A campfire can do more than just make you warm. It cooks your food, helps make tools and gives light. Civilization grew as humans developed more conveniences for campfires and hearths. When in the wild take advantage of resources to build your campfire into a hearth that will make life more comfortable.
1. The fire ring
Clearing the ground and placing stones in a ring are necessary to contain the fire. By placing larger stones 180 degrees from each other in the circle, it will provide you with two pillars on which to place accessories which will be elevated above the fire.
Your campfire should face your shelter’s entrance. On the opposite side of the campfire facing your shelter’s entrance, build a low wall made of logs by driving two small poles into the ground several feet away from the fire ring.
Make sure the tops of the poles slant back away from the fire. Stack logs against the poles so they form a wall. This will reflect heat back toward your shelter.
Sharpen small diameter hardwood branches to skewer meat, vegetables or rhizomes to roast over the fire. Branches with a Y where another branch has grown from the main branch can be sharpened to make a fork. A spit can be placed across the two pillar stones to slow roast and turn meat.
4. Wind screen
Cut willow branches and stick them in the ground in a semi-circle around your campfire to leave yourself a path to enter and exit. Don’t place branches into the ground between your campfire and shelter. Weave more branches horizontally into the semi-circle. Fix tree bark to the wickerwork screen by tying or weaving.
If you’re close to a stream bed, search the area for a flat, water-worn rock that will span your fire ring resting on top of your pillar stones. Build a low, steady fire underneath the rock allowing it to heat slowly and stay heated. Batter from cattail roots and pollen may be cooked into pancakes here and foods fried.
Rocks may be formed as a box in the center of the fire ring. Food may be wrapped in wet, green leaves and placed in the box. Rocks may be placed on top of the box to cover the oven. Slow, steady fires are built around the box and checked to burn evenly. Coals are placed on top of the box. The food inside this oven will bake.