Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

How to build a backcountry campfire

No firepit? No problem

What do we do when we find ourselves without the camping comforts of a firepit and fire starter fluid? We asked Forest Technology instructor Chris Klitbo to shed some light on the matter.

Bring along basic supplies

Fire starter – carry two types of fire starter in a waterproof case and two sets of that in different locations – such as on your body and in your backpack:

  • waterproof matches
  • lighters
  • fire strikers (high-carbon steel used for striking a spark; check out the video below)
     


Tinder – small material that ignites right away. Store these with your fire starter:

  • cotton balls impregnated with candle wax and kerosene
  • fine shavings of birch bark (perfect for wet conditions)
  • paper-like fibres found inside the bark of a dead poplar
  • powdered Coffee-mate on some bark


​Gather some fuel on site

  • twigs the size of a match and smaller
  • finger-sized twigs
  • wrist-sized sticks
  • logs the size of your arm and larger
     

Fire it up

a fire with flint and steal

  • gather all the materials you’ll need: fire starter, tinder, twigs, sticks and logs
  • clear the ground down to soil or rock. Avoid building a ring of rocks as it can shield embers. If you do build a ring, take it apart when you put out the fire
  • add increasingly larger pieces of twigs and logs wood as your fire burns
     

Put it out properly

Drown it in water – use enough to ensure all the coals and embers are cold. Dig through the fire. Mix it with dirt


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