Camping Gear — Fire is becoming less and less useful in today’s modern campgrounds. In situations of survival however, fire can be crucial.
Fire was one of the first skills I learned as a kid camper from my genius outdoor father. His three principles of open flame are fuel, heat and air.
Fuel, Heat and Air
Fire only happens under special conditions – which is good or more little kids would “accidentally” burn their houses down.
First, fire must have fuel to burn – paper, wood, chemicals, plastic, etc. The fuel must also be in a condition where it can burn. Some fuel, like a wet log, will burn eventually, but it first requires a lot of heat to first dry out the log. Water is the enemy of fire because it prevents and can absorb a lot of heat.
Second, heat is required to first start the fire and then to keep it going. Sparks from matches, rocks, lighting and other sources generate a lot of heat in a very concentrated area and can start a fire if it lands on fuel.
Third, the oxygen in air is needed to create flame. Air should be able to naturally flow around every side of your fuel. A hot log will only smoke if it doesn’t have the proper air flow.
From Match to Camp Fire
Matches meet all the requirements – the friction of striking the match creates the heat. The chemicals on the end flare up and hold the heat log enough for the wood stick to heat up and catch fire.
Matches are not able start an entire log on fire because they are unable to heat up a large enough part of the log before the match stick burns up. Usually something else is needed to get a log going.
Paper, wood shavings, twigs and lighter fluid are all good kindling. Kindling is a quick burning material that can be lit with a match and will burn long enough to start larger fuel like split logs on fire.
Round logs are difficult to burn. The bark and shape of a natural log is resistant to both heat and air. By splitting the log open, you expose the dry inside of the log which is less resistant to heat and the rough ridges of the grain offer more surface contact to air.
Flame not Smoke
A perfectly efficient fire is all flame and no smoke. Smoke appears when one of the conditions of fuel, heat or air is not being met. If you fire is smoking, your fuel is either unfit for burning or your fire is not getting enough air.
To get more air to your fuel, you can temporarily blow on your fire which will help generate more heat to help stubborn logs get started. Also, make sure logs are laid in a crossing pattern instead of directly parallel.
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