Fire Building – Learn The Teepee Fire Lay
A big part of making it easy to start a warm fire lies in the proper arrangement of the wood. Packing the fuel too tightly limits airflow and suffocates the flames. Not enough fuel will cause the fire to die out prematurely. One of the easiest and most effective fire lays to learn is the teepee style, but there are a few tricks that go into the build.
Before attempting to build any fire, we always want to make sure that enough wood has been gathered. The right amount of wood is really enough for two fires and should be sorted into small (pencil lead), medium (pencil) and large (thumb sized) stacks. This provides enough fuel to not only get the fire going, but also some extra in case rain, wind, etc. starts working against you. We’ll also want larger pieces of wood to add as fuel and keep things burning. Always make sure that the wood gathered is “dry” so that it has been off of the tree long enough for the water inside the wood to evaporate. “Wet” or green wood does not burn well and can produce a lot of smoke. Dry wood has a sharp snap when broken in half.
The first trick to an easy teepee fire build to set up three medium sized or larger sticks in a tripod. The bottom of the sticks can be stuck into the ground or they can just lean against each other, as long as they are stable enough to support the rest of the wood that we’re going to be adding shortly. If a small saw is handy, cutting off side branches while leaving a “Y” in the top of the sticks, so that they can interlock with each other, is surprisingly stable.
Next, put the tinder under the center of the tripod. If the ground is snowy or wet, then putting down a layer of dry wood, a piece of aluminum foil, metal trash can lid, etc. as a ground barrier will be a big help. The tinder can be anything that will catch on fire easily. Cotton cloth, pine needles, dry leaves, fatwood shavings or commercial fire starters can all be effective choices.
Next, we’ll put a handful of the pencil lead sized sticks on top of the tinder. The job of the tinder is to produce enough heat to light these small sticks on fire. They will burn hot and fast.
Next, we’ll stack a few overlapping layers of the pencil sized sticks on top. This medium sized wood should light easily with the heat coming off of the smaller stuff below it. That will then provide enough heat and burn time to light the wood making up the top of our teepee on fire.
We’ll finish building our teepee out of our larger wood leaning up against the tripod. These sticks can also help form a built in windbreak to protect our fire while it is just getting started. There should be enough fuel to get things going, but we don’t want to layer it on so thick that no air can get inside. Leaving at least one gap in the side will allow proper airflow and also give us a place to reach in with a match or lighter when we’re ready to light the bottom tinder and start the fire.