It’s one of the most important survival skills an aspiring adventurer can learn.
A lifelong love of the outdoors begins with fun experiences and a solid skill set. And building a fire is one outdoor skill every aspiring adventurer should have. A fire can help one survive a backcountry adventure or simply serve as an excuse for scary story-telling on a weekend in the woods. Just about everyone loves S’mores, and you’re going to need a fire to roast those marshmallows.
Which is why we caught up with Emily Campbell, a veteran Boy Scout leader and certified Leave No Trace outdoor trainer, to get some tips on building fires ⏤ specifically, tips for teaching kids how to build fires that’ll start every time. Here is her step-by-step guide.
Be conscious of your child’s age
Every child is different, and you know yours better than anybody. Younger children may only be ready to help gather wood, while others are chomping at the bit to strike that match. Campbell says she teaches 4-year-olds the different kinds of wood that you’ll need to build a fire, but she’s unlikely to hand over a flame just yet. Cub Scouts typically learn to build a fire on their own, albeit with adult supervision, in the fourth and fifth grades. Outdoor skills are a progression, and you’ll need to decide what feels right for your child.
Know the rules
Some campgrounds or beaches may have restrictions on open fires. And in many western states, there are seasonal bans on open fires due to dry conditions. Some areas also ask that you don’t bring your own firewood to prevent the spread of insects and diseases to local trees. “Most of the time, people are imagining that huge bonfire where everyone is dancing around it,” says Campbell. “You have to be careful.” Ask your child to help you read the rules that apply to the area you’re visiting. That way, you’ll communicate the importance of being responsible with fire.
Before building a fire, it’s a good idea to assemble the tools for putting it out. Keep a bucket of water and a shovel to smother the fire with dirt close at hand. You also want to stress the importance of always having someone in close proximity of the fire, says Campbell. Never leave your fire unattended unless it’s completely out and the coals are cold to the touch. Also, be sure to tie back long hair, too.
Find or build a fire ring
Most campsites and beaches will have designated fire rings. If there isn’t a fire ring ⏤ and fires are allowed ⏤ find a flat area with minimal vegetation around it. But don’t forget to look up! You want to make sure there aren’t any tree branches overhanging your fire ring either. Your child can help gather rocks to form a ring and use a flat rock to provide a platform for the fire. “Heat can kill the microbes in the soil underneath your fire,” Campbell says. If there aren’t designated fire rings, keep your fire small to protect the surrounding vegetation and minimize your footprint. You might also consider using a fire bowl to lessen the impact on the underlying soil.
Gather your wood
You’ll need three types of wood to build you fire,…
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