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kuzmajr

keeping a fire going in snow

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OK, I admit I am new here and have been addicted for a while, my wife thinks I need to be admitted or committed somewhere. I went out in the woods this morning with a knife, cotton balls w/ vaseline, a magnesium fire starter, a small dry stick from in the shop and tried to start a fire. WOW does the cotton balls and vaseline work well, my problem is that everything is snow covered.

How do you find dry stuff to keep it going? I had the old christmas tree and broke some branches off and it took off but quickly died, I looked and looked for dry stuff. I shaved the dry stick but whatever I did it died. I used three cotton balls, then finally gave up and went for a walk.

I think if it were a real situation I would have to try harder but for now I froze, it was 14 degrees out.

I am sure you have plenty of good advice, keep it coming!

Thanks,

ed

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I am also very new at this but from what I've learned so far I would

1- Dig a hole down to the grass/dirt and this is done because the snow underneath the fire will add unwanted moisture as the snow melts, and it will keep the small fire out of the wind.

2- As much as possible have enough material ie, firewood, tinder & kindling at arms reach before starting the fire (you may only get 1 shot ) so you can quickly add material in the order of tinder, kindling then the bigger wood. As far as the wet wood goes I have no idea, but trying somthing is better than nothing I guess.

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Kuzmajor.Winter time,most of the water and sap in trees has gone into the root so the small limbs around you should be used to build a "log cabin".A 8 inch square.

CaptMark is correct ,dig a hole first and remove all snow around it for about 8 to 10 inches,line the bottom with rocks or pebbles or old leaves that are dry first.Small limbs stacked in a cabin like box 3to 4 inchs high, have the rest of the "collection" of limbs already broken up to fit over the cabin.Split your limbs into small pieces/i quarter them.If your carry any aluminum foil(i hope you are) you can use that also to line the bottom.Put the cotton balls in cover with the scrapings you made,be ready to put larger stuff on as it builds up heat.Finding rocks is important!line the sides with them also and afterwards they make great hand warmers.

Cant reach the limbs?????that why a monkey fist knot (a 1''marble insert)and 20ft of cord is handy.

Oh and you took your sling shot with you too.Great now hit something ..lol

Stay warm.its 20 degrees here this morning also .

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once you do get a fire going stack the other wood around to outside of the fire to dry it out.

Find some thing to use as a tender bundle and put it in your pocket to get it dry. start the fire and add the smallest pieces of wood. Trim them with a knife make them as small as you can. add more as the fire grows

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I put a pencil sharpener in with all my fire kits. Find a dry twig, use the sharpener and you got some great tinder. adds near zero weight to your kit.

 

If the snow is deep, pack it down as best you can. Use wood to build a platform which you can build your fire. I use this method of platform building in wet weather as well.

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If you have no dry wood for tinder take live wood strip the bark with your knife the start pealing off small strips like peeling a carrot. Also sap is flammable. The nice thing about snow is a lot the moister freezes out of the air.

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If you don't mind me chipping in here, as a couple people mentioned, dig down to the ground before starting a fire. You do this not just because it is hard to start a fire on top of snow but because you really want to build up a live coal base. The live coal base makes it easier to cook (think wrapping food in foil and letting it sit on the coals) but also because the coals and ash make the fire last longer and use less wood. A good ash base allows the wood to burn to coals and then insulates the coals so they can be banked up to sustain an overnight fire.

 

If you are digging through snow more than an inch or two deep, then take note of the direction of the wind and pile up dug up snow to the windward side of the fire a good two feet away. This gives you room to work around the fire when cooking and for building a wood or stone reflecting backing.

 

When camping out in the winter I frequently build a trench type fire. The fire is fed on one end and the coals are raked to the other end between parallel logs where you can cook over them while still keeping the live fire fed. A lot of people try to cook over a roaring fire which is risky and tough to cook over. The coals give you an even heat cooking surface which is what cooks best and the two logs give you something to set your pot on.

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If you don't mind me chipping in here, as a couple people mentioned, dig down to the ground before starting a fire. You do this not just because it is hard to start a fire on top of snow but because you really want to build up a live coal base. The live coal base makes it easier to cook (think wrapping food in foil and letting it sit on the coals) but also because the coals and ash make the fire last longer and use less wood. A good ash base allows the wood to burn to coals and then insulates the coals so they can be banked up to sustain an overnight fire.

 

If you are digging through snow more than an inch or two deep, then take note of the direction of the wind and pile up dug up snow to the windward side of the fire a good two feet away. This gives you room to work around the fire when cooking and for building a wood or stone reflecting backing.

 

When camping out in the winter I frequently build a trench type fire. The fire is fed on one end and the coals are raked to the other end between parallel logs where you can cook over them while still keeping the live fire fed. A lot of people try to cook over a roaring fire which is risky and tough to cook over. The coals give you an even heat cooking surface which is what cooks best and the two logs give you something to set your pot on.

 

Welcome, Rod.

Of course you are welcome to post although I'm trying to decide if "chipping" in on a thread about fires was a really bad pun or just an accident!:confused: Some really good advice though and thank you for the contribution. Looking forward to hearing more from you. I don't really do any cold weather camping so the stuff from you folks in the more northern climes is welcome. Gives me a knowledge base for when the Glaciers move south of the Mason-Dixon line.

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Actually, Capt Bart, it was a really bad pun. I am good at those! :D

 

I once had an assistant scoutmaster ask me how deep he should dig on snow before starting a fire. We were on a mid January survival campout with the hardier members of the Scout Troop. I told him to the ground and maybe he should pick a spot near a big pine tree where the snow was less deep. He didn't follow either piece of advice.

 

He built a huge fire out in the open reasoning that the heat of the fire would melt the snow to the ground. He was right but it took a huge amount of wood and the hole the fire left was five foot across and three foot deep to the ground.

 

No bad decision goes unpunished. It took three hours for that fire to get to the ground because, what happens when you melt snow? The fire had to also evaporate the water as it sank into the snow. The effort to keep the fire going was tremendous in terms of gathering wood and expending energy. The day was sub zero and snowing. The boys needed to eat and there was no way to cook over a fire that had no ash and no coals at the bottom of a three foot chimney. Plus the boys had perspired heavily feeding the fire and could not warm them selves around an essentially useless fire. If this had been a "real" survival situation they would have been in deep trouble.

 

So I commend Ed for actually going out and testing his fire making skills. You have to actually do this stuff to find out what the consequences are and build skills.

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You guys have a lot of great ideas, unfortunately I have not been back out to try them, got switched to night shift and have to watch kids during the day. I would love to take kids out and try this but it is a committment b/c once I get the fire going someone needs to saty by it and their attention span is very short. I will let you know how I make out when I can.

Ed

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That pencil sharpener is a great idea. I was just at the gorcery store and picked up a box of "fatwood" sitcks. they are made by that company that makes the logs in the bags (name escapes me right now) they appear to be soaked with some type of resin or other flammable stuff. Gonna pop a few in my BOB tonight. think I paid $3 for em.

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I'll add a counter point to the dig to the ground advice. Depending on how much snow there is that might not be an option. i still remember the experience of falling 6 feet threw the snow because there was a bush under me. Terrifying at first but best snow fort a 5 year old could ask for as soon as I figured out how to get out with the help of dad. Any way the point I was going to make is if you have more then a few feet of snow digging to ground is about as easy as digging a grave. If you have to build your fire on deep snow interweave pine bowels to create as large of a foot print as possible for your fire. Next layer is thick heavy wood, it's ok for this to be wet it's purpose is the keep the coals of your fire dry from snow melt. It's not perfect but it should last long enough to cook food. Alternatively I've used burn barrels and sheet metal before to keep the fire dry.

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Sorry, I am still trying to figure out this "snow" thing of which you guys are speaking. Sorry, guys, just kidding, but Capt. Bart, back me up here. We get snow in Houston about as often as out football team wins a playoff game.

 

On a more serious note, if we get some kind of climatic change here on the Gulf Coast (Supervolcano, anyone?), folks are really going to be suffering. We do not have the experience or the infrastructure in place here to deal with even a few inches of snow. Our local governement's answer to snow or subzero temperatures is to shut down the schools and open warming centers for the homeless. That and send out our few salting trucks to do the best they can. I never even saw a snow plow until the first time I went to Pennsylvania in the winter. Thanks for all of the useful information; I'm taking notes.

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Our local governement's answer to snow or subzero temperatures is to shut down the schools and open warming centers for the homeless.

 

i know how ya feel being here in GA. im originally from WV. back when i lived there they were experts at

dealing with snow and bad temps. a foot and a half of snow from nothing over night was normal stuff and nothing anybody was to worried about. (and ive seen homes where i could stand outside at night and look into the livingroom by looking at the exterior walls)

here in GA, man if it snows and its melting when it hits the pavement there is an alarm going off somewhere that i cant seem to hear but folks start to go crazy and hit the stores for bread,milk, blankets, you name it lol.

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One thing I was thinking about is this. Whether its snow or dirt, would digging down 6-8" or so also make the fire less detectable from a distance if your trying to avoid attention? just a thought..

 

P.S. Texas Bill, try being a Cleveland Browns fan, cry me a river brother lol

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here in GA, man if it snows and its melting when it hits the pavement there is an alarm going off somewhere that i cant seem to hear but folks start to go crazy and hit the stores for bread,milk, blankets, you name it lol.

 

It is a time honored tradition.

The problem here is if there is snow there is a two inch layer of ice under it. Add the lack of snow removal equipment and virtually no stock of sand or salt. Then we have a population that has never driven in that type of road condition. A true recipe for a cluster.

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It is a time honored tradition.

The problem here is if there is snow there is a two inch layer of ice under it. Add the lack of snow removal equipment and virtually no stock of sand or salt. Then we have a population that has never driven in that type of road condition. A true recipe for a cluster.

 

agreed. one would think that by now GA would have something in the way of at least getting the major streets treated. no we cant get them all but something is better than nothing.

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Sorry, I am still trying to figure out this "snow" thing of which you guys are speaking. Sorry, guys, just kidding, but Capt. Bart, back me up here. We get snow in Houston about as often as out football team wins a playoff game.

 

On a more serious note, if we get some kind of climatic change here on the Gulf Coast (Supervolcano, anyone?), folks are really going to be suffering. We do not have the experience or the infrastructure in place here to deal with even a few inches of snow. Our local governement's answer to snow or subzero temperatures is to shut down the schools and open warming centers for the homeless. That and send out our few salting trucks to do the best they can. I never even saw a snow plow until the first time I went to Pennsylvania in the winter. Thanks for all of the useful information; I'm taking notes.

 

Quite right, Bill.

They had to close one of our airports because THE deice truck broke down. They wanted to borrow one from Bush Intercontinental but they couldn't spare their ONLY one! We don't do ice and snow here. With all the flat roofs, a foot of snow would crush about half the buildings to boot.

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