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[Ben]:I have made FIRE! Again. Discuss This [0 comments so far] View Comments
Over the weekend, Nate and I, accompanied by Beth and Nixie went out to test our firesteels and bannock. It was an iffy proposition since it was supposed to rain and Nate was scared about getting wet, but at the last minute he decided we'd go for it.

We set out at about 1230 and worked our way through the brush to the woods behind his parents' house. Nixie led the way but like the good dog she is, stayed reasonably close. After crossing the stream, we scouted out a reasonably good location that offered us a good view of the water and beyond, a handy spot to dig the fire hole and plenty of fuel at hand. We didn't make considerations for shelter at the time.

Beth and I dug the Dakota fire hole while Nate futzed around with feathering sticks and making sparks. We dug the hole using a hatchet and a knife to loosen the soil, then scooping it out with our hands. Since we had picked a spot on a bank overlooking the water, we dug in horizontally from the edge of the bank and down about a foot from the edge. The horizontal cut served as an air hole while the vertical excavation acted as the combustion chamber. Having prepared that, I started striking on some locally gathered tinder. It lit remarkably well for being slightly damp (there had been a few showers over the previous few days and the morning before we went out) but I hadn't properly prepared the fire chamber. Having had success in lighting natural tinder, I re-prepped the fire chamber and used some braided jute twine to light it.

I should note that Nate independently made fire a number of times with his striker.

Now that we had a fire going, I went and cut a few green sticks to lay over the pit and act as a cooking surface. The saw blade in the handle of the Gerber hatchet that Nate and Beth got for me as a birthday present a while back worked beautifully. While they tended to the fire, I pulled out an enameled steel camping cup with a handle made from picture-hanging wire and fetched some water from the stream. When I returned, we looped the wire handle over one of the green sticks and lowered the cup into the fire.

One thing I noticed about the fire hole was the importance of divining the wind direction. If you have a steady breeze going into the air hole, it starts to roar as air is forced into the combustion chamber and it really gets hot. If the air is still, the pit is self-sustaining but not as energetic. On the other hand, if the wind gusts opposite the air tunnel it can still the fire and make a lot of smoke.

The water boiled pretty quickly and we carefully allowed it to cool. Aside from a few flecks of ash on the surface and some sediment on the bottom, it looked reasonably potable. I tried some and offered sips to the rest of the crew (except for Nixie, she can drink the water straight from the stream ... downstream of where we got ours, thank you very much). It frankly tasted better than water at our house does straight from the tap.

After it cooled a bit, I mixed some of the warm water with the bannock mix that I had brought along. It actually mixed very well in a zip-top bag. Nate stripped the bark from a stick and I wrapped the bannock dough around it, then propped it up over the fire. We all skewered hot dogs and started roasting them over the fire pit. Another benefit of a Dakota fire hole is that it is easier to cook over since you can prop sticks across the top to set things on, as well as being able to sit much closer than you could to a traditional campfire. In fact, it was so easy to cook with that I ended up getting a little sloppy when handling the cup we were boiling water in which resulted in some minor burns from pinching a very, very hot handle. The bannock turned out quite well, if a little doughy. Next time I'll either cook it farther from the heat so it cooks all the way through, or wrap the dough more thinly. A great meal was had by all.

We sat around the fire for a bit when Beth began to complain of rain. I tossed her a poncho and Nate and I set about constructing a shelter from tarp and 550 cord. Mine covered more ground, but Nate's was more sturdy and offered more protection. We hung out around the shelter for a bit (long enough to know it would work) then began to tear down. The fire pit again showed its value since smothering the fire was as simple as stomping the pit in over the coals.

By the time we got all packed up, the rain was beginning to pick up. We hiked back out (somehow I was the only person to tear his poncho on various thorns and brambles, but I did a fine job of shredding it) and I went home.

It was a great time, and I want to do it again when I get the chance. Much, much fun.
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