There are different types of survival fires. Each one has a unique set of strengths and characteristics that offer advantages in specific situations. Your choice of fire depends on the situation at hand. Do you want to go stealth mode? Do you need a fire that burns hot? Making a fire in wet weather? Yes, there’s a fire for that! In this post I crack deep into 5 survival fires you should know about.
Synopsis – Use the tepee fire when light and warmth are number one priority. Great for gatherings and traditional camping scenarios.
Everybody knows about the tepee fire. It’s usually the first fire you learn how to build and it’s what they teach in the scouts. It’s an easy way to get a fire going. The tepee is what’s known as a vertical fire. Vertical fires produce tall flames and draw the majority of their oxygen from the bottom bed of the fire. The tepee fire burns hot and quick.
Advantages – The tepee fire is an effective hot burning fire and will quickly warm you up. By design, it will burn hot and fast. The tepee fire produces very little smoke so it’s great for a general campfire when staying warm is the only requirement.
Disadvantages – The tepee fire burns fast. You’ll be spending a lot of time adding more wood to keep it stoked. The structure can easily collapse if not setup properly. Because of the generous supply of oxygen and heat, the tepee fire produces little coals or embers. Once it burns it is out. The design of the tepee fire does not allow for a flat surface for cooking.
How to build
Step 1. Lay down a layer of dry wood to form the base of the tepee:
Step 2. Place your tinder bundle on the base:
Step 3. Create a skeleton structure in tepee formation:
Step 4. Place the rest of your kindling against the skeleton structure:
Step 5. Light that bad boy up:
The log cabin
Synopsis – Build a log cabin fire if you need a hot bed of coals or a flat top for cooking.
Also known as the box fire, this is a method of fire making less prone to problems found in the tepee. The structure of the log cabin fire make it stable and less prone to collapsing. The flat top design allows for a flat surface to cook on. The fire burns slower and longer than the tepee.
Advantages – The flat surface makes this a great fire to cook on. It’s also a whole lot easier to maintain because of its slow burning and stable design. Many people start out with a tepee design but end up with a log cabin anyways. Why not skip straight to the point?
Disadvantages – Difficult to light with limited access to the tinder if something goes wrong. Produces less heat and more smoke.
How to build
Step 1. Create a tepee structure from dry sticks and material:
Step 2. Create a log cabin structure around the tepee. Taper off into smaller pieces towards the top so they catch fire easily:
Step 3. Light your tepee. Continue to stoke the flame through the large gaps until the entire structure catches:
The upside down fire
Synopsis – Upside down fire is a great fire for the fireplace. In a survival situation I could see it being used if you didn’t need the fire right away but wanted to get it started. It’s a light and forget method of fire making that lends itself well to efficiency and long term heat.
Snotty survivalists have long had a superior air of snootiness over knowing about this fire. They are quick to rattle off the many advantages of the upside down fire. It’s quite an unconventional approach to making fire and goes against everything you were taught. It’s literally a reversed fire – you stack the large logs at the bottom and work your way up the stack laying smaller pieces until you get to the top. At the top you have your tinder bundle.
So how the hell does this work? The same way a regular fire does except upside down. The smaller pieces of tinder at the top ignite the kindling and so on.
Advantages – Extremely low maintenance. With a regular fire you have to wait before you lay on the big logs. With the upside down fire you make your entire stack and light it once. It’s very efficient and burns for a long time before dying out. Plus, you get to look cool in front of all your friends who will inevitably want to see how the heck you’re getting to get that fire to light.
Disadvantages – Very slow to start. It takes a long time before you can do anything useful with it like cook. It’s also trickier to light and requires very dry wood to ignite properly. Not ideal if you need heat straight away.
How to build
Step 1. Start off by laying a base layer of substantial logs:
Step 2. Criss cross large layers of logs, tapering down to smaller pieces as you work your way up:
Step 3. Build a tepee fire or any other fire style you would normally build on the ground:
Step 4. Light your tepee fire and sit back. Stoke the flames with more firewood if necessary:
The Dakota fire hole
Synopsis – use a Dakota fire hole if you need to stay hidden.
The Dakota fire hole is an extremely effective fire and boasts a number of advantages. Placing your fire in a hole conceals it from peeping Toms. If you’re going full on stealth mode this is the fire you want to build. The Dakota fire burns very hot because of the draft created by the air hole. Hot air gets sucked out of the hole and creates a vaccum effect by pulling outside air in. This stokes the fire to blistering temperatures and makes for a very efficient environment to cook what you need fast and stealthy.
Advantages – Stealthy, hot burning, self stoking.
Disadvantages – Can be difficult to build in areas with hard soil.
How to build
Step 1. Dig a fire hole about 1 foot deep:
Step 2. Dig a second hole a foot away. This one doesn’t need to be as deep as the first – about 1.5 feet will do:
Step 3. Dig a tunnel connecting the two holes:
Step 4. Build your fire per usual in the fire hole:
The long fire
Synopsis – Build a long fire for those deathly cold nights where maximum heat is required to stay alive. Long burning fire with little maintenance required.
The long fire is raw heat generator. I’m talking hellish levels of heat through even the bitterest night. The ultimate fire for maximum heat and warmth. Creates a massive heat radius and gigantic bed of coals. It’s the type of fire you can feel from miles away.
Advantages – burns extremely hot and leaves a massive bed of coals. Epic survival fire to stay warm through the night.
Disadvantages – Overkill for cooking or anything else that requires you to be close to the fire.
How to build
Step 1. Start by laying 2 “long” logs in parallel over a set of shorter stumpy pieces. This will elevate your fire from the ground and create pockets of air:
Step 2. Pack the space in between the logs with dry sticks and kindling:
Step 3. Light the fire and lay larger pieces of deadfall diagonally over the logs:
That should keep you busy for a while. Master all of these fires and you will become a formidable force of nature in any survival situation.
Did I miss anything? Yell at me in the comments below.