No trailer camp site is complete without the smells and sound of blazing wood and nothing says welcome like the glow of a warm fire.
With that said, it has come to our attention that there are still some women on the road who have not yet mastered the art of starting a fire.
Look…we’ve been using fire for about 60,000 years now. It’s not hard; anyone can do it – even small boys.
Once you understand the basic principles of building a fire you can use this knowledge to keep warm and to cultivate and perfect your open fire gourmet cooking skills.
To help you get started here are the six basic fire building steps:
- Tinder (small twigs, dry leaves or needles
- Kindling (sticks smaller than 1”)
- Fuel (larger pieces of wood)
- Paper, news paper, paper from your shredder or even old love letters
- Matches – lighters
- Small shovel
- Water bucket
- Poker – can be as simple as a sturdy tree limb.
- Chimney lighter
- Wrought iron fireplace insert (these are generally very easy to find at yard sales)
- Heavy duty fire screen (found in most DIY stores)
Pick your spot:
- Check to make sure fires are permitted.
- Most camp sites will have a fire ring, if not, you may be allowed to dig one providing there are no archaeological or other concerns associated with the area.
- Make sure your spot is free of low hanging branches and dry brush, even if there is an existing ring, sometimes park maintenance has been deferred.
- If your camp site does not have a fire ring and you are permitted to build a fire, choose an open spot downwind and at least 15 feet away from your gear and sleeping area.
- Clear out an area about 10’ in diameter.
- Dig a pit about a foot deep
- Surround with rocks
Note: If you brought a heavy duty fire screen you may want to build up one side of your pit another 10” to 12” and lay your screen on top and use it for cooking
Selecting the wood:
- Select different sizes, small to large pieces that will comfortably fit into your fire ring. You can start with wet wood, but it’s much harder to catch fire and it will smoke quite a bit before it catches.
- Different wood burns at different temperature and speed, for example; oak is a much denser wood than pine, so it’s a bit harder to start but it will burn hotter and longer.
Stacking your wood:
- Stacking your wood is important because fire needs air. Often times a fire will go out because it literally is smothered. So make sure that there are enough areas in which air can easily circulate.
- Start with the small pieces of tinder mixed with your paper first, then layer over your larger pieces (kindling) overlapping them in at different angels (I like making a T-pee like structure over the tinder)* which allow for gaps for air to circulate.Note: If you have a mixture of wet and dry wood, start your fire with the dry wood first, once the fire gets going you can start gradually adding wet wood.
Starting your fire:
- Matches: Learning to start a fire with matches is like learning to drive a stick. Once you learn, you can start a fire anywhere, anytime. Wad your paper under you kilning and light (I like to set a few spots on fire to give it a bigger and hotter flame to insure the kilning starts)
- Chimney: Sure way to start a fire, it’s better for the environment than many fire logs or lighter fluid and more cost effective. Once your coals get red hot, empty them into your fire pit and place your kindling on top.
- Log lighters: They are less green because many of them contain harmful chemicals. However there are some new ones on the market that are made of coffee grounds which also give off a great scent – always read the label.
What NOT to burn…
Maintaining your fire:
- Once it looks like your kindling has caught fire, start overlapping three of the mid-size pieces of wood in a T-pee shape over the fire. Once the mid-size wood catches, you can stack even larger pieces. Always make sure you have left openings for air to continue to circulate underneath, building until you’ve reached a good size and a comfortable heat level.
- Since wood burns hottest from the bottom up, you will need to use your poker to lift the wood up at times in order to keep the air circulating, it’s this circulation which feeds the flame and keeps the fire going.
Putting the fire out:
- After you have done a safety check and if your fire pit is properly located within your camp site, you can simply let your fire die down for the night before heading off to bed
- Safety check: Remove any foreign material away from the fire, clothing chairs, wood piles and etc.
- If you are vacating the campsite, dowse your fire pit with several gallons of water and make sure you stir the coals. Even the smallest embers can kick up in a wind and relight the fire.
Need something to roast over your fire? Try making your own marshmallows….