Everything you need to know to start a fire
On the snow, with duct tape, or when the lights go out.
With winter weather pummeling the nation this week, warming up by a fire becomes more of a necessity than a comfort. But stoking a strong flame will take more than a piece of wood and a matchstick, especially when the ground is covered in ice and snow.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to spark a flame. Whether you have a well-stocked woodpile or are starting from scratch, follow these pointers from the survival experts at Popular Science, Field and Stream, and Outdoor Life.
1. Assemble your tools
The first item on your list should be a firestarter. It could be a strip of birch bark or a handful of Doritos—as long as it’s something small, dry, and oily, it should work. Learn more here.>>>
2. Choose the type of blaze
Seasoned outdoors people know fires have multiple uses. A signal fire, for instance, should be freestanding, while a tarp fire requires more setup. Figure out what’s right for you. Learn more here.>>>
3. Add a protective layer
To prevent the moist ground from extinguishing your efforts, lay down a “raft” of scrap metal or rotten wood. When using the latter, opt for whole pieces over split ones. Learn more here.>>>
[Related: How to be prepared for power outages]
4. Keep it burning
Stock up on tinder, whether it be pine needles or cotton balls, and give your fire plenty of room to breathe. Without a good oxygen supply, it will die out. Learn more here.>>>
5. Stay in control
If it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave. Whether you’re done with the fire or trying to tone it down, there’s a right way to go about extinguishing it. Learn more here.>>>
Bonus tip: Dress warm
What you’re wearing is at least as important as where you’re getting your heat. When experts say you can never have enough layers in the cold, they mean it. Learn more here.>>>
Bonus tip: Think beyond fires
If you live in an apartment building or a shelter, starting a fire may not even be an option. When losing power during a storm, there are ways to use utilities, gadgets, and even pets to help keep you warm. Learn more here.>>>