Fire, a very essential need when backpacking and if you’re not prepared or don’t have the basic skills for starting a fire it can cost you dearly.
A fire can fulfill several needs. It can keep you warm and dry. You can use it to cook food, purify water and to sterilize bandages. It can scare away dangerous animals and its smoke can keep flying insects at bay. It is also an important way to signal for help.
Before you can begin to build your fire, select your fire location. Select it with care, a good fire location is important. First choose a site that is sheltered and protected from the wind and has a supply of wood or other fuel available.
There should be nothing nearby that could catch fire, such as dry vegetation. Make sure your fire doesn’t get out of control. Safety is an essential consideration. Clear any debris away and start the fire on solid ground or on a layer of stones or on a flat shale rock. This will eliminate the possibility of a ground fire and leave no trace of the fire on the ground, except soot stones.
To make a fire, you need to build it up gradually, beginning with small pieces of wood, then progressing to larger pieces as the fire gets going. You can grade your fire material intotinder, kindling, and fuel.
You will need some material that ignites very easily to start a fire. Good tinder is dry material that takes only a spark to ignite. The tinder must be absolutely dry. There are a number of things you can use for tinder, paper, leaves, grass, bark and resin. You will find resin in spruce and pine trees. Resin will burn even if it is wet.
Use your knife to turn dry sticks and pieces of bark into powdery tinder. Tinder is the most important part of your fire, so prepare it well. If you have found resin, rub it on small twigs and sticks. Have plenty of tinder on hand so your fire will not go out. Collect tinder before you need it. Put tinder in your pocket or backpack, so you always have it handy.
Kindling is readily combustible material that you add to the burning tinder. Small dry twigs and sticks are best. They should easily light when placed on a small flame. The dead branches on the undersides of trees provide excellent kindling, and they are usually dry, even if it has rained for weeks.
Once your fire is established, you can add larger pieces of firewood. Make sure your firewood is as dry as possible. Look for dead trees, they are usually a good source of dry firewood.
Never leave a campfire unattended. Make sure your fire is completely out before leaving camp. Check it at least twice.
The best time to start preparing your wilderness trip is now, before you head for the trails!