Dirt Time - Fire

Well, I went back on January 8, 2011 to the place I did the PSK trial about a month earlier to put in some more field time.

It was a nice day with a temperature of - 3° C. I made a small tripod, gathered wood to make a fire and melt snow to have something to drink.

At all times never rush the process of making a fire.

Take the time to have all of your materials that you will need, and some extra, if you suspect you'll have problems keeping the fire going such as when the wood is humid.

I had gathered materials, but admittingly I was a bit in a hurry and I paid for it.

I didn't have enough and wound up going about collecting more tinder and wood and preparing it. I'd done some batoning to make kindling. There was at least a better chance as well through batoning because this exposed any dry wood within. I'll take dry wood any day after my experiences with the wood in this area :)

I had made a base to protect the fire from the humid ground, and placed some material and got the fire lit using a firesteel, no problem. Once lit however, more fine materials and kindling was needed to keep it going. I had enough to get it going, but I needed more to keep it going. However, this wasn't the only problem. Just like during the PSK trial last month in December, I had to fight with this fire because of humidity in the wood. Long story short I spent at least around 2 hours or so with this fire that in the end went out. As I said above, I paid the price for being in a hurry, but this wasn't the only factor as mentioned above.

Learning about survival skills is as much about equipment and skill as it is about yourself as an individual, your inclinations and reactions/actions in any given situation.

But hey, that's what field time is for. You learn from your errors and gain experience. We do not always do what we know we should do, which is a big no-no, but I'd rather it occur during field time than in an actual emergency. Do NOT cut corners to make a fire.

I wasn't giving up, not yet anyway. To be stubbornly unyielding can prove to be a quality in a situation like this. I wanted my cup of water, and I was going to get it. I wanted something to drink, I wanted success and I didn't want to give up, so I gave it another try.

This time however I wasn't playing games with this fire anymore, so I chose to build BIG. I made a larger teepee style fire, which included a cabin log structure within the teepee.

In these photos from top left to bottom right, you'll see the progression of the fire. The cabin log structure generates a lot of heat which is why I chose this configuration. The base was hot from the previous fire even though there were no visible coals. This was still an advantage and I used it.

I didn't place any tinder in right away, because I wanted to wait until the structure was built and that I had enough material on hand to make it right this time. Putting it earlier may have caused the tinder to ignite, which I didn't want at that time. The structure had to be in place.

When the structure was to my liking, I placed a lot of tinder inside. I did use a firesteel again to get it going. When it lit, it didn't take much time for the fire to envelope the structure. I had beforehand put my little tripod with my metal cup aside given the size of the structure for the new fire.

In these photos from top left to bottom right, you'll see the progression of the fire.

The goal was to get a roaring fire going which would cause the wood to burn despite any humidity, as well as get some hot coals to work with. I meant business this time and was hoping for the best.

Well, the proper preparations and effort paid off. I made my fire, got my coals and was able to melt the snow and boil it. I let it cool down and after around 20 minutes I was able to drink it. It tasted great!

I used some of this downed birch tree as tinder. I used a lot because I needed the fire to accelerate quickly for my needs. Just a note, the knife in the log was for the photo, however, under normal circumstances never do this, for under the right conditions you may lose your most important piece of equipment.


As to whether or not it is necessary to boil the water that came from melting the snow, the jury is still out on that one it seems. You may find different opinions on the subject.

Normally, if the snow was clean and uncontaminated to begin with, it shouldn't be necessary.

Fresh fallen snow would be an example, however beware if you are near a city or industrial park where there may be pollutants that could have contaminated the snow.

Remember that boiling will not remove industrial pollutants.

I chose to boil the water this time, however during my PSK trial in December I melted the snow in an oven bag and drank it straightway. I hadn't gotten ill for having done so.

Find the cleanest snow that you can, including to look for animal tracks which may give you an indication as to whether the snow could be contaminated.

Do I need to say it? Yellow snow is a no go!

You can scrape the top inch or so of snow away, inspect it, and then gather what's beneath to melt it.

In the photos above you'll see the result of the extra preparations. The fire was a bit large at some point but it all worked out.

Boiling is preferable in my opinion, however, it may not always be necessary. The choice is yours and remember that the conditions you'll be in if in an emergency must be taken into consideration, such as if you have a fire going or not, if have a pot or other container to melt and boil the snow, your physical condition etc.

I hope this small article can give you some pointers that will be useful to you. Remember to get out and practice whenever possible, and to always have a kit with you.


Doing a little bit of wood processing. The Gerber Big Rock camp knife is what I used for batoning. You can check out my review on MEC (Mountain Equipment Coop) here. My username used was Greenleaves and the review is titled: "Great knife for the price".
I used the Strikeforce from Ultimate Survival Technologies at some point to light the fire. Notice the reflective material on the cap.
I used dead, dried plants as as well as vines (not shown) for tinder and kindling and it went well.
This is the Aurora Fire Starter made by Solo Scientific that has magnesium within its composition. It went well to light the fire as well.