'm planning a little video to share.
  13. 2sweed

    2sweed Natural Camper Staff Member

    I saw a movie with is type of bedding fire. Two men one slept toasty warm all night, and the other was a bit crispy around the edges. Seems he did not cover the hot coals well enough and caught his bedding on fire. He jumped around a bit stomping the fire out then slept close to the main camp fire all night to keep warm.
  14. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    Hi :)

    I would be afraid of doing something like that and again I just thought it was to much of a bother.

    In the series Jeremiah Johnson one is demonstrated and there are a lot of those survivalist/camping sites that talk and show how it's done. I have made a reflector fire that shone into my low lean to. I was never really sure of the value of that manoeuvre.
  15. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    The first fire for Camp Wendake is prepared early in the day.


    I add sparklers to give it a bit of pizzazz and colour.


    I use fire lighters to start the fire [cotton balls swabbed in petroleum jelly]. In this case the fire burned for a full 45 minutes with no assistance or added wood.
    In the morning nothing was left accept white ash - the way a fire is supposed to burn.


    I love this stuff.
  16. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    I tried this to see if it really works as well as they say it does - it did. It's called a Swedish Log Fire. I plan to use it more this summer.

    upload_2016-3-3_21-11-23.jpeg upload_2016-3-3_21-13-26.jpeg upload_2016-3-3_21-12-8.jpeg


    Some folks cut the log into six pieces, others will cut it in four. [Though I thought the six was best.] You stuff burnable kindling of the smallest sort into the crack and set it ablaze. One of the guys notched the centre of the joining pieces to create a fuzz stick effect that helped the burning process. I was surprised how long the log burned for. I also noted that there was more burning and less smoke.

    Attached Files:

  17. Faust

    Faust Explorer

    I enjoy the Swedish Log Fire on the first day. After a 5 hour drive to the mountains and hauling gear 100 meters from the car to the camp ground my girlfriend and I are already hungry and tired so I bring one log from home, ready to go.

    Using this fire technique drastically reduces the time and labour required to get a good cooking fire going on the first day (assuming you brought one from home), lowering the sense of urgency to gather and split wood and most importantly, feeding my better half sooner so we may enjoy a drink and watch the sun set.

    We also do a fair amount of camping on Crown land and bringing one Swedish Log ensures we're fed and warm quickly, especially if it has been or currently raining.

    (When transporting wood from one local to another be informed and aware of all rules, regulations and laws as there are potential and damaging consequences both ecologically and personally).
  18. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    A man who knows his stuff - great. :) I was surprised how efficient the log was - I was a bit skeptical.

    For our American Friends - Crown Land is open land owned by the government.

    Thanks for your contribution @Faust - very much appreciated.
  19. SashaS

    SashaS Novice Camper

    Nice article, that Swedish log fire looks especially awesome. I guess there will always be those who don't know how to do this or how to do that, we can't all know everything. Most people who are new to camping these days would just take a matchbox or a lighter with them, eliminating the need to know how to make one using only what the environment has to offer. But I think its worth our time to just educate ourselves on how to make fires using less mainstream methods.

    Not just how to make a fire, but how to build one. I know most people would make the generic one they always see in movies where its just a bunch of sticks put together to make a pyramid. I guess it works but its good to know other methods as they have different applications. I have been camping for a while and I had no idea that the Swedish log fire existed, yet its excellent. That just goes to show how we think we know it all, whereas there is a lot we are yet to learn.

    Also knowing how to put a fire out and get rid of it is useful, most people would just leave the ashes there to be blown all over the place. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not because if volcanoes fertilize soil then perhaps ashes do the same. But it does ruin the look of the environment and burying the fire is probably a better thing to do.
  20. Northern Dancer

    Northern Dancer Survivalist

    ...and it's fun too! It adds a certain ambience to the scene and if you do it right - it cooks delicious food and keeps you warm.

    Good point about putting it out. We often forget to do that correctly and in this neck of the woods forest fires are a reality.
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