Many moons ago, our ancestors learnt how to make a fire out of nothing (some experts estimate this to be almost one Million years ago!). Many moons later, humans learnt how to operate a microwave, and forgot how to make a fire! Well the majority at least...
The ability to make a fire is one of the most useful skills to have while exploring and RV camping across North America. Especially in the winter! You can check out our top RV camping tips for winter in our recent post ‘5 essential tips for winter RV camping’.
Being a fire building pro isn’t about making the biggest fire possible. It’s about being able to start a fire with whatever wood you can scrape together, big enough to cook with and warm up, while conserving as much wood as possible for tomorrow's needs!
To be a real fire whisperer, you need a good understanding of a fire’s basic needs. And we’re about to enlighten you!
Let's start from the top:
Fuel (wood) + oxygen + heat. Just like those old school chemistry lessons!
With a sufficient amount of each component, your fire will thrive.
Without enough of either, your fire will fail! And that’s an RV camping nightmare!
The first step to putting this chemistry into action is an obvious one - collecting enough dry wood.
The second step is about assembling the wood in the best structure possible. A good fire building structure is key to ensuring the fire gets enough oxygen, and is not assembled too densely. Assembling a fire too densely will increase the heat required to ignite it.
Once you understand the best fire building structure, you will also have a better idea of how much wood you need.
So we will focus on the perfect structure from the ground up.
First of all, the best way to prepare the area is to dig a shallow hole roughly 10 centimetres deep and one foot wide. If you have access to rocks, create a rock ring another foot out from the hole. This helps to contain the fire in windy conditions. If rocks aren’t available, dig the hole a little deeper and another foot wider.
Then it’s time to build!
The pre-fire wood structure should have four distinct levels. Seems a bit technical, but it’s really not! Once you have a clear picture in your mind about these levels, you’ll never have fire building problems ever again!
This is the starter layer. It needs to be made of something highly flammable, for example dry leaves, grass, or the old faithful - newspaper!
At this point many people go wrong. They crinkle and twist the newspaper so tight that it reduces its ability to quickly ignite. The reason is it’s too dense. And when it’s too dense, it increases the ignition temperature far past the capabilities of the humble match!
The same principle applies to any material you’re using to start the fire. Don’t make it too dense! The less you compact it, the lower its ignition temperature will be and the easier it will be to start the fire!
All you really need is one lightly scrunched piece of newspaper placed in the shallow hole.
The kindling layer comes next, and is probably the most important part of making a fire. Ideally, it should be made up of very fine twigs.
The purpose of this layer is to hold a flame long enough for the larger stuff in the next layer to ignite.
A lack of kindling is another recipe for failure. You could have all the wood in the world, but it won’t ignite if there is no kindling! So what can you do if you can’t get enough kindling?
The best solution is to whittle down a larger stick into a pile of shavings.
This layer should be made up of a bunch of sticks up to as round as a pencil, and no larger. If they are too thick, they won't ignite within the time they have been given by the kindling layer below!
Spread them out criss cross over the kindling, making sure you don’t press down and condense everything too much.
Once this layer ignites, you can breathe a sigh of relief because you’re on the home stretch!
This is the long term flame holding layer. These sticks should be as round as your thumb or bigger. Once they ignite and turn into coals, your fires here to stay!
The sticks can be arranged in a layer on top of the fire or as a teepee shape around the fire. Either will work.
If there is a wind, try to light the bottom layer from the side facing the oncoming wind. The wind will help feed oxygen and heat through the fire.
If the kindling layer catches alight but starts to falter, it’s time to get down low and expel a whole lungful of air smoothly into the fire. After a few lungfuls of air, the flame should catch and continue to move upwards into the next layer.
After a few minutes letting everything ignite, it’s time to add some nice big pieces of wood that will form the heart of your nights flame.
That’s it! This method will see you building great fires at every campsite where wood is available.
There really is nothing better than relaxing around a nice warm campfire! You can check out the RVezy vehicle range here to start planning your next RV camping trip, and put your fire building knowledge into action!
Good luck and happy holidays!
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