Woman vs. (man's) fire: how to build a fire right

Fire is a man's business. His inner caveman comes out when it's time to build a blaze. He's not afraid to get dirty, get crafty, and get stupid in his primal pursuit.

Well, that's all well and good, but why should men have all the fun? Learning to build the perfect fire can be a woman's business too. At the very least, learning how to spot when enthusiastic men are doing it all wrong is an essential outdoor survival skill. Here's how to do it the wise woman way:

Don't piss off Smokey the Bear or the Tree Huggers and Bug Lovers. Build a fire responsibly.  If you want to enjoy nature for years to come, make sure you're doing it the most nature friendly way and avoid the classic man-stakes men make:

  1. Create a contained space. If you don't have a fire pit, clear an area for the fire. Dig a bit into the ground to create your own pit and surround it with large stones to contain the fire.
  2. Use local wood. A lot of parks discourage you from gathering wood in the park, and you should respect that, but local wood is much better - whether you collect it or buy it. Why? Buying wood from another city or county and bringing it to a new environment could introduce harmful species.
  3. Use dry wood. Dry wood lights and burns better. That's "no duh" point one. No duh point two is that dry wood produces less smoke than fresh branches and greenery. You know you've got a dry stick when it breaks easily, instead of bending.
  4. Trash belongs in the trash. Squash the temptation to throw your plastic and glass bottles in the fire and avoid the airborne toxic cocktails they produce. As much as your man likes to see things melt like he did when he lit up his G.I. Joes as a kid, you'd rather not.
  5. Don't take any shortcuts. Your man may resort to toxic lighter fluid to get flaming, but you know better. All you have to do is gather up three things: 1). Tinder, 2). Kindling, 3). Fuel. 

TINDER: brown leaves, strips of bark, twigs, paper, cotton balls. Save the lint from your dryer...it makes for perfect tinder!

KINDLING: small sticks that can prop up against each other to create height. Look for pencil sized sticks.

FUEL: fueling a fire that lasts requires chunky, dry wood. Make sure it's at least 3 inches thick.

Check out this handy guide for how to bring the tinder, kindling, and fuel together so you can enjoy a lasting fire.

Actually, the real trick to getting a great fire going - patience - something we women find ourselves practicing pretty often anyway. So, get out there, show 'em how it's done!

RESOURCES

Check out this book on building a fire your grandfather (and grandmother) would approve of.

NPR's "fire triangle" spells out the 1, 2, 3s of building the perfect fire.