Surviving in the wild: How to build a long log fire for warmth
This survival tip will give you maximum warmth in a tough winter survival situation.
Gathering the appropriate resources from the land, Zach and Cody will demonstrate how to construct and ignite a long log fire for maximum warmth in a winter wilderness environment.
A long fire is a traditional Scandinavian firelay, otherwise known as the Finnish rakovalkea or gap fire. This modified version of the long fire is made using a fixed blade knife, ferrocerium rod (fire starter) and an array of soft and hardwood timber. This fire is best used in extremely cold temperatures, as it will put off an enormous amount of heat and with the least amount of effort once lit. This fire lay is also useful if you don't have the appropriate clothing and sleeping gear — luxuries you might have in a survival situation.
What you'll need:
- Fixed blade knife
- Ferrocerium rod (fire starter)
- Soft and hardwood timber
Here's how to do it:
- Source out a birch tree and collect three or more handfuls of lose hanging bark from the tree, this is your easily ignitable tinder – birch trees are easily identifiable due to their white, shaggy bark.
- The next resource you are going to collect is your small fuel source, these are twigs and sticks, toothpick-to-pencil size, which will expand your initial flame from your birch bark. You are going to want three knee-high piles of small fuel for your fire.
- With your small fuel collected, tart to gather medium-sized fuel; this is timber anywhere from 1 to 2-inches in diameter, which will help establish a more robust fire. You are going to want to collect two knee-high piles of medium fuel.
- For your final resource you are going to collect your large fuel sources. These are logs that are larger than 6 feet. You are going to need a minimum of three large logs. Hardwood trees are preferred because of their longer burn time, and because they give off more heat than softwoods.Look for trees that are dead standing that can be safely, easily pushed over, or trees that have already fallen over and can be dragged to your fire location. Full size trees can be used and moved into the fire as they burn.Always watch above you for deadfall when gathering your fuel sources.
- Place your fire, keeping in mind the direction of the wind, as smoke can fill your shelter. Find a place for your fire one full step away from the front of your shelter and away from any natural hazards above or around. Always practice safe fire-making and check available local fire regulations before ignition.
- Line the ground with 10-12 2 foot pieces of your medium fuel, spaced out to the entire length of your long fire. Additional pieces of medium fuel can be used if desired.
- Next, align your two largest and equal-sized large fuel logs on top of your medium fuel line, ensuring the base logs are elevated and that they allow for sufficient air flow and oxygen underneath. Keep 6 inches or more between your base logs to allow for enough room to place half of your small fuel between them and the large log on top.Place half of your small fuel loosely between your two base logs, extending the whole length of the log.
- Mix in 2/3 of your collected birch bark with your small fuel and distribute it across and between your entire firelay (between the base logs).Keep 1/3 of your birch bark for your fire's ignition.
- Using your knife edge or spine, carefully rough up the birch bark to expose lose bark strands and flammable oils that lie within the bark. This will greatly increase the success rate of your initial ignition.
- Using your knife, carefully process a medium fuel stick and shave the inside, creating dry, fine wood curls to act in place of a match or torch once ignited – this is your feather stick.
- Using your ferrocerium rod or similar fire-starter, ignite your roughed up birch bark (tinder) in the center of your fire lay and apply your feather stick to the flame with the addition of more birch bark and small fuel to grow the flame.
- With your initial center fire ignited, use your feather stick and other available birch bark to spread the flame across your entire fire lay, igniting all of the birch bark and small fuel sources.
- Now that your long fire is fully ignited, add the remaining amount of medium and small fuel to the fire, to help establish a larger fire and hotter ember base.
- Carefully add your top log — the remaining large fuel log — to your fire lay. It should rest firmly on top of your two base logs and dampen the height of the flame, creating a long lasting fire.
- Periodically add more fuel to the fire as needed and adjust your full length trees as they burn through.
Zachary Gault, Owner and Instructor at Primitive Living is a Wilderness Skills Instructor whom specializes in the art & skills of Bushcraft, Self-Reliance and Sustainable Wilderness-Living. He passes on his knowledge of nature and the outdoors with formal teaching of these tribal skills, as he feels there is a strong connection to the earth when you strip away modern comforts and learn to create them yourself from nature. Zach's exploits of his treks in different remote environments can be viewed through his social media page.
Cody Bokshowan, the man behind Trustin Timber Productions, is an avid backcountry canoeist, adventurist, photographer, and filmmaker. His journeys often take him far out of range of cell phone service so maintaining a strong instinct and understanding of survival skills in various conditions is a responsible part of training for the next production. In this series, he teams up with Zachary Gault, Wilderness Skills Instructor, to share with you a few lesser known skills that could save a life.