For those of us in the U.S., winter is right around the corner (or already here) which is reminder of how important it is to have heat during cold weather. This means, of course, that knowing how to build and tend a fire is a vital part of your survival skills.
The first thing to consider is where you are going to build the fire. Rich M explains why:
Finding a good location for your fire is even more critical in cold weather than it is at other times. To start with, the ground may not be dry. Chances are, things will be covered with snow, making it hard to find good, clear locations. If they aren’t covered with snow, then you might find that all you have is frozen ground. That won’t work well, either, as the fire will melt the water in the ground, which will then try to extinguish the fire.
Your best bet is a bed of stones — not just a circle of stones around the fire, but stones under the fire, as well. That will not only protect your fire from the wet ground, but also from any water from melting snow that decides it wants to try and run through your fire pit.
Once you have your location set up, you’ll want to find dry wood and brush to burn. This can be harder that you would think due to the often damp conditions that go along with colder weather and, also, due to the fact that moisture in a plant may be frozen so you may not realize how wet the plant really is until you try to use it for fuel.
Rich M. recommends testing the weight of the branches so that, with experience, you can get a pretty good idea as to whether a branch is dry or if it has the weight of ice in it. He also recommends looking for firewood in the same places that you would seek shelter from a rainstorm, i.e. places covered in such a way that water does not fall on it but is also raised off of the ground so that rainwater does not collect or run through there.
You’ll also want to have good tinder to help you start the fire. Whether you find tinder or carry it with you (in a tinder box), you’ll want dry, easily flammable materials that you can light which will then get the larger branches burning.
Now, what to use to start your fire? While some may want to go the way of the traditional flint and steel, you may also want to stick with the more modern butane lighter. Frankly, I’d recommend the lighter simply because they are easy to find, easy to use, and work reliably well. Having said that, matches are also a reliable choice.
Keep in mind, while these steps may seem simply, like so many other things in life, that doesn’t mean that they will come easily or naturally to you. You will want to make time to practice building fires in unpleasant conditions so that, should you need to do so during ugly weather, you can make it happen with a minimum of effort.