Camping and camp fires go hand and hand, those iconic images of American Frontiersmen with their bed rolls laid out by the fire are iconic. Although with most modern hikers and campers the idea of sleeping by a fire all night are not a reality, with the impact on the local area and potential fire danger (especially in SoCal) we douse our fires and retreat to our modern high speed bags. I think we might have lost sight of what it is to maintain a fire to maintain our selves.
Well let me tell you about reconnecting with my woodsman self… it sucks. This was my third time in about a year where I genuinely needed a fire, the first two it was really cold but I had my sleeping bag, pad ground cloth etc. what made this time particularly magical? Well let me tell you, I dint have any of the above, just my Grabber All Weather Blanket an amazing piece of kit by the way that combines a tarp with the reinforced edges and grommets as well as the reflective properties of a space blanket. So yes I am talking this product up big time because it kept my butt warm literally. A little back story is we had an all-day event with Active Valor (a great Veteran Nonprofit by the way) and I may have not brought my sleeping bag, I mean always looking for a chance to challenge myself… ha-ha. So I put my wife to bed and started in with my task at around midnight.
Step one start the fire, we had put it out so that was my first challenge, luckily our good fiend Brady Pesola from San Diego School of Survival had left you’re his fat wood (win for me). So after a few tries this was a great reminder that for all of the really cool fire making skills I have, quality tineder and a Bic lighter are your friends. I was cold and didn’t have any one to impress (survival usually goes that way) so I started my fire as quickly as I could, success.
Step two a great roaring fire is awesome but they don’t last long so building something the right size to keep me warm and not burn through my fuel (pun intended)was the plan of the day. I took the opportunity to gather as much fuel as I could and put it as close to me as possible. One hint if I may is if you have logs or thick branches they are your friend because they afford you the opportunity to feed your fire from your comfy zone. Just feed them in as they burn down a good fire will work with you on that.
Step three working with your fire, yes it is work and like any relationship you get out of it what you put in, in this case its fuel for warmth. The fire is really good about communicating with you on that because when it needs fuel it will let you know by cooling off usually right after you finally get some sleep, bam its like “feed me now”.
Step four it is a marathon not a sprint, you are trying to stay alive (although this was not that dramatic of a situation by any means) so your night is more about staying warm and resting not sleeping. Truth be told and like Brady said sunrise is when you get you nap in, your focus is getting to said sunrise. It’s going to be a long night with a lot of tossing and turning, turning mostly to take care of cold spots. I was lucky and did not have a bunch of wind so I was able to keep my blanket open to capture and reflect the heat of the fire as well as give me a little barrier from the ground.
Step Five the ground, well I could have done a lot better on that front, be it build a pad to sleep on improvise something cool to write about or even dig a hip hole to make side sleeping a little more comfortable. Well I did none of that and payed for it. I’m not a petite man so sleeping on the ground was less than ideal but hey I’m here writing about it and guess what I won’t do again… Oh the joys of learning the hard way.
All and all though I have to say under a semi controlled situation it was a great way to test my grit, it only got down to thirty eight degrees and I was able to walk away with a little more real world knowledge. I had some great friends Gus and Soli who stoked the fire when they got up and I was able to be crotchety and drink my coffee and regale my tale of survival.
I think it is a good thing to push your limits from time to time and know that you will be fine. After all every trip into the outdoors is a little bit escape, relaxation and experimentation. You have to keep it interesting and I hope I have with this article; we appreciate you reading it and hope you walked away with something. As always we hope to see you on the trail and until next time let’s Get The Fox Out There!