You find yourself in the woods and the time is right to start a fire. Either you have some cooking to do, some tales to tell around a campfire or you are in a survival situation and it is your last hope. Hopefully, it is not the last scenario but for all three of those, we have the perfect guide on how to build a fire in the wild.
The ingredients rarely differ. You need dry wood, an axe to chop it up, some matches or another form of firestarter and some tinder (we have been using these eco ones lately). If you those four then you are on to a winning fire, all that is left is to choose your style of assembly. Below are our four favourite ways to start your fire outdoors. Once these have lit a good base, you can begin adding bigger pieces of firewood until you have yourself a solid fire.
The classic. The vanilla ice cream or Beatles of fire building techniques. It is as simple as arranging your kindling in a conical shape with the tinder at the bottom and away you go. Like The Jenga you have good airflow, the only thing left is to debate how vertical to stack you kindling. You want them to be nicely on fire by the time your tinder burns out.
A Fera favourite. The Jenga, known in America as The Log Cabin, and could be renamed The Hashtag to appeal to a new generation, has been our go-to technique and it rarely fails you. The kindling or logs are placed in alternating perpendicular layers with your tinder tucked in the bottom. The airflow is vigorous and in an ideal world, as the wood burns down it rolls into the fire and keeps the party going.
This one is for the hardier of us out there, who have struck out in the wild when the weather conditions are not so friendly. The wind is up and you need to build a fire, The Jenga and The Tipi are not going to cut it. Their abundant airflow has now become their detraction but in steps The Lean-to. Place a large piece of firewood on the ground and lay your kindling along the leeward side not being thrashed by the wind. The larger log now protects your tinder and your fire can start.
Finally we move the pyro connoisseur's method, the technique for those that are in the know. The Inversion, an upside down self-feeding fire sounds wrong on paper but is an effective long lasting fire. To build it, you go against what you thought you knew. The bottom layer is the large logs, put closely together, ideally with no gap. On top of that have your smaller split logs with again no gap between and perpendicular to the layer below. On the top you place your kindling and tinder. Done right this fire can burn for hours, as the top burns and ignites the firewood below.
The Straker Method
A new bonus entry for the team at Fera, introduced to us by the chef Thomas Straker when we went wild cooking with him. We don't quite know why or how it works but he proved us wrong. The method is incredibly simple. Shove as much tinder as you have on the ground. Throw all your kindling on top any way you want. Then light it and proceed to stack as many logs as you can on top. It should go out, it should be starved of oxygen, but somehow it works.
With all these techniques, once you have the fire going, keep feeding it, blowing on it if need be, and slowly add more kindling and firewood until you have a suitable fire going. Then it is time to crack a beer, get the meat on the grill and get hypnotised by the flames.
Finally it goes without saying, you are playing with fire, make sure it is out when you leave, don't let it get out of control, and have a good time. Smokey Bear in the US has the standard advice on fire etiquette.