Create a Flawless Flame

Leave the canister of fuel behind and learn to build your own fire, just like a mountain man. Cooking over an honest campfire while hunting, fishing, camping or backpacking can create food as memorable and as satisfying as the rest of the adventure.

Here’s how to create a flawless cooking flame:

  • Use dry wood. Dry wood burns clean and hot, making quality coals. Green wood is smoky and difficult to keep lit. Use green wood only for cooking sticks.
  • Choose a durable surface. If a fire pit or ring is not available, the best place to build a campfire is on a flat slab of bedrock or a boulder; otherwise put it on bare soil below any organic matter. Be sure no tree branches hang over the site.
  • Watch the wind. Wind is a campfire cook’s worst enemy. It quickly reduces coals and can put the fire out completely. Wind also can carry sparks aloft, burning holes in clothing and tents, and potentially causing a forest fire. Find a sheltered location to make a fire. If the wind is strong, a cold meal is a safer option.
  • Make a ring of rocks. One of the rocks outlining the fire pit should be flat. Place another flat rock of the same height inside the ring but close enough to the flat rock on the right so that your pot or grate reaches across with space underneath for a fire.
  • Place kindling in the fire ring. Dried leaves or pine needles make great kindling. Place the kindling under a layer of dry twigs, then light it in several places.
  • Add increasingly larger sticks of wood. Gradually add larger and larger pieces of wood evenly over the fire bed. While you can start cooking anytime the larger logs inite, you can better control the temperature by waiting until you have a substantial bed of hot coals. Using a stick, the higher you pile the coals under the pot or grate, the higher the cooking temperature.

Don’t forget to put out your fire. Before crawling into your sleeping bag at night or departing in the morning, soak the fire bed with water to ensure the fire is out.

-Lisa Densmore

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