Lighting a fire in the wild

There have been several occasions over the past year where I have witnessed poor fire lighting skills. I have noticed this whilst teaching a wide range of people from scouts to those who are experienced in the outdoors. When I am instructing or running a session on fire lighting I always put a huge emphasis on preparation, without this chances are you will be unsuccessful in lighting a fire. The reason for this blog is to hopefully help you out in the process of lighting a fire in the wild.

We all know why fire is so important to us especially in the wild. Fire will keep us warm, dry, make water safe for us and cook food. You can also use it to signal for attention, boost morale and it is a good deterrent for wild animals.
So the first thing is to pick a suitable spot for your fire, try and avoid lighting a fire in a area which contains a lot of peat as it can smoulder away for a long time and reignite. Do not surround your fire with rocks I’ve seen this a few times there’s no need for it and it can be dangerous as porous rocks can explode when heated. Avoid lighting fires where they can rage out of control easily and don’t light fires in tree stumps as they can also smoulder for a long time and relight when you are long gone.

Once you have your spot, clear the ground of leaves and twigs etc, just scrape them to one side with your foot. You should now be on the lookout for good dry tinder, dried grasses, dead bracken, birch bark are some good natural tinders to name a few. I often collect these hours before I get to this stage stashing it in my pocket to dry ready for use.

When your tinder is ready start to collect some dead fire wood ideally still standing on the lower boughs of the tree or caught in branches. I always place a fire lay or raft on the ground as this helps your fire by letting in air from underneath and keeping it off the cold damp ground. I usually divide my kindling into 6 different grades from match stick thin to small logs.

I have all of this ready and laid out to hand before I even think of igniting my tinder. This is the preparation stage, I see so many people collect a nice tinder bundle light it and then start running around the woods looking for thin dead sticks or even worse snapping green wood off of trees.
When you are happy you have enough kindling and have divided it into nice gauged bundles it’s time to light your tinder.

In the picture I have used some dead grasses, bracken and a feathered piece of pine. Once the tinder bundle is lit place your handful of matchstick thin kindling on top of the flames, wait for that to catch and repeat the process until you’re up to your small logs.

If you put the effort in and collect sufficient dry kindling you will find fire lighting becomes much easier, it really is in the preparation.

When a person leaves camp I think it is important to clean up after yourselves. I always leave no trace when I leave camp and I personally find it lazy if people can’t be bothered to spend 10 minutes to clean up after themselves. It can be an eyesore and ruin beautiful areas for others to enjoy.

I hope this helps some of you out, please let me know if it does.

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