MPI Outdoors


Whenever you build any fire, for warmth, overnight, or for cooking, get all the materials together in their proper place, before you strike your match. Matches are one of your most valuable physical assets in the outdoors, and haste and poor preparation defeat the purpose of being able to quickly and efficiently start a fire. There is the old outdoor adage of only One match for One fire, if you practice, prepare and predetermine your actions you can accomplish this task.

For a midday cooking fire, pick a sheltered location, away from overhanging branches and on solid ground, and make a very small fire. For evening cooking and for an overnight fire, plan for a larger one or several small fires around you, this will help provide for greater warmth. Three (3) fires in a triangular arrangement is a recognized air to ground signal of distress.

For overnight fires, pick your sleeping location first and build your fire in relation to it for maximum warmth. Do not set your sleeping bag too close to the fire, and make sure your fire pit it is a safe distance from overhanging trees, etc.. Do not use wet or damp rocks, they can heat up and explode.

Start any fire with the utmost of patience. Plan it carefully and one match will do. Get as much out of the wind as you can before striking your match, shield your fire area with your body or make a windshield with your jacket or other gear before lighting your match.

Lay a foundation of fine tinder, such as shavings from dried twigs, a birds nest, or whittle with your knife from a dried branch, or use an ® Solid Fuel Tablet, whatever you have or decide to use get a good supply of dried tinder into your fire area before your strike that first match.

Crisscross above the fine tinder bed you have made a few larger dry twigs about the size of a pencil to begin. Have increasingly larger wood at hand. A good method is to lay your tinder beside a short length of stick 3 to six inches in diameter, lean the twigs over the tinder and against the large stick. Now when the tinder catches, the twigs go in a moment, add larger ones and in seconds a good blaze is there. Put an ® Tablet down on the surface, light it, and slowly add your small twigs building the fire up gradually.

Always light your fire with the breeze at your back, on the side nearest you to provide additional ease and shelter, and from below the tinder, not on top. Take the time to plan, and your fire will ignite quickly and safely.

COOKING FIRES: Look for flat dry rocks to surround the fire, so you have containment and a place for your utensils. A small pit built with rocks laid out in a "V" or a "U" with the open end toward the breeze will allow draft in that open end to help keep the fire going. If winds are strong, reverse the open end of your pit. Again, the most important consideration is to start with a small fire and progressively add larger material. Do not panic, take your time and concentrate and you can build the fire that you want.

WET CONDITIONS: In rain or snow, fire making becomes more important, and also more difficult. Here is where having ® Solid Fuel Tablets will be a great help for your tinder base. One method is to make a tripod of sticks over your chosen fire area and drape your jacket over the tripod to shelter the fire base. Carefully light your tinder, add some twigs, and remove your jacket. If the ground is exceedingly wet, lay a base of large logs and sticks and start your fire on top of them.

TYPES OF WOOD: When and where possible use old dried wood from conifers (evergreens) for starting fires. Dry cones are great too. You may not have the time or the energy to go around and select wood, so burn what you can, get warm and safe and then look. Just remember that pine, cedar, spruce will start a fire quickly but burn swiftly. Woods such as oak, ash and maple will burn longer but are more difficult to ignite. Aspen, birch and poplar are quite common and they make good fires as they burn hot but fairly fast. Whatever you have at hand to burn, gather at least 3 times more than you think you will need, experience shows that you will use it

TINDER: ® Solid Fuel Tablets are an excellent long burning and hot ignition source for use as fire tinder. You can make your own fire starter kit from lint, sawdust, etc. slightly saturated with charcoal lighter, kerosene, and carry it in film canisters that have been sealed with duct tape. Always have an "extra" supply of matches stored away for emergencies. One easy fire starting kit is to take two small zip-lock bags, insert 6 to 8 strike anywhere matches in one along with a small piece of emery paper or sandpaper to strike against in wet conditions along with a combination of dried wood shavings, purposely made or picked up on the trail. Seal this bag upside down inside the other bag, for maximum waterproof protection and keep it in your jacket pocket, just in case you ever need it. There are also a lot of fire starting kits available in your local camping store, pick one of these if you desire as your emergency back up that feels right for you. DO NOT rely on the butane lighters to always function for you in the outdoors, also if they slip out of your pocket and into the fire, you have a potential explosive projectile coming back at you. Also with most lighters you can not determine the fuel supply in them, and they will not light at higher elevations.

STYLES OF FIRES: There are many varieties of fire shape designs, you must determine what is the most practical for your needs based on the time you have and amount of heat and or light you wish to generate. The following are some styles commonly used:

STAR FIRE-- use longer logs laid flat in a five pointed star design with one edge of each log meeting in middle, where fire is built. As fire consumes logs push logs inward to fire source.

TEPEE-- the traditional standing triangular fire base, with tinder underneath the standing twigs and logs. Allow enough room for air circulation in and between the logs.

STACK-- rectangular layout of logs built on top of each other like a log cabin with ignition source in the middle and bottom. Will collapse on itself as fire consumes material. Method allows for adequate air circulation and ease of adding additional layers.

PIT-- in high wind conditions build your fire in a dug pit, wide enough to allow air circulation but sheltered enough to keep the high gusts from blowing it out.

CAMPFIRE-- lay out a circular bed of rocks and built them up into a small circular wall enclosure, great for laying a metal grid or green logs across to support a pot for boiling water, or for radiated heat as the rocks heat up from the inner fire. Allow enough room in building to center your fire so that it does not directly burn onto or over the rocks.

SMOKEY THE BEAR said it best, "only you can prevent forest fires". Make sure your fire is completely out before leaving camp. Check it at least twice. Practice good environmental habits, restore the ground around your camp to the condition you found it, and distribute the ash residue from your fire, do not leave it in a pile.

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