Have you ever wanted a fire to last all night long, but didn’t want to stay up feeding it hour after hour? Most nights you lay down and open your eyes again two hours later just in time to throw more tinder and wood on just before it goes out. Recently I was watching a video on Far Northern Bushcraft – a favorite Youtube channel of mine – about how to keep your fire going all night long. The short version is you take one log and lay it top of another and light them on fire. Once the fire is established it will burn very slow.
The rule of thumb on this fire is that for every inch of thickness you have in your logs it will burn for one hour. Thus, if your logs are eight inches thick the fire should last eight hours. Nothing is ever that precise in the bush of course, but it does give you a reference point.
Materials and Procedure
I started with two logs about four inches thick. After chopping them up with my ax I carried them back to camp and then cut four green poles about four feet high. Then I flattened the two logs by taking my ax and trimming about two inches of wood off each length leaving a flat side along one side of the log. Thus, if you stacked one on top of the other they would lay flat without support. I drove the poles into the ground and stacked the two logs one on top of the other with some tinder and kindling between them.
To reiterate, this is not a big fire. It’s more of a smolder that will last most if not all of the night depending on how thick your logs are, what kind of wood you’re using, how hard the wind is blowing, and stuff like that. I set my fire up with kindling in front of it as well as in between the logs with spacers and then lit it. After a small blaze that lasted for a few minutes I was rewarded with a fire that smoldered between the two logs. For more info check out the short video I made:
The only real downside to this fire is that because it burns so slow it emits a good deal of smoke. If you set this up in front of your shelter for heat make sure you’re upwind or you’ll suck down smoke all night long.
The fire lasted about 2 1/2 hours before I had put it out, but was well on its way to burning the full four hours predicted by the rule of thumb. The next time I head out for a backwoods camping trip I’m definitely going to try this set up. You’ll want an axe to help get this set up properly and don’t forget to use green sticks for the support posts. That way they won’t catch on fire as it burns through the night.
Got any tips for an all night fire?
Sound off below!
Funny thing…a troop of local Boy Scouts started a small forest fire when their all-night campfire burned into some tree roots and escaped the ring of rocks. The kids woke to engulfed brush beyond camp.
Odd thing is they were or practicing the all-night fire technique during the summer heat and just days after the stage 4 fire restrictions were lifted.
I suppose there’s a danger of that happening every time you light fire. Hope nobody got hurt!
Certain time of the year when pine trees drop the sap down to the trunk/roots this could be a problem.
Hua…. Pretty good idea Jarhead. Thanks.
Thanks, Novice. It’s something I picked up off the Internet and thought looked cool enough to try. Not my original idea, but I like it!
Thanks for the video, most people (including me) learn better/faster with visual aids! May I suggest a few possible changes? First, make your fire ring in a horse-shoe shape with a shallow trench (6 inches) from the center to about a foot outside the ring (through the opening); this will give your fire more oxygen and thus be less smoky. Second, on the side opposite of the horse-shoe opening (and away from your shelter), place rocks (a large flat rock or two works best vertically placed) to make a 1 1/2 to 2 foot wall; this will (as the rocks heat) create a draft just like a chimney and draws the smoke upward. Remember that heated air and smoke rise (hopefully) but heated rocks radiate in all directions, so be sure to clear the surrounding area of potential fuel! Have all the wood in your fire inside your fire ring. A thicker log burns longer because its surface area is less than several smaller twigs/logs, so less oxygen can get to the fire, thus it’s more likely to smoke, and a hotter fire burns its fuel more completely. My solution is to set (say you want your fire to last for 10 hours) three 5 inch (diameter)logs on the ground (or on moistened sand/dirt if tree roots are close to the surface), use four rocks (two at each ends) to keep the bottom layer from spreading out, then stack two 5 inch (diameter) logs as a second layer. Arrange your tender and small twigs in a small heap over the center of the stack, ignite it, then wait about 20 to 25 minutes for the small fuel to burn and get the 5 inch logs well lit. This is a good time to use the relatively flat surface of the second layer to cook your supper, heat your coffee, boil some drinking water, etc. (two birds with one stone)! After the fire is well established and/or your supper is cooked, then remove any pots or pans from the second layer and place a 10 to 12 inch (diameter)log on the top. Along as your wood is dry, this method will provide a long burning, almost smoke free, lots-of-radiant-heat camp fire! Almost fool-proof! If the available wood is damp, then placing extra small logs around on top of the fire ring will allow the radiant heat to at least partly dry that fuel, and expect to use more small twigs to get the 5 inch logs well lit! Good Luck and happy prepping! (GLAHP)
So if I’m reading this correctly… three 5″ logs on the bottom, then two 5″ logs on top of that. Light it and wait for the fire to get established, then put a 12″ log on top.
Sounds good! It burns a bit more wood than the one I show here, but I’ll have to this one too. Thanks for the suggestion.
You could make a fire bed, where you create a 8 inch deep sleeping area then burn a fire on this area for two hours, then bury the coals with four inches of topsoil to give a barrier between you and the coals, this keeps the spot warm long enough to get a decent night’s sleep. To help remember it, use twofoureight to remember the measurements. The fire bed works for an overnight shelter but for something more long term, build a raised bed about 8 inches off the ground and then put medium sized rocks(it cant be porous as heating the air pockets may cause it to explode) on your evening fire and roll them under your bed before you go to sleep. This is also less of a fire hazard as having a “live” fire in your shelter.