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Nordic Tip

Light a Fire in the Snow


While a campfire isn't usually necessary when camping in the backcountry, it can be a lifesaver when you have to confront the threat of hypothermia or deal with wet clothing and gear.


  1. Carry dry tinder in a zipper-lock bag; it's great for getting wet wood to burn.
  2. Remember to bring firestarter paste or sticks with you.
  3. Carry waterproof matches and a windproof lighter; store these in a zipper-lock bag for extra measure.
  4. Consider carrying a "fire pan" with you when venturing into snowy environments. A fire pan is basically any flame-resistant metal pan with high sides that can keep ashes and wood inside of the pan.
  5. Place the fire pan onto several rocks or logs to keep it from sinking as the snow melts and light your fire.
  6. Dig a hole in the snow and cover the inside of the hole with a layer of small to medium-size sticks if you're building a fire directly in the snow. These sticks will protect the burning wood from melting snow.
  7. Use firestarter paste or sticks to get your fire going. If you don't have these with you, use shavings from dry wood - or paper torn from any books you have if your situation is desperate.


Never break off twigs or branches from a standing tree, even if the tree appears to be dead. Only use wood that has fallen on the ground. Make sure that you're allowed to collect fallen wood in the wilderness area you are visiting. Never light a campfire if camping in an alpine area, even if fallen wood is available. It takes hundreds of years for alpine areas to recover from fire.