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Fire is not only essential to life and our survival, but is part of the magic of being outside.
Anyone can make and maintain a fire with some basic knowledge, but to know and understand what fire lay is most appropriate and efficient (depending on your situation) takes a bit more skill. This article will detail how to build a fire using 5 different fire lays – all of which have their own pros and cons. In some situations you may require a very quick fire with lots of heat for boiling water, whilst in others, you may want to keep warm throughout the night with little-to-no maintenance of the fire.
There are many variables when it comes to fires, such as the wood you are using and the method in which you are lighting the fire, but this article will focus mainly on the construction of the fire.
How To Build A Fire – Our Top 5 Fire Lays
The Star Fire Lay
This may well be a familiar sight for many of you reading this article. The star fire is a super-efficient way of producing a constant flame over a long period of time. An ideal situation for using a star fire would be if you were on a course, or a relaxing weekend and you want to keep the kettle water constantly boiled. Once a flame has been established, lay 4/5 logs in a star shape with the ends all pointing into the centre. As the wood combusts slowly over time, simply continue to feed the logs in until they have been completely used, and then simply replace. You can keep water boiling for several hours using only a few small branches with this method.
The Teepee Fire
The teepee is a popular fire lay for getting a fire burning quickly, and one that is often used in illustrations of campfires. Simply place some tinder in the centre, and build a teepee of small kindling all around the tinder. A good tip is to insert some sticks into the ground to hold the shape of the teepee and stop the whole thing from falling in on itself. The flame is concentrated at the centre of the fire, which makes this fire lay great for hanging a pot and boiling water quickly.
The Long Fire
This is my favourite type of fire to make and one which is worth having in your repertoire. The long fire will serve you well in cold temperatures where you need continuous warmth throughout the night. After you have established a small fire, you can slowly start to extend the length by adding additional longer logs and placing them horizontally. You ideally need logs as long as your body to provide maximum warmth. These will burn long and slow and require minimal maintenance once established. The long fire will also produce a brilliant bed of embers for cooking.
The Criss-Cross Fire
The criss-cross fire is one of the best fire lays for cooking. You build the fire starting with 2 thick logs at the base, and then lay slightly thinner ones at right angles on top – this is where the name criss-cross comes from – being sure to leave a gap to allow oxygen to flow freely. Continue to build the fire up until you have small tinder and kindling at the very top. As the fire establishes itself and burns down, a deep bed of embers will form. This fire lay is extremely easy to keep going once lit, and the embers are perfect for cooking potatoes in (placed underneath the soil with) or for cooking meat. This fire lay will also throw out a good deal of heat – ideal for colder days/nights.
The Haystack Fire
This is the most straightforward type of fire lay out there, and one that you have probably built yourself in the past. This fire set up involves placing some tinder material at the base, and then just adding small kindling on top in no particular order. Once the base is established, you can then continue to add thicker fuel. The haystack fire will throw out a reasonable amount of heat, but other methods might be more efficient depending on what your objective is. This type of fire has no particular advantages, but if heat is required and you are desperate, this would be an ideal choice.
BONUS – The Signal Fire
We couldn’t write an article on fire lays and miss out the one that could potentially save your life! The great thing about the signal fire lay is that it is super easy to make. All you need to do is establish a strong base using any of the methods listed above. Once the fire is established, place green leaves and green wood loosely on top, white smoke will start to billow out in great plumes. White smoke is perfect for forest environments, but not as effective in snowy conditions. In this situation, you may want to burn a tyre, oil or even some plastic – we would never normally recommend burning any of these types of material unless it was completely necessary.
We hope you have enjoyed this article on how to build a fire using our top 5 methods. If you have your own thought and opinions, we would love to hear them in the comments below.