How to Light an Upside-Down Fire

Traditionally, fires are built tepee style, from the bottom up. You light your tinder and then pile on some small twigs followed by sticks, then logs until you've got all your fuel on the fire. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s worked for thousands of years. The downside is you do have to manage the fire quite a bit.

There is an alternative: the upside-down fire.

An upside-down fire is essentially the opposite of a traditional tepee fire. The fire burns down and requires little management. The fire won’t look very impressive for about 20 minutes, but this is fine. The idea of this fire is that the embers will fall to the layer below and light that layer; hence why the platform can’t have any spaces between.)

These fires can burn for hours without any interference.

  •     Firstly you want to arrange your largest logs at the bottom, making sure that there is little to no space between them. This provides a platform.
  •     Next put on another layer of slightly smaller logs laid across the platform.
  •     Repeat this with smaller and smaller logs until you are left with a pyramid structure
  •     Now place your tinder atop the fire; tinder can be anything from newspaper, to cotton wool to silver birch bark (depending on where you are). Light the tinder and observe.

When lighting your fire you can use a lighter, matches, ferrocerium rod or a flint and steel. Sometimes you’ll have problems lighting the tinder, especially when your outdoors and it is easier to use an aide. The best aids are soaking your tinder in alcohol (works well for cotton balls) or using a fire lighting gel.

Once your fire is lit, it won’t need much management, so you can sit back and relax for the next few hours either cooking your food or soaking up the warmth of the fire.

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