How to Start the Perfect Fire

When you go camping, you almost always want to start a fire. Not a forest fire, of course, just a small one, enclosed with rocks. Most people just go out and collect logs willy-nilly, but that’s really not the best way to go about doing such a thing. The type of wood needed is precise, or you’ll have a smoky fire, a hard to light fire, or maybe even none at all.

Hard and light springy woods tend to be good, while softer, spongier ones tend to be bad. Hard heavy logs are even worse, as they might have internal water. Similarly waterlogged woods tend to be found near the banks of rivers or streams. In general, knocking a few pieces of wood against each other should give you a good picture; the sound should be a sharp twang rather than a dull thud.

The best wood, however, can only be found in coniferous forests, and won’t soak water in rain or snow. This guide will teach you how to find it.

First, find a coniferous tree. This can be pine, cedar, or larch. Amongst the lowermost branches, there will almost always be a few dead, leafless ones. When snapped, the broken edges should have a strong perfume and an amber, pink, red, or bright yellow color. If they don’t, keep looking! This brittle wood is known as “Jhukti” by natives of the Himalaya. This special wood is also found in the heartwood of thicker, fallen coniferous branches. It is the best for starting fires.

You should also find a smooth, flat stone or a piece of bark, along with a couple of thick logs. These logs don’t need to be Jhukti, and I’d be pretty surprised if you managed to find a log of Jhukti anyway. Place a few pieces of the Jhukti on the stone or bark, leaning it against the log. Light it aflame. It will sputter and spit, dripping burning droplets of resin, and giving off a pungent, but slightly pleasant, odor.

Then you should pile twigs on it, leaving small gaps for the flame to breathe. Larger and larger branches can then be added. You should also strip off the bark and leaves, as this will make the wood better for burning.

Never use paper, cardboard, dry grass, or soft wood, as these will choke up and kill the fire. Also, observe general fire safety and put out your fire after you are done.

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