If something goes wrong during your next hunting trip and you end up lost, stranded, or somehow incapacitated, knowing how to build a fire can mean the difference between life and death. A properly built fire can provide light and heat, repel animals, and give you the opportunity to boil water or cook food if you run low on supplies. In today’s blog, we continue our series on survival tips with instructions on how to safely build a fire in the backcountry.
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The safety tips you learned in Scouts may seem silly and irrelevant if you are in a survival situation, but it’s important that you adhere to safe fire practices no matter how out-of-context those tips may be. You probably won’t have a bucket available to fill with water and keep nearby if you are lost or stranded, but there are plenty of other safety tips that you can and should follow. An out-of-control fire can further endanger your life, so it is in your best interest to proceed carefully and thoughtfully.
One of the most important steps you can take before creating a fire is to clear the area you intend to use. Stray leaves, branches, and other flammable materials may coax your fire to spread, so try to find a flat area of dirt or stone and clear away flammable items. Keep any eye out for materials overhead as well, like low-hanging tree branches that may become hazardous if your fire burns too high.
Choose Your Fuel
When we say fuel, we don’t mean gasoline — we mean firewood. Once you establish a small clearing, your next step in building a fire should be to gather all the fuel you may need. Once things light up, you should never leave your fire attended.
If you haven’t built a fire from scratch before, you need to know that big logs won’t catch fire easily. You have to start small, with light, dry materials that will burn quickly and easily. These materials are often referred to as tinder. Dry grass is one option you’re likely to find in the backcountry, but if you have lint or paper with you, those will also work well. Make sure you avoid irritating plants like poison oak and ivy — the smoke created when they are burned can be just as hazardous when inhaled as when you make skin contact with their leaves.
You will want to build up your fuel as you build up your fire, and the next step up from tinder is kindling. These are typically small, thin sticks that are easy to snap, similar to toothpicks. You’ll also want to find a few bigger, thicker twigs to help transition the fire to your larger logs. You will layer these over your tinder, generally in order of size, so they catch as the fire grows.
The basis of your fire will be larger pieces of wood, like logs. Keep in mind that you want to find pieces that are dry and mature. Wet or green, immature wood will smoke, which can be useful if you are trying to build a signal fire, but will only get in the way if you are trying to build a usable fire for warmth or cooking. If you are in a humid or damp environment, your supply of dry wood may be limited. Build your fire with the driest pieces you have and put the damp wood next to or on top of the flames to help them lose moisture. You can add these later.
Prepare for Your Next Hunting Trip Today
We know we haven’t gotten to the most exciting part about building a backcountry fire – lighting it! – but there are too many important steps to fit into one blog post. Keep an eye out for part two of this series for even more pyrotechnic advice and don’t forget to check out the Copper Ridge Outdoors inventory for dependable hunting equipment and outdoor supplies that can help your next hunting trip go smoothly. We look forward to making each expedition the best one yet with high-quality, dependable gear!