How to light a fire in winter conditions
Lighting a fire in winter can be incredibly challenging. It takes a lot more preparation, scrounging and overall work than lighting one when it's dry and warm.
If you know you're going to light a fire, it's always a good idea to bring dry kindling with you.
For our purposes, we'll assume no fire was planned.
In the winter, you might need to cover a lot more ground to find the required items. This is often when people get lost! Always make sure you can find your way back to camp.
As you're walking through the woods it's always good to be mindful of items that could be useful for starting a fire, and start collecting those. I'll always have an extra bag for kindling and often collect it as I'm heading to camp.
It's the small, dry and brittle materials that you are looking for. Since the ground is covered with snow, look for dead trees with exposed limbs and start breaking those off. In our part of the world, witches hair is readily available. Grab some of that, or any other dry fine moss you can find.
As you move up to larger materials, look under fallen trees or inside the drip line of trees for dryer material.
Stage 1 material is kindling, I work up in size from 1. match stick size 2. pencil size 3. finger-sized 4. thumb size. If I'm having a hard time finding enough Stage 1 material, I'll use my knife to shave some from larger material.
Once you have collected an armload of kindling that size. Move on to Stage 2 material: proper fuel. This starts at about half the width of your wrist and works up from there to about the size of your forearm.
Stage 3 material is for maintaining your fire, larger more "log size" pieces. For every hour of fire you want, you need two armloads of material. So to tend a small fire all night, you need a stack that goes pretty much up to your waste! Obviously the larger your fire, the more fuel it will need.
To light your fire, find an area out of the elements, dry if possible, under some tree bows might work. If the snow isn't too deep, dig a fire pit until you are on bare ground.
If you are only having a fire long enough to cook food, or boil water, go ahead and flatten some snow and make it there. If you intend to have a fire for a long time, try your best to find solid ground or dig until you find it. Over time the fire will melt the snow all the way to hard ground!
Now, the same as with a regular fire, make a "nest" or a cave with the materials you've collected. The nest should have an area where you place your VSSL fire-starting tabs. It should look like this when you are done. Smallest pieces closest to the fire tab, working up in size. Keep the larger material off until your fire is burning nicely through the small parts.
Airflow is essential. Blowing on a fire stokes the embers, but be careful not to start blowing until you have embers or you risk blowing your fire out.
Once the smaller material is burning well, keep adding larger fuel until your fire is self-sustaining.
Now kick back and enjoy the by-product of your fire.
Todd Weimer, VSSL Founder
Each VSSL CAMP Supplies comes stocked with a Fire Starting Kit.
Learn more here.