Things to Remember:

The sportsman in the field or mountains without matches can start his campfire by the aid of his shotgun. It has been successfully experimented upon and is both simple and feasible. First, make preparations to start your fire from the flame by building up your wood ready to light, standing kindlings up on end against the larger sticks wigwam fashion, leaving an opening at the bottom for the tinder, shredded bark, dry pine slivers or any dry splinter pounded between two rocks, any of which make good tinder. After removing the shot from the cartridge, sprinkle the most of the powder on the tinder, leaving only a few grains in the shell.

Then tear a bit of dry cotton cloth with fluffy edges (a bit of lining from your clothes if nothing else is available), fill this loosely into your emptied cartridge. Put the shell into your gun and fire straight into the air. The cloth will drop close to you and either be aflame, or at least smouldering, so that you can easily blow it into a blaze. Drop this quickly into your tinder and your fire is made.

The Scout Camp Fire

By L. B. Robbies

THE Innocent person who carelessly drops a smoldering match in the woods as he passes along is often the cause of one of the destructive forest fires which rage each dry season and burn thousands, yes, millions, of cords of wood. Yet, give that same person a half-dozen matches and a wheelbarrow load of firewood and the chances are he will have to beg for more matches before he can start a fire outdoors in proper fashion. The chances are his “fire” will start with a quick blaze, flicker and die out in a choking smudge.

Building a campfire means a great deal more than grabbing up a handful of dead leaves and a few twigs, piling them up in a scraggly heap and setting fire to them.

Instead, it means constructing a fire for its intended purpose, building it properly, and tending to it after it has once started. It takes only a glance at a camper’s fire to determine the kind of a woodsman he is.

Scouts are supposed to be versed in the art of woodcraft and many of them indeed are well schooled in its essentials with the exception of the campfire! That is usually the stumbling block. It is not simply a fair weather proposition. It means building a serviceable fire in summer, or winter, spring or fall, blow high, blow low, in rain, sleet, snow or hail. Without matches; perhaps with no “dry tinder or kindlings he must have a fire to warm himself or cook his food.

I have taken the liberty of consulting the works of both George R. Sears, better known as “Nessmuck,” and that lover of the woods, Horace Kephart, for a great deal of the following data.

While one kind of a fire can accomplish both things it is well to know at the start that there are really two kinds of fires: the campfire to furnish light and heat and the cooking fire to prepare our food.

Kephart divides the campfire into three kinds: The Hunter’s fire, the Trapper’s fire and the Indian’s fire.

The Hunter’s fire affords quick heat and a good all-night fire when the weather is not too severe. Two green logs about six feet long should be laid side by side about fifteen inches apart at one end and half the distance at the other.

Lay rows of small sticks across the middle of these logs and lay the tinder on them. Lay a heavier green stick at each end of the tinder and place dry sticks on them parallel to the logs. Build this up cob-house style of short dry wood. When lighted, the upper wood will soon burn through and will drop to the ground between the logs and set the inner sides to blazing. Before retiring, pile on plenty of fresh wood and in the morning there will be a nice bed of hot coals to start the breakfast fire going.

The Trapper’s fire is intended for a fixed fire in more severe weather and is built to shed its heat into a lean-to or shanty tent. Either find a boulder or rocky ledge or build a wall of rocks about six feet in front of the shelter. Slant the wall backwards. If no rocks can be found drive two stakes in the ground and lean three or four green logs against them and set two short logs on the ground in front of them to serve as andirons. Plaster mud or clay between the logs and around the andirons; in fact, any part of the structure that is liable to be attacked by fire.

The fire proper is built in the usual manner upon the andirons. Such a fire reflects the heat forward and carries the smoke upwards. It also serves as a windbreak to the camp. This fire is not good for cooking purposes but is intended solely for warmth.

The Indian’s Fire is for “one night stands” or where the camper has few cutting tools to prepare firewood.

Cut several hardwood saplings and lay three or four of them on the ground, butts together radiating them like the spokes of a wheel. Build a small, hot fire on and around this center and place the butts of other saplings on this. As fast as the wood burns away, shove the sticks in towards the center, keeping them close together. The fire continues to burn as long as the fuel lasts. A windbreak helps to throw the heat back and if the camper lies down between it and the fire he soon knows what solid comfort means.

Upon the Cooking fire depends a good portion of the pleasure of the campers. Nothing is so disconcerting as to eat smoky food or rations half done due to poorly constructed cooking apparatus. The Indian’s fire can be used in an emergency but an outdoor range is the proper thing for a fixed camp. It is made similar to the Hunter’s fire.

Cut two green logs about six feet long and eight inches thick and lay them side by side; about three inches apart at one end and eight to ten inches apart at the other. Flatten the top and inside faces with the ax. Drive a forked stake in the ground, near Teach end of the logs, and about four feet high. Lay a cross stick in the forks to suspend the kettle hooks from. Kettle hooks are made by cutting several green forks, driving a nail in one of the small ends and inverting the crotches over the cross stick. Pots and kettles can then be hung from the nails. When the fire dies down, different sized dishes can be set along the logs to simmer. Build a small hot fire of bark and hard sticks from end to end of the range. A shallow trench will serve the purpose of the logs where timber is scarce. Leave one end shallower to allow for draught.

Notwithstanding the fact that the scout may be well supplied with portable grates, ovens, etc., he may get caught out sometime without these utensils and then comes the time when he will want to know how to get along with the materials Mother Nature offers. In a fixed camp an oven is practically a necessity and in lieu of a patent one the following will be found to bake with the “best on ’em.”

Select a steep knoll or clay bank nearby and cut the front down vertically. About four feet back from the front drive down a large stake about five or six inches in diameter to a level representing the bottom level of the oven. Then draw the stake out carefully leaving a hole for the flue. When this is done, start at the vertical face and dig back into the bank until you reach the flue. Keep the entrance small but enlarge as you dig back thus forming a sort of arch. Smooth out well and then wet the whole interior and build a small fire which will gradually ‘dry and bake it into shape. Find a flat rock with which you can cover up the entrance as needed to reduce the draught.

When you wish to bake in this oven build a good fire in it of hardwood split sticks letting it burn hard for an hour or two. Rake out the embers; lay the dough on green leaves or on the bare floor and close the door with the stone.

In a case where you can find no knoll, build a frame of green sticks like a lot of croquet wickets placed close together and weave other sticks across them like a thatched roof. Set up a round stick at the rear for a chimney form. Then plaster wet clay or mud over the entire structure except the door and let dry in the sun a couple of days. Then build a small fire and let simmer along slowly until the entire oven is hardened sufficiently. Fill up all cracks and openings which have formed; plaster over again thinly and give a final firing.

Now a word regarding fires in general.

First comes the tinder. This is the foundation of any fire and should be selected with care. Dry toadstools, dead wood found in trees and stumps, dry moss and willow catkins and dry puff-balls are good natural tinder. Perfectly dry grass can be used also as well as dried dung and leaves. These things will not burn with much of a flame but serve to hold fire until the more inflammable kindling’s can be fired from them.

Kindlings can be found in dead wood, dry bark, pine knots, shavings, wood chips, dry laurel twigs, or cloths soaked in grease.

Practically every kind of wood will burn but some with much more life than others. Therefore, it is well for the scout to know that soft woods furnish the kindling while hard woods give body to the fire and furnish heat. Many pages might be written on hard and soft woods but that is hardly necessary in this article as every troop is confined to a small area and the members are probably familiar with the woods in their immediate region.

A good general rule for building a fire is:

First lay two green sticks on the ground as a foundation. This allows air to circulate underneath and is of prime importance. Across these two sticks lay a course of dry kindlings. Then lay your tinder on these. Put two other cross sticks over the tinder and then build up a “cob-house” of wood, increasing the size of the sticks as you build up. The same rule applies in building all fires: a space for air underneath, then tinder, kindling and lastly the layers of firewood.

In wet or windy weather build a windbreak to shelter the fire.

If out of matches and fire making materials you may be able to strike sparks from flint or quartz by striking them with the knife or other steel implement. Use the rays of the sun through your camera lens, field-glass or telescope lens. Tinder may be ignited by using a watch crystal half filled with water in place of a better lens.

Last but not least. When leaving a fire be sure and trench it and see that it is entirely out. Don’t neglect that. It may save thousands of feet of valuable timber from being destroyed. That is a scout’s duty.


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