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When it’s cold, there is nothing as welcoming as a nice crackling fire. I’ve been known to cozy on up to our wood stove many a chilly damp night.
Having a fire is a basic skill that human’s have used since the beginning of time and it can literally save your life. But, if you’ve never built and maintained a fire before, it can be a little bit harder than you’d think, especially if you use the wrong fuel or techniques. Hello, all smoke, sting my eyes till I’m crying, no heat, and now I’m cold and mad.
Let’s erase that last sentence. Because you my friend, are going to skip all over that whole part, and go straight for the crackling, flames dancing, high five you just built your first fire kind of thing.
First thing you need is a means to start a fire. Obviously, there’s matches and lighters, which are what most people use on a daily/regular basis. You should have them on hand, especially a set of strike anywhere matches. Keep them dry, wet and fire are not friends.
However, a true fire builder and preparedness person, will have another way to start a fire that doesn’t require constantly purchasing the item from a store. This is the friction method, and though you can rub two sticks together, I recommend investing in a magnesium fire striker. It’s a one time purchase and when done correctly, produces a fire very quickly. (However, when not done correctly you can sit there for 15 minutes and a blister for your trouble, check out my video for two simple tips to avoid that and get your fire started super quick!)
We bought this fire striker for my son for his birthday and he had much better luck with it
than the smaller strikers–> Exotac polyStriker XL
Second thing you need is tinder. This is what your baby fire will eat to grow. Many folks will use a crumpled up paper bag or newspaper. Dry moss, dry grass, small dry wood shavings (are ya getting the dry part 🙂 ), and one of my favorites, is dryer lint.
Third thing is your kindling. This can be small pieces of dry wood or actual small dry twigs and sticks. But they need to be small for our little flames.
When your fire is first started, in your excitement, it can be tempting to pile a whole bunch of wood on top of your flames to make sure your fire doesn’t burn out, but fire needs oxygen and you may end up smothering it. The best way is to add two to three pieces of wood in a teepee fashion to ensure enough air flows between the wood.
Fourth thing is larger fuel. This is small to medium pieces of wood and last, you’ll put on regular pieces of firewood or logs.
A note about wood. You’re going to want seasoned or dry wood. If you use green or wet wood, then you’re going to be producing smoke, lots of creosote, and very little heat. Green wood is when you fell a living tree and the moisture in the wood hasn’t had a chance to dry out yet, we want seasoned or dry wood.
And though it’s not life or death, every campfire needs something to cook on in it and though it’s not very pioneerish, s’mores are my favorite. So get your fired started and invite me over, I’ve got my roasting stick and Dutch oven ready!
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.