The criss-cross fire technique
An overview of the technique, building method and advantages/disadvantages.
When you build it right, this fire needs an average amount of wood. This type of fire is usually meant to burn for a maximum of 1,5 hours as it needs a regular supply of new fuel. If you are looking for a fire which is suited for burning for a longer period I would recommend another criss-cross fire technique which is called a top-down fire.
The name of this fire derives of how the fire is build, criss-cross.
With this technique, wood can be added from any direction and there is a lot of space for oxygen to be drawn into the fire. Therefore the fire is known for its hot bright flames and little smoke. Perfect for cooking, as pots can be placed all around the fire or hung over the fire. Because of its construction, the fire can easily be kept into the original size and the spot will not grow when maintained well.
Build technique and methods to start the fire
A criss-cross fire is very easy to build.
First dig out the first ground layer (till sand or rock-bottom) to making-fire/#beforefire be able to clean the fireplace up afterwards and have a secure fire-spot. Also read ‘Before making a fire‘ (opening in new tab) to read about ‘safety’, ‘order’ and ‘leaving no trace’.
If the ground is damp, build a small platform of finger-width sticks, about 1ft / 30cm square. This platform will protect your tinder from the moisture in the ground and supports the fire to get going.
Place your tinder on the platform with two hands of ‘very small kindling‘ placed like a teepee around it, leaving some space to ignite the tinder with your ember, lighter or other heat-source. Now light the tinder and make sure the ‘very small kindling’ starts to burn. After the flame has gotten some strength lay the ‘small kindling’ on top, followed by the ‘kindling’.
Once the fire is stronger you can start building the main construction of the fire.
Lay sticks on the platform on both sides of the burning fire, leaving a small space between the sticks to support airflow. All sticks of one layer should point in the same direction. Place the next layer of sticks crossed over the previous one and go on like this till the fire is strong enough to light the main-fuel (small branches and bigger sticks). Keep the construction in its square shape and add new fuel every time there are only 2 burning layers left (in case of very small sticks when there are 3-4 layers left).
Leave no trace
To fit this fire into the ‘Leave no trace principal‘ you must dig a fire-pit in advance. This pit needs to be dug till sand or clay-ground is reached. Making a fire on rock-bottom is not recommended as the marks of your fire can never be erased. After the fire has burned down and the coals are cooled, the top-ground layer can be placed on top to leave no trace.
Pro’s and con’s
The criss-cross fire is, like said, effective in keeping you warm, providing light and to cook. But only for a short period of time (<1,5hr.). It will also keep away animals and it doesn’t need a lot of initial expenditure of energy to create. It is not very effective as a long-lasting fire or as a maintenance-free fire though. This technique is best reserved for short-term cooking while on a journey or if you don’t want to make a camp-fire. It depends on your situation which fire technique is best for you. You have to pay attention to the possibility of a root fire when using a criss-cross fire in a wooded area. This is a fire that burns underground along the root system of a tree. Root fires can also travel underground and resurface some distance from their point of origin. This is especially the case in dry conditions.