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June 20, 2012
Survival Skills: Build The Perfect Camp Fireplace - 5
by Tim MacWelch
If you had the time and materials to construct the perfect wilderness camp fireplace, what would it look like? This depends a lot on the materials you have to work with. But with a few carefully chosen stones, a shovel and some dirt – you can make my favorite style of fireplace, which I think our ancestors would be proud to see.
Plan The Location
Use your common sense to make the most of the building materials and the campsite when you are planning your fireplace location. Also keep in mind the following:
- Never build your fireplace closer than 10 feet from any shelter and make sure the wind is not blowing from the fire to the shelter, as some sparks can travel on the breeze. Most of us reading this will want to put the campfire east of the shelter, as the prevailing winds are westerly across much of the northern hemisphere.
- Never build your fireplace under a rock overhang or in a cave. The heat could cause the rock to expand, with sections cracking and breaking, and possibly falling down on you and your fire.
- Never build your fireplace close to dried brush, grasslands or other flammable areas.
- Any rocks used should be from a high, dry location. Water logged rocks from low areas or waterways can explode dangerously when heated by the fire.
Build The Fireplace
Now that you have your site chosen, dig a fire pit about one foot deep and one by two feet across. This will be the fire bowl to contain your bed of coals. Next, dig a trench two feet long and as deep as the fire pit (about one foot deep). This trench should come off the oval fire pit so that the excavations are “T” shaped. Make sure that the trench is parallel to the prevailing wind, and the pit is on the side that the wind is coming from. Place some of your loose dirt down the sides of the trench.
Next, use a flat stone that is heat safe to cover most of the trench. Leave an opening at the back of the trench to allow smoke to escape from the back end of the trench, effectively creating a chimney. Use some of the dug-out dirt and any fire safe stones to build a chimney around the trench opening. This chimney build up will cause the fire to draft better.
You are now ready to fire it up. Start a fire in the fire pit, pushing a few burning sticks up into the trench to encourage the fire to draw smoke in the right direction. Use the flat rock as a frying pan and cooktop; use the chimney as a food smoker; and cook over the open fire pit until your meal is done. Add some flat rocks around the fireplace to give you work surfaces, or add two posts and a spit to hang a pot or cook a roast. Enjoy!