The up-side-down / log cabin / pyramid fire technique
An overview of the technique, building method and advantages/disadvantages.
This fire needs an average amount of wood. This type of fire is usually made to burn for a minimum of 2 hours as it is burning on bigger logs. This fire technique needs little maintenance when build right. If you are looking for a fire that is suited for burning for a shorter period I would recommend another criss-cross fire technique called a top-down fire link.
The name of this fire derives of how the fire burns down. The fire will start on top of the construction and will slowly work it’s way down.
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. Therefore the fire is known for it’s hot bright flames and little smoke. Perfect for cooking, as pots can be placed all around the fire and hung above the fire. Because of it’s 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
An up-side-down 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’.
Place two big beams at ±1ft / 30cm. distance of each other on your fireplace. Now take two or three slightly thinner beams and place them cross over the previous beams. This second layer and all layers above need to be almost impermeable for coals which are falling down. Proceed like this as you make new layers with thinner beams, sticks and twigs. Each layer should be made out of sticks are a little smaller than the previous.
Actually, it’s like placing the main fuel on the bottom, the crossed layer on top is made of sticks, the layer above out of kindling, the next layer out of small kindling, the next layer out of even smaller kindling and tinder on top.
When you light the fire, add a small amount of tiny kindling and small kindling to help the fire gain strength. After that the fire will, most likely, burn for a long period.
When the fire is almost burned down, add some new branches, like described at the Pagode fire.
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 up-side-down fire is, like said, effective in keeping you warm to provide light and to cook for a long period of time (>2hrs.). It will also keep animals away and it doesn’t need a lot of initial expenditure of energy to create. It is not very effective as a short-lasting fire. This technique is best reserved for long-term cooking or having a campfire where you want to focus on other things as maintaining the 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 an up-side-down 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.