Advice From Experienced Hunters: Living Fire

By | August 7, 2020

No matter how sophisticated modern northern travelers, sleeping in special insulated tents, climbing into sleeping bags made of eider down or ultra-modern insulating materials, they can get heat only from themselves, from their body, from the amount of calories that the body absorbed from food instead of spent on a difficult transition. No wonder for the conquerors of the North Pole or Antarctica, special super-calorie rations are made.

Of course, you can also warm up near some portable infrared emitter. However, even the most economical one will still “eat” oxygen in a tent, and a lack of oxygen for a tired body is fraught with serious consequences, especially in conditions of high latitudes, frost and wind.

To tell the truth, even today I do not see an alternative to a bonfire, to that living fire that warmed our distant ancestor in fierce winters.

First, a person does not spend his energy on warming the body, but only receives it.

Secondly, try to dry sweaty underwear even in the most perfect tent in winter, in the cold, and nothing will come of it. You will have to dry it on your body, spending your own heat. By the fire, even in the most severe frost, you will do it in 10-15 minutes and you will sleep in dry clothes, breathing in the fresh frosty winter air.

Of course, all of the above applies only to the forest zone, where you can get firewood for the fire.

How to build a fire quickly and economically?

To begin with, every self-respecting hunter, regardless of whether he smokes or not, should have matches in his pocket, securely packed and sealed in polyethylene. Hide a few matches together with a grater in a plastic cup from under validol (borrow from someone who suffers from a heart). Strengthen the lid with a piece of adhesive plaster so that it does not bounce off by chance. It’s nice to have special “hunting” matches. They burn for a long time, like a “sparkler”, and will help the hunter to light a fire without much effort in rain, frost, and even in very strong winds. If all this is stored in a securely zipped pocket and closer to the body, then, believe me, you are not even afraid of swimming in an autumn or winter river. There would be firewood on the shore.

Further – kindling, “kindling”, as the taiga people say. Do not strain yourself too much, cutting small chips in the form of a Christmas tree on a dry stick. This is a long task, and building a fire sometimes requires very quick action.

From my own experience, I was convinced that the best kindling at any time of the year and in any weather for me was chips from an old resinous pine stump. The best of them are on old burned-out areas. By the way, resin is driven from these pine stumps, which have been pricked into small woods, for the purpose of reshaping wooden boats. If possible, it is worth preparing a sufficient amount of resin chips in reserve.

Almost as good for making a birch fire. It is better if it is removed from a standing or recently felled tree, for example, in a felling area, and dried.

It is also harmless to have it with a margin. Birch bark from a fallen or rotted birch, of course, will do, but it catches fire much worse.

There is always dry kindling in the depths of the crown of some large coniferous tree, near the trunk itself. Usually it is spruce or cedar. There, even in the rain, there are dry thin twigs, moreover, rather resinous.

It is difficult, I repeat, to kindle a fire in severe frost. The chips catch fire slowly because they are so deposited that it takes a while for them to warm up. Even a match sometimes fails to light if the box is kept in an outer pocket, and not near the body. This is where the kindling from a burnt pine stump comes in handy. Resin ignites instantly in any frost.

By the way, never fan a burning flame with your mouth, with your own breath. It is better to use a piece of birch bark, a piece of cardboard or any flat object, a lid from a kettle or saucepan, waving it near the ground in front of the coals.

You will make a daytime fire in order, for example, to boil tea, cook food in the middle of the day’s march. This is a small fire that can be built in a quarter of an hour. If the snow is not very deep, rake it to the ground, otherwise it will melt from the heat, the fire will go into it and will smolder, not burn. However, in the northern taiga, where there is a meter of snow, or even more, until you get to the ground, you won’t even want tea. Therefore, it is necessary to trample with skis on a ski area with a ski length and a width of about a meter. Cut down a few thin aspens or some other deciduous trees in the neighborhood, chop them into one and a half meter long perches and lay them tightly to one another to make a flooring, a platform. Make a fire on it, and above it on a long inclined pole, stuck in a snowdrift, hang a kettle or a kettle and enjoy life.

Now the fire will not go away into the snow, and so that you feel very good, put the skis on top with the camus (if they are camus skis) side by side like a bench. For your feet, make a groove in the snow and hide your feet there, otherwise the snow on the shoe will melt and it will get wet.

A campfire is a bonfire for the whole night. How it is arranged determines your rest during a long winter night. When people write or talk about night-lodging fires, they usually start with a nodia, the fire of the Ural hunters, although it requires the most time for its preparation. This bonfire is not very popular in Siberia. The Siberian taiga fire is more common there, and in Gorny Altai there is another one, which I called Altai. About him will be discussed.

The first time I spent the night in the winter taiga without a hut was at the beginning of 1959, when I was a researcher at the Altai Nature Reserve. For two weeks we surveyed the winter camps of marals in the Kamga river valley. The snow in these places was very deep – in some places it was up to one and a half meters and even more. Every night we slept by the fire, a large Altai fire – that’s the only way I can call it.

In order to spend the night normally in the winter taiga, you need to prepare for this ahead of time.

We took with us two axes – a big one and a small one, and our guide, an observer of the Altaian-Tubalar reserve, Andrey Tuymeshev, packed a small cross-saw into a sack. He folded it into a semicircle and stuck it over the top of his backpack. Then I realized that the saw for the device of a winter night fire is an indispensable tool. With its help, we prepared the required amount of firewood for the whole night in just half an hour.

In order to build an Altai bonfire, it is necessary to dump several sushins 20 centimeters thick and cut them into logs of the required length. There were four of us, and two people slept on each side of the fire, so we sawed four-meter logs.

Naturally, it is impossible to lay out a fire directly in the snow. Snow had to be dug to the ground throughout the entire area of ​​the future mill. This process is quite lengthy, because its width was about three meters, and its length was four. The snow, which is thrown away with a ski, like a shovel, had to be laid so that a wall was obtained that would serve as a barrier from the night wind and a reflector of the heat of the fire. Small poles are stuck obliquely into the same shaft of snow, cross-beams are placed on them, and then spruce branches to make a roof. On the opposite side, they do the same. These roofs do not close in the middle. The fire and smoke of the fire go into the gap between them.

We chopped a fir twigs under our sides, which smelled of pine needles and resin, like a balm. From above, they filled it with hay, dragging it from the hay stocks under fir and cedar trees. When I said that it was not good, they say, to rob animals, Andrey answered me: “You, boy, do not be afraid. Maral will come, he will rob them worse than us. We will leave, the gameyrgan (senostavka in Altai style) will still eat its hay. But it will sleep softly. We always do this. ”

By the way, Siberian hunters, when they spend the night by the fire, sometimes put a musk deer skin under them. She absolutely does not let the cold through – the hair is thick and dense. Today, it may well be replaced by a polyurethane foam mat, which tourists carry with them rolled into a roll. With all my negative attitude to synthetics, I cannot but praise this rug – you can really sleep on it in the snow without risking sciatica or something worse.

Of course, building a new camp every night is difficult. This takes no less than two hours (there were four of us, I remind you, there were!), And everything needs to be done at daylight. The only concern after the camp was built is the preparation of firewood, which we did in the morning in case we were late from the route.

The fire itself is primitive. Two logs lie side by side on the ground, close to each other, and the third – on top of them, along, of course. The fire burns with an open flame and is very hot. When it burns out a little and the flame subsides, it starts to flicker (smolder hotly) just like the node, but the heat gives much more. His device takes a minimum of time – he threw three logs on top of each other, set them on fire and basked, cook food, sushi clothes and socks. True, it requires more fuel than a node. During the night he has to “feed”.

I like this fire much more than a node, if only because it is almost always light around it. Nodya, on the other hand, does not illuminate the place of lodging for the night, increasing the gloom of the night.

Any dry tree is suitable for a night fire, which, as I said, does not shoot sparks. Fir gives the most sparks.