6 Firelays To Keep You Warm Outdoors

Tipi Firelay

The tipi firelay is one of the most common, probably because it’s also one of the most simple to make. This firelay is a favorite among campers and preppers because it is quick to light and can be made out of various materials like twigs, sticks, and branches.

As its name suggests, your firelay should look like a tipi shelter. First, gather some tinder, then build a triangular or tipi frame of kindling around it. Start with small sticks, gradually working your way into thicker kindling material. Leave an opening on the upwind side of your tipi structure so you can set your tinder on fire. This also lets some air in, which feeds the flames. Once lit, the kindling should fall in on itself. Keep on adding kindling to the fire as needed.

Due to its pointed structure, a tipi firelay allows the heat to be directed in one single direction, making it ideal for suspending a pot of water or stew right over it.


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Haystack Firelay

This firelay is so easy that you don’t even need a tutorial video to know how to make it. A haystack firelay is pretty self-explanatory: it’s a firelay that looks like a mini-haystack. Call it a lazy prepper’s firelay if you will.

Basically, you gather tinder, light it up, and just gradually stack any flammable material you can find— leaves, twigs, sticks—working your way up to larger wood fuel. Since it doesn’t have any structure, your haystack firelay won’t burn as long as other firelays do, but it should be useful for when you’re in a hurry or don’t have a lot of materials handy.

Star Firelay

Think of the star firelay as an upgraded version of the haystack or the tipi. You can build it with far less material than most firelays, but your campfire will still burn for a considerable amount of time.

Constructing it is pretty simple as well. Start by building a small pile of tinder and kindling. Then, around it, place 3 to 5 pieces of large fuelwood, arranging them just like a star. All you have to do is push the large pieces of fuelwood in as the fire grows. While it does require some tending, this firelay is pretty useful when you don’t have the resources to chop large pieces of wood.

Lean-To Firelay

Curious how most firelays share similar names with survival shelters, isn’t it? The lean-to firelay basically looks like the shelter of the same name. Start by looking for a large tree branch around the same size as your arm.

Collect some kindling (you can use twigs and sticks) and lay them perpendicular to the large branch, making an angle. Underneath the kindling, put some tinder and light it up. Gradually add layers of kindling over the original lean-to firelay. This type of firelay is particularly helpful during windy days; you can use the branch as a windbreaker to protect your fire. Make sure not to leave too much airspace or the tinder will burn out without catching the larger pieces of kindling.

Log Cabin Firelay

A log cabin firelay is what you would make if you want a nice hot bed of coals. This firelay is far from basic; its construction involves a lot more skill and materials, but it’s pretty rewarding when you do it right.

Log cabin firelays burn from the inside out. Unlike the teepee, which concentrates the heat in one direction, a log cabin firelay spreads the heat along its surface area. It burns longer, too, so it’s perfect for long, cold nights.

To build a log cabin firelay, start by gathering some tinder. Then, using four large pieces of fuel wood, make a square around your tinder. Put a layer of kindling around it, then add another layer atop it, working your way to more pieces of wood as you go along. If the ground is damp, make sure to build your log cabin on top of a layer of firewood so it would light properly.

Upside-Down Firelay

The upside-down firelay goes by many names. It’s also called a council fire or a pyramid fire because of its structure. Like the log cabin, it’s one of the more advanced types of firelays, but it should offer a lot of rewards when executed correctly. The upside-down firelay is a self-feeding fire; once you get it started, you virtually don’t have to tend it.

The upside-down fire works like a candle, as it burns from top to bottom. At the very top of the firelay, you can find the tinder, usually arranged as a small tipi. The kindling gets bigger and thicker as you go down the structure, and at the very bottom, you can find the biggest pieces of fuel wood.

This type of firelay produces a big, constant flame so it’s good for big groups. Although it involves more materials and takes some time to build, the upside-down firelay can keep you warm all through the night and will leave a nice amount of coal after it burns out.

Final Thoughts

Building a fire and keeping it going is an essential survival skill. A fire is necessary to regulate your body temperature, especially at night. It gives you light in the dark and allows you to purify water and cook food. Without a decent fire, your chances of survival would plummet. Learning how to construct the right firelay is important in keeping a fire going. Practice making each type of firelay now so that when the situation calls for it, you’ll be ready.

Do you have a favorite type of firelay? Let us know in the comments below!

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