You may know how to start a fire in the spring, summer, and fall, but winter is a whole different beast. If you want to build a winter campfire you need to contend with the snow, wind, freezing temperatures, and struggle to find firewood. Fortunately, there are several tips and tricks you can use to avoid the worse of this struggle!
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Plan Ahead and Gather Tinder
There are items you can gather while hiking or camping before the snow is on the ground, that can help you start a winter campfire. If you plan ahead there are even some simple store items that you can pack too! Let’s go over some of these great fire-starting items.
Paper Birch tree bark is great for starting any fire. It peels away from the white trunk on its own and you’ll find large rolls and chunks of it in the woods (granted there are birch trees around). The bark is very dry and highly flammable, so it is well worth keeping it in your bag if you find some when hiking or camping.
You want something that will light fast and is totally dry because it’s tough to find wood and kindling like that in the snow.
Pine Resin and Pine Needles
Pine resin is a great tool in the winter woods. It will burn long and get hot enough to dry out moist kindling and sticks so you can have a proper fire. It is great to use with pine needles because you can make a bed of pine needles for your fire and spread the resin on it. When ignited it will dry even the sodden needles and be a great base to build up your fire.
Always plan ahead anytime you go camping in inclement weather. You can keep a ziplock bag of shredded paper in your bag as a dry source of tinder. It will come in handy in the winter when you have to compete with wet snow and dry tinder is scarce.
Dryer Lint or Cotton Dipped in Petroleum Jelly
These are some of the most flammable items that you have around your house. Put them to good use when you decide to do some winter camping! Soaking them in vaseline or petroleum jelly will make them fully waterproof.
Powder Snow Can Be Your Friend
When hunting for dry kindling in the snow, your best bet is finding fallen branches. Fallen branches covered in dry, powdery snow will have very little moisture absorbed into them. The powder snow doesn’t contain much moisture so these pieces of wood will be the driest you can find and good to stoke your fire.
Where to Build Your Campfire in the Snow
It’s not possible to build a fire right on top of the snow, so you have to think a little more creatively. If the snow isn’t deep, you can dig down to the ground beneath and clear out a space to make your fire.
Dry tree wells offer the most protection and the shallowest snow can be found near the base of the trunk. If the snow is too deep, you can stomp it into a flat surface and use logs or flat stones to form a base to build your winter campfire.
How to Build Your Winter Campfire
The key part of building your winter campfire is having dry tinder and kindling. Without these things, you won’t be able to have a fire at all. Once started it’s important to slowly build it up with the driest kindling you have from smallest to largest. Larger logs or branches should be close by to help dry them and stoke the fire as it builds.
Building a winter campfire follows the same steps as any other time you’re camping once you’ve made a dry and secure fire pit.
Hypothermia is the biggest safety risk anytime you are out camping or hiking in cold weather. Knowing what to bring with you and how to make a fire in inclement, snowy conditions can save your life. Always plan and prepare!