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Message Subject Last minute tips for parents when the SHTF
Poster Handle Anonymous Coward
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If hiking to your destination, you'll be building a fire. The reason for doing it may not be readily apparent to the non-camping folks reading this.

Fire is not only used for cooking. In fact, if you're bugging out, and it's warm out, you might not want a fire for cooking anyway. It will give away your location, as sure as the smell of your food. It's far better to eat something quick, then waste time building a fire to cook on. A cooking fire is usually done on coals. That takes time. Most cooking fires are small, as you don't want to waste a lot of time looking for wood to build a roaring fire.

A small cooking fire made in the morning is far better. By morning, I'm talking 4:15 am, not 8:30am. Hopefully you're well on your way hiking by 7am at the latest when the light is good.

You have to think about this, because realistically, you're not going have a pan of bacon to fry up. Maybe some hot coffee in your belly will help you cope though. You can buy coffee in singles, very similar to tea bags, and they are great. That cook fire may be boiling your water to purify it too.

Fire at night gives us well-being. That's the main reason, other than warmth. People relax around the crackling fire, and taciturn folks with a lot of their mind will spill out whatever is eating them. It works as surely as alcohol.

A few stories and memories shared over a flickering fire will be a healing balm for your soul.

If you're not used to making a fire, like most greenhorns, you'll most likely starve the initial fire (spark) with too much wood (fuel)and also starve it of too little oxygen. That's why it smoulders, and not bursts into flame.

Start small. Tiny really. Have everything separated out by size. I know a handful of suburban adults who can stat a fire with minimal matches.

The easiest way is to cheat. You're not being graded. Get a small firestarter block made of wood shavings and paraffin. Cut the block into tiny pieces, and store these in a soap box or something similar. They light very easily, and you merely slowly add tiny pieces of tinder on them, and then form a teepee structure around them. This kind of fire burns very easily, but forms poor coals.

Outside of the teepee, form a series of branches in a stacked square. This is called a log cabin fire, and makes great coals. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish.

Leaving a gap between logs will make it burn better and breathe.

I carry several things to start a fire: wooden matches, a couple of lighters, a magnesium firestarter, a magnifying glass, and a firestarter block. Compressed wax paper works well too. None of this is heavy. All of it is essential.

Starting a fire from a magnifying glass is nutty. Try that at home. It's possible, but not practical. The magnifying glass is much more useful for identifying plants or pulling out a splinter.

Having a pretty big pan to heat up some water, a skillet, and something to wash them in, are all great things to have. Everyone likes to clean up. The only way you can do this is to heat a lot of water, so that means timing it so you're near to a large body of water, have the time to heat it up, taking turns, the wood to heat up that much water, etc. As you can imagine, it's quite an undertaking, if you're talking about enough water for a family of four to wash their hands, faces, and sponge off.

Moist towelettes are much easier. WAY EASIER. Wives don't feel too sexy after a week without a bath though. Ahem.

Think about how you plan to clean your pans. A little soap on the outside of the pan really helps get off the soot. A little water and soap heated in the pan afterwards will loosen up food debris.

Racoons love water. They prefer to dip their food before eating it. If you have water and food present, they will come around. Not a great thing at 1am after finally falling asleep. Raccoon meat is pretty greasy, not much worth eating. I do know a wild character who set up a crock pot and made some barbecue, and everyone ate it, without knowing though.

A fire can be very useful for other things like tool-making. If you have a piece of wood that you would like for a spear, placing the wood near the fire, but not burning it, causes the wood cells to shrink, and it gets very hard. This makes it much more effective. You might want to do this to your walking staffs as it will make them less likely to break. It's pretty easy to find a piece of sandstone to polish them off.

If you need a bowl, you can fish out a small coal, place it on a wooden blank, and blow on it. Slowly the coal will burn a spot in the blank, and through a combination of sanding it with a rock, and burning it with the coal, you can make a bowl. A spoon is a handle with a blank that someone burned into an oval bowl. See? This will save a lot of time versus whittling.

Cooking on a campfire is complicated. Pioneers used a tripod. A chain is suspended from the tripod, and the kettle hung on the chain. This means you'll need special insulated tools to retrieve the kettle. Naturally cooking everything in one pot is smarter than a lot of kettles. Having some kind of wire grate helps. You brace it against a ring of stones, that hopefully you didn't gather from a river. Such rocks can explode from the steam builds up.

If heat is what you're after, you want a reflector. An open fire wastes most of the heat. You want a natural structure on one side of the fire to deflect it back towards you. If things are wet, they can be placed near by, but gosh don't get your boots too close. Putting your boots on a stick upside down drains sopping wet boots well.

It goes without saying (I hope) that critters can crawl into boots at night. I could tell you a wild true story about an enormous spider from the Caribbean, but I digress. Always shake out your boots before putting them on!

If you're staying for more than a day, then naturally you can preserve some of the hot coals at night, uncover them, and make a fresh fire from those coals. In a SHTF situation, matches will be priceless. People actually carried coals with them to get a fire going again in their new camp location.

Now is the time to practice making a fire. Being soaking wet close to winter and trying to make one rapidly is the worst time to learn how.
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