The Teepee fire technique
An overview of the technique, building method and advantages/disadvantages.
Teepee fire as a solidary firetechnique
This fire needs a very little amount of wood. This type of fire is usually made to burn for a maximum of 30 minutes as after a while the construction collapses and the fire will smoulder and smoke. This fire technique needs non to very little maintenance when it’s build right.
Teepee fire as a technique to start a fire
To start a fire with this technique you need a little amount of kindling. Select the type of fire you want to build and make the teepee construction on the place where you would ignite your kindling. The initial fire will burn for about 10 minutes and provides heat to dry for the surrounding wood. As it collapses, it will make the initial coals to heat the heart of the fire. The teepee fire fits all other fire techniques when it comes to igniting a fire.
The name of this fire derives of how the fire is build. Like a teepee.
With this technique, wood can be added from every direction and there is a lot of space for oxygen to be drawn into the fire. Also the heat of the fire pre-heats the surrounding wood, perfect conditions for a fire to gain more strength.
Build technique and methods to start the fire
A teepee fire is easy to build.
First dig out the first ground layer (till sand or rock-bottom) to 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. Lay sticks next to each other on the spot where you want to start the fire. This platform will protect your tinder of the moisture in the ground and supports the fire to get going.
Place your tinder in the center of your platform and place ‘very small kindling‘ like a teepee around, leave some space to add the
ember or other heat-source later on. Add the ‘small kindling’, ‘kindling’ and main fuel (twigs and small sticks) in order to the teepee, every time leaving a small part open to get to the tinder.
Light the tinder in the center of the teepee with a heat source. The fire from the tinder will ignite the smallest kindling and will work it’s way through the bigger kindling until the main fuel burns. When the main fuel starts to burn the construction will lose its stability very fast and will therefore collapse. When the fire is burning, it is very hard to add new fuel to the fire and to maintain the teepee shape. At the point that it collapses, the fire will keep smouldering for a while. The very efficient oxygen-flow which was there at the start will fall away and it is better not to add any new fuel unless you want to build another, longer lasting fire, construction.
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 teepee fire is, like said, effective for starting a fire (especially in wet conditions) and for making a small short-lasting cooking fire (<30 min). Because of it’s construction, a small fire can grow in strength very fast because of optimal exposure to the heat source and optimal air-flow into the construction. This fire technique is especially very efficient to ignite fire constructions meaned for long lasting fires. By itself, this fire can keep animals away and provides a little heat and a short period of light. It doesn’t need a lot of initial expenditure of energy to create the construction. However, this is not very effective as a long-lasting fire or as a maintenance-free fire. It gets messy very fast when the construction collapses. This technique is best reserved for starting a fire or making short-term cooking fire while on a journey, if you do not wan 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 teepee 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.