Lightweight and Ultralightweight Backpacking

The View from Here

Panoramic view from a mountain top in Glacier National Park, Montana

The 10 Essentials

10 Essentials: Cooking Fire

The cooking fire is a small fire.

The most efficient cooking fire has one pot heating on a few twigs. Collect sufficient dry but not rotten twiggy branches, lying around on the ground no bigger around than your fingers. If the trees have dead branches down low, take the smallest little twigs. You will also need kindling.

Kindling is even smaller dry tinder that is easy to get started burning and will burn briskly, to heat the bigger twigs. Once you have twigs burning, if you add more, as needed, you will not need more kindling or tinder.

Dry wood may be obtained as dead branches near the base of a tree or by removing wet bark from "dead fall". This is wood you find lying on the ground.

Never bother with rotting pithy wood: this wood is much more difficult to get burning, makes a lot of smoke and does not make a hot fire.

Find a non-flammable surface, either an existing fire pit, or non-organic mineral subsoil to have the cooking fire: you can not outrun a forest fire, so don't start a forest fire. Many forest fires begin, from burning "forest duff" consisting of leaves or pine needles, that spreads unseen, from a campfire that was not on only mineral subsoil.

On snow, it will be necessary to provide a surface an insulate the fire against melting down into the snow from the heat generated. The fire can smoulder in the forest debris under snow, starting a forest fire later.

This is an arguement for having and properly using a backpacking stove.

There are backpacking stoves as simple as a fire-pan, a make and assemble-it-yourself or purchase the Emberlit wood stove, the Nimblewell Nomad "Little Dandy" wood stove, or the Caldera Cone Ti-Tri stove system with fire pan, for example.

These all pack down to a convenient size.

Either use a backpacking stove, properly, or make a fire-safe fire.

Begin by having a good supply of twigs, kindling, and tinder collected and sized down ready to add.

Here is a helpful video.

This is more fire than you need for a cooking fire. Nevertheless, this is good comrmation.

Do this the first time, at home, or at the county park.

I can get two or three cups boiling water, with only pencil-size twigs. This is a sufficient hot water for a backpacking food meal.

Balance your cooking pot, with water inside, on three or four small stones, of sufficient height to get the biggest twig under the pot and have room enough for air to get in and feed the fire.

If there is no wind, a match may be sufficient to start the fire going. If not, you may have to hold your tinder in perhaps some green leaves or a bit of bark, and start the tinder burning out of the wind.

If more windy, you will need a windbreak before you begin. Look around your surroundings: is there a natural windbreak? A large somewhat flat rock may provide a windbreak. A windbreak can be fashioned from aluminum foil, or larger rocks with no cracks between the rocks. Non organic mineral subsoil dirt may be used to close the openings between the rocks.

If not, can you put non-flammable materials, like rocks or mineral subsoil dirt (having no organic material in the dirt) to make a trench, or a slot fire, which is only a small sloping trench with the fire made at the most sheltered end.

Matches may fizzle, if too old, even a sealed match safe will not prevent.

Have fresh matches, preferably Stormproof Matches, Storm Matches, or consider a SPARK-LITE or a FireSteel.

The cooking pot may be in place, when you are getting the fire going, or not. The surprise for most beginners is that really not many twigs are needed to get the water sufficiently hot, especially if your pot has a lid.

If you have another container, use the hot water to make your hot drink and next your one-pot meal.

For many experienced people, this means having an insulated plastic cup and making their one-pot meal in the cooking pot. A generous size spoon rounds out the necessary kitchen of this one pot meal method.

The chemical fire is usually only using chemical tabs, like UST WetFire or hexamine or esbit, as fire starters. In this instance, you may need the fire itself to dry the wood out sufficiently for the wood pieces to burn.

There are, however, small efficient alcohol and esbit stoves, complete with windscreen and pot support at the correct height for fuel and heat efficiency.

I have links for these stoves as well as the complete compact cooking sets weighing only ounces, designed for efficiently using with these stoves, at the Products gear section.

There is a caution: not all backpacking stoves function well in severe weather.

There is some technique involved, but hopefully you will have mastered the technique required, close to home.

I mention in my website, in packing and food sections, as well as, at the Products gear section, the backpacking stoves and cooking systems that work quite well in spite of severe weather.

There is comrmation on the 10 essentials food page and to be found at the link for Products food to point you at nourishing and easy to prepare "one-pot meals" designed especially for backpacking.

10 Essentials: Warming Fire

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