National Parks Depot Blog » foraging
There’s something comfortably cozy and almost nostalgic about sitting around a campfire. Maybe it’s the warmth and smell of the burning firewood. Maybe it’s as simple as enjoying the company we’re with. Or maybe it’s because we know that when there’s a campfire, there’s almost always s’mores. Gooey, chocolatey, melt-in-your-mouth s’mores. And let’s face it, roasting marshmallows is one of the most exciting parts about camping. But what happens when you forget your fire starter back at home? With no lighters or matches on hand, and all inhabited towns being few and far between, you might begin to panic. But fear not! Despite what the novice camper may think, there are many ways to start a fire, and they’re not too complicated to master. Here are three tried and true methods that will help both experienced outdoorsmen and weekend adventurers alike.First, we will introduce the bow and drill method. The basic idea of this ancient method is to spark a fire by generating heat through friction, which can be done by using the proper tools: the bow and bowstring, the drill, the handhold, the coal catcher, and the tinder bundle. Since there are literally hundreds of detailed how-to tutorials available on the web on how to execute this commonly used method, many of which are demonstrated on YouTube, we will skip this step and focus on important preparation details. The most vital step in making an effective bow and drill kit is proper wood selection. When foraging for wood, search for dead, dry wood of medium-soft density, such as dead tree branches. Many tree species will work just fine as long as they are dry enough and have the proper density. Cedar, juniper, and willow are a few examples of good materials to harvest. You will want to find branches that are around two feet in length with a decent thickness. (Lumber may also be used in this situation, if preferred.) Along with your foraged wood, you will want to gather some leaves and foliage to keep your fire burning. Remember to keep all of your materials dry and you should be good to go!
Our next method is a convenient and resourceful one, requiring either a pair of eyeglasses or a water bottle. (Kind of ironic that a water bottle can be used to both start a fire and to put one out, no?) Both objects produce the same magnifying glass effect. For the sake of demonstration, let’s say you have a water bottle at your disposal. If your bottle is empty, fill it back up with water. Remove any paper labels if necessary, as you will be using the transparency of the bottle to your advantage. Place your bottle over a piece of paper or gathered foliage, and at an angle where the sunlight hits it. Before you know it, you should have smoke, and then a small flame! This method will of course only work when the sun is out, so if you’re running short on daylight, using the magnifying glass method will probably not be your best option.
Lastly, we would like to mention the battery method. The good news about this method is that it’s quick, easy, and most importantly, effective. Chances are you or someone else around you is going to have a flashlight on hand the next time you’re out camping, and that’s good news for you, because all you need to start a fire is a borrowed battery and a metal-lined gum wrapper. Take your gum wrapper and cut off one of the rough edges to give yourself a smooth, straight line. Using that same side of the wrapper, cut once more to give yourself a smooth, thin strip of paper. Fold this narrow strip in half width-wise, then cut across the strip diagonally. When unfolded, the widest part of the paper should be on the ends, with the thinnest portion in the center. Place the ends of the strip on the top and bottom of the battery simultaneously, with the metallic side touching the battery and you should have a flame within seconds! It’s really that easy.
Now that you’ve got your fire roaring, your hardest decision rests on deciding what tasty treat to cook up first! To find outdoor meal inspiration for your next campfire cookout and to put these methods to the test, check us out on Pinterest and browse through our curated collection of camp-friendly recipes. Enjoy!