Knowing how to start a fire and having the tools to get it going are not always going to be enough. You might find that you don’t have very much wood available, or that the wood you do have for fuel is too wet. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of the fuel you have to help stay alive.
A star fire is a basic fire building technique for conserving your fuel. Put your tinder and kindling in the center, and place the larger pieces of wood that you have around the kindling so that they radiate out from the center like spokes on a wheel. The idea is to only give the fire access to a limited amount of the fuel at any given time. As the fire dies down, push a log or two closer the center. Since the fire has limited access to the fuel, this fire will require more attention that other methods.
All of the heat on the side of the fire that no one is sitting on is being wasted. Try to reflect that heat back your way. You can position your fire next to a natural source of heat reflection like a rock face or a large tree. If you are in an urban setting you can look for items that aren’t useful for fuel, like metal or even plastic, and prop them up to reflect heat. If you have damp wood you can stack it on the other side of the fire to reflect heat, and hopefully as your dry fuel burns out it will dry the wood that is reflecting the heat back to you.
Sleep on your coals
If your wood gathering is not going well, then you might want to plan ahead on how you are going to last through the night. One method is to dig a small trench, about 20 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and 40 inches long. Start your fire in this trench. When your fire is going out and you are looking at having try to sleep in the freezing cold without a heat source, spread the coals out in the trench. You don’t want to spread them too thin, you are likely to curl up from the cold anyway, so you don’t need it to go to your feet, and if you spread them too thin it won’t work. Spread them out, about 2 inches think, and then cover then with the dirt you removed to dig the trench. You will want at least 2 inches of dirt between you and the coals. A proper coal bed will still be warm to the touch the next morning, even in freezing temperatures.
Don’t plan on always having enough fuel to burn in a survival situation. If things always went the way you planned, you won’t be in a survival situation to begin with.
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