There’s nothing like a good campfire meal when you’re “roughing it”. It’s a great way to enjoy the great outdoors, but there may come a time when campfire cooking for preppers takes on a whole new meaning. After TEOTWAWKI, building a campfire will get deadly serious as it is a necessary survival skill that you must learn. Fire is critical to your shelter arrangement, purifying water and cooking. With respect to campfire cooking, there are two factors to consider: Portability and Concealment. If you are bugging out, a campfire will draw unnecessary attention to you and the members of your Prepper group. A big roaring fire like the one shown below may not be the best idea.
In addition to learning campfire basics, we will suggest cooking techniques which will do the job plus maintain your concealment. Once you have arrived at your final Bug Out destination, your options are expanded. In days gone by, cooking over an open fire was the rule rather than the exception. Today, our weekend warriors fire up the grill, douse the store bought charcoal with lighter fluid and light it up! The non-warriors use a propane gas grill! Even those who want to try campfire cooking old school can’t seem to get away from modern conveniences. I submit Exhibit “A” …The Weenie Roast:
Let’s get down to business. Here are a few important considerations regarding campfires:
Wood – Campfire cooking requires a clean-burning, hot fire. This is only achieved with dry, seasoned wood. Stripping trees of green wood is a mistake – your fire will be smoky, will burn poorly and create unnecessary pollution. If dry wood is not available, look for tinder alternatives. Use pine needles, bark chips, leaves or moss. Dry wood alternatives will include anything that will burn, including pine cones.
Fire location – Pay close attention to the ground before preparing any fire. Try to create a fire pit on bare soil surrounded by rocks. The rocks will contain the fire and radiate heat. In circumstances where building your fire around rocks is not possible, one should ensure that the base of the fire is on bare dirt. A fire that is burning all evening has lots of time to burn through the organic layer of the soil and will not be put out with a simple bucket of water. Don’t piss off Smokey Bear.
Wind – Any medium to strong wind is hazardous. The danger of sparks getting away can ignite a forest fire. Also, the coals will reduce more quickly and provide much less cooking time. If substantial wind shelter is unavailable, any outdoor fire is out of the question. Look for the leeward side of an embankment or rock outcropping. This will also help shield your fire from view.
The method below can be used either while bugging out, or at your bug out location. The object is to have all the wood turn into coals at the same time. This gives an even fire with no flames reaching up to burn your food or blacken your cookware. It also yields the longest cooking time from the coals.
Prepare the site
– Select a fire site at least 8′ from bushes or any combustibles. Be sure no tree branches overhang the site.
– Make a U-shaped perimeter using large rocks or green logs. If using logs, they’ll need to be wet down from time to time. If breezy, have back of fire pit face the wind.
– Put a large flat rock at the rear of the fire pit to act as a chimney. The “chimney rock” will help direct the smoke up and away.
Lay the kindling
– Fill the fire area with tinder or tinder alternatives.
– Lay kindling over tinder in layers, alternating direction with each layer. Use thin splits of wood or small dead branches. Do not put kindling down “teepee style”. The whole fire area should be covered with the kindling stack.
– Set a bucket of water near the fire area. Safety first my friends. Light the tinder to start your fire.
Build the fire, grade the coals
– When kindling is ablaze, add firewood. The wood should be all the same size, as much as possible. Use hardwood or hardwood branches if available. Distribute wood evenly over fire bed.
– As soon as the last flames die down leaving mostly white coals, use a stick to push the coals into a higher level at the back end and lower level at the front. This will give you the equivalent of ‘Hi’, ‘Med’ and ‘Lo’ cook settings. Or, level the coals to your preference.
To cook, set the grill on rocks or wetted green logs. Put food directly on grill or in cookware and prepare your meal. If cooking directly on the grill, a small spray bottle or squirt gun is handy for shooting down any rogue flames, usually caused by food drippings. If you don’t have cookware or a grill, this is why we consider heavy duty aluminum foil as an important addition to your bug out bag. Place your food in the aluminum foil, wrap tightly and wait until the food is thoroughly cooked. Here is an excellent infographic entitled:
As the fire diminishes, bank the coals to get the most heat from them.
After cooking, add wood for your evening campfire. Before retiring, extinguish thoroughly and soak with water. Turn rocks in on fire bed. It will be easy to reassemble the next. It will be easier to reassemble the next day if required.
Here is an informative infographic on how to build a campfire that you can print for reference:
When it comes to cookware, cast iron is king, especially when cooking off the grid over a campfire. Cast iron will last a lifetime whereas your regular cookware is not even safe for campfire cooking. There’s something comforting about cooking in an old cast iron skillet.
This is one of the most often overlooked preps in my opinion. Most folks don’t use cast iron and are not willing to make the investment necessary to hold it for after SHTF. But the good news is that cast iron is becoming more affordable and can be snatched up at yard sales and restored. There will be a future article on restoring, seasoning and maintaining cast iron.
For now, may I suggest this inexpensive three piece cast iron set to get you started:
Happy Prepping my Happy Campers!
Because you never know when the day before … is the day before. Prepare for tomorrow.
~ by Bobby Akart
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