Monday, January 10, 2011

Two Fires Winter Survival Skills

Eight inches of snow fell in North East Georgia, so of course I had to get out and bushwhack up to the favorite overhang and test this concept.

I'd always heard about the two fires. Instead of one big white man fire whereby you burn your front off and freeze your behind, or visa versa, you create two small safe fires. The trick is to build the fires with a sitting/sleeping place between them. The whole thing is done with a safe zone, so that the fires can not escape or threaten to overwhelm the person tucked between them.

In reality, this is not hard. If you were sleeping near one big fire, you would know how to do this. Clear all dry leaves, possible natural fuels, or gear from close proximity. If possible, surround the fire with large stones, creating the fire ring. This is very important if the ground is not perfectly level. As the branches burn in half, they can break and roll off the fire onto surrounding area.

As the video shows, its not hard at all to maintain two small fires. Of course, a great bed of coals goes a long way in warming and securing long term comfort.

A person can eat snow if they are warm enough. But, its pretty nice to drink warm, if not hot, beverages in winter conditions.

The survival can, with plastic sheeting, matches, petroleum jelly fire starter, a knife, compass, and other treats is always nice when playing in the woods.


  1. I'd like to know a good fire finisher. This year on the pct in Wash. after about five days of snow and rain, I tried to build a fire rather than just dive in the tent. I got it going using the REI type of waterproof matches, but the problem was keeping it going, and getting it hot enough burn the wet wood around. Usually I can snap off low hanging inner branches from the conifers, but this time even they were soaked. The green moss that usually burns well just smoked. The only thing that burned fairly well was pine needles - not the branches, just the needles. Finally gave up getting any warmth out of it and went to tent and bag.

  2. Hi Timecheck,
    If you carry petroleum jelly, something I always carried on long trails for foot massage and prevent heel cracking, use it on scrap of cotton and you'll find a long lasting starter and maintainer for a fire.
    The trick, of course, is to add Slowly, and have a dry base to start the fire. A rock is good.
    Scrape away all snow. Lay your cotton and petroleum jelly combo on rock (or dry wood...bone dry) The smallest twigs or cones possible, used paper from the guide book, then light it.
    Slowly add to it, on the edges, watching out that your mittens/gloves don't drip anything into the fire.
    Patience is key to getting a fire hot enough to dry out wet stuff. I remember Washington.

    Congrats on your PCT hike!! Love that trail.