Nothing beats the outdoors … unless, of course, temperatures plummet and you freeze to death because you can't build a fire. These five easy steps will make sure that doesn't happen.
Step 1: Choose a location. If you're camping at a developed campsite, this step has been taken care of already. If you must choose a location, pick one that doesn't present the risk of setting an entire forest on fire. Avoid areas near dried vegetation or other things that may catch fire easily. Clear debris from the area and set up a rock circle, so the fire cannot spread on the ground.
Step 2: Gather materials. Fire starting is a gradual process. For that reason, you'll need tinder, kindling and wood. Wilderness Survival Skills recommends any dry material — emphasis on dry — that burns easily as tinder. Dead pine needles, paper, leaves, dry grass, bark and resin make good tinder. Before lighting the tinder, make sure kindling is nearby. Dead branches, sticks and twigs make good kindling. You'll also need wood.
Step 3: Arrange your materials. Some recommend you light the tinder first and then add the kindling. Once the kindling is going strong, add the wood. Others prefer to arrange everything first and then light the tinder. If you prefer the latter, place the tinder on the ground where you want the fire, layer pieces of kindling in a teepee formation over the tinder and put the wood in a similar teepee pattern over the kindling.
Step 4: Light the fire. If you have matches or a lighter, this step is easy. If you have lighter fluid, it's even easier. Simply strike a match on the tinder — in several locations, if possible. Once the tinder catches, the kindling will catch and then set the wood ablaze. If you do not have matches, you may be able to ignite the tinder with a flint striker or any hard object capable of producing sparks. If you foresee the potential need to start a fire this way, practice before you head to the wilderness. If you use this method, you'll want to add the fire materials after the tinder is lit.
Step 5: Stoke the fire. If the materials are hot enough to produce a red glow but aren't catching fire, forcefully blow on the area. This will help the fire spread. You may have to rearrange the logs with a stick or poker to maximize the amount of oxygen touching the flame. Add logs to prolong fire length, but be sure not to add too much at once or you'll put the fire out.
By the way, make sure the fire is completely out before you leave.