Man and fire: perhaps one of our most primitive connections and one that still holds deep amazement today. Sitting around the campfire just feels good. Fires provide warmth from the night’s chill, light in the dark wilderness, and a place to cook some of our most memorable meals. For me, it is nature`s TV and yet so much more captivating. However, with many of our modern conveniences, making fire is a skill that many men lack. I am here to change that.
Though I was never a Girl Guide, I do know a thing or two about making a good flame. Every man (and woman) needs to know how to build a fire. You never know when you will need to put the skill to use. I really hope you don`t get your panties in a knot having a woman teaching you how to build a fire. Nonsense. I know you are far more evolved than that.
Man on Top’s Guide to Fire Making
The pre-fire warnings and cautions
Build your fire between 10-12 feet away from your campsite or anything flammable. Don`t leave fire unattended (either sit with the fire until it is out or throw dirt or water on top of the fire to suffocate it). Make fires that are manageable in size so you are able to control them; no bonfires please. Place a bucket of water close to the fire in case things get out of control. Only use dry, fallen wood rather than green (fresh wood) or cutting down trees. If you do either, the fire will be smoky, sparky, and difficult to burn. Use dry rocks rather than wet ones to form the perimeter of the fire. Wet rocks can explode when exposed to heat. Flying hot rocks are not especially fun. Select a fire site that is on bare ground, away from trees, dry grasses, and other plant material. If you are not able to find one, dig a clearing for your fire bed and brush away any plant debris. Add dirt to the bed to form a platform a few inches high.
The basic elements
Fire needs three things to function- heat, fuel (wood) and air. Pile kindling- paper, dry pine needles, dry moss, dry grasses, dead leaves and/or pine cones in the center of your fire area with enough space for air to pass through. Light it up! Once the starter kindling has been lit, add bark, twigs and sticks to add fuel to the flames. Progressively add bigger branches and logs. If you pile too much wood on the fire too soon, it will suffocate the fire because of the lack of air. If you don`t have enough heat (or if the wood is moist), you will be looking at a dull pile of logs. If you only have twigs and grasses and don`t have enough wood, it is going to be a short- lived event. Additionally, fan the flame with a piece of cardboard or blow deep breaths into the bottom of the fire. It will drive more air into the fire, and thus create larger flames.
If I am making a fire in the fireplace or in my backyard, I use old toilet paper rolls stuffed with tissue paper. I use about 4-5 rolls standing up at the base of the fire for kindling. It works every time.
Option 1- The teepee
Arrange kindling at the bottom of the pit. Place logs so they are stacked in a teepee shape supported by three equal sized logs. Light the kindling at the bottom and fan vigorously. Allow the kindling to burn until it catches the main logs. Eventually the logs will fall on top each other. Continue to add logs as appropriate, blowing at the base if the fire starts to dwindle.
Option 2- The log cabin
Arrange the logs in a square formation, stacking each log on top of the other with kindling in the center. Then arrange thin pieces of wood in a checkerboard formation to form a roof on top of the cabin. Drop a match, light `er up and watch it fly. I like to make a cross with two small sticks of wood at the very bottom to give the fire support, structure, and something substantial to burn. Continue to add logs in a teepee formation as the fire starts to slow.
Option 3- The Lean-To Fire
Stick a long, large piece stick (2 inches in diameter) in the ground at a flat angle. It should point into the wind. Arrange a substantial amount of kindling at the bottom underneath the main stick. Place thin sticks around the kindling so they cover 270 ° of the circumference. Add a second layer of slightly larger sticks around the first layer. Light a match into the base of the kindling, fan, and step back! This fire keeps air space open due to the support stick and a steady, light wind really helps it get started.
Light my Fire
There is something magical, even romantic, about sitting around the fire, flames dancing through the night, cuddling up to the one you love. There is nothing more enticing than a man who knows how to master an element. Fire is nothing, if not exciting. Now that you have some basic fire skills, go out and practice. There is a fine art to building and maintaining your fire. Please send in your fire pictures. I would love to see your handy work.