Build A Fire

One of my family’s favorite activities is snowshoeing and along with that comes building a fire in the snow.  I will warn you this is less about the hows of building a fire and more about the whys. I’ve included a link at the bottom on fire craft techniques.  Here are ten reasons why you should plan this for your next snowshoe trip:

©Ali Alami
  1. It’s fun and challenging, kids especially like it.
  2. It’s low impact on the environment; with snow on the ground you can avoid tramping fragile vegetation to gather fuel and spreading a forest fire.  Rather than rangers giving you a stare or warning you might get in the summer, I’ve had them come by to chat and warm up.
  3. It’s a great way to learn the principles of fire craft.   Survival and fire craft are a declining skill in today’s gas fire place culture.  The snow makes it hard to take short cuts on key principles like a platform, brace, and breaking down wood into smaller pieces.
  4. Fire on a cold day will warm you up and is a good lunch time activity.  I’ve found that if we build a fire at lunch time we can also lengthen our trip distance and time out.
  5. It teaches teamwork.  In our family everyone helps out from gathering firewood, to breaking it down; to starting the fire with a magnesium stick.
  6. You can use it as an opportunity to talk about outdoor fire safety.
  7. It’s easy to put out, just dump small batches of snow till it’s completely out.
  8. If you don’t get a fire started, you’ll probably warm up trying.
  9. When the days are short it’s a good source of light if you’re winter camping or staying out late.  I call it Survival TV.
  10. Having a warm cup of hot cocoa or tea helps lift the spirits and with a fire you don’t need a thermos.  Make sure you bring a small pot (that you don’t mind getting charred) to boil water in.

Plan to take about 20-30 minutes from start to getting flames to about waste high.  For techniques and hints on igniting an outdoor fire in the snow check out Fire craft in Snow.

©Michael Cline

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