Starting a fire is elementary to some people, while for others, its difficulty matches that of the SAT test. There are all kinds of ways to get a roaring fire going in the outdoors, but if you’re looking for maximum simplicity and the ability to use it as a cooking surface as well, we have to go with the Swedish fire torch.
Also known as the Canadian log candle or Finnish wood stove, this type of campfire requires just one sturdy log and an ax, chainsaw, or handsaw to build. The log needs to be fairly well seasoned, meaning it has been cut and dried long enough to lose its water content, which can be up to 50 percent of its mass when living. Since water is the natural enemy of fire, attempting to burn a fresh-cut log will only result in a lot of smoke and disappointment.
Building a Swedish Fire Torch
You create the Swedish fire torch by making 3 cuts into the log, similar to the cuts in a pie: one that splits it in half, and the other two that form an X over the first cut. You can either split the log all the way through or only about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way down to the bottom. Either will be effective when it’s time to make the flame.
Insert very small, lightweight pieces of kindling horizontally into the cuts, building a structure up to the top. Put your tinder on the top of the log, and light it up with matches, lighter, sparking fire starter, or a magnifying glass — whichever is most convenient for you. The fire will begin to work its way down into the log’s interior, where it will receive just enough air to stoke it, but be protected from the wind at the same time. Once you see embers starting to form on the inside, you’re ready to heat up your pan and start cooking.
Depending on the size of your log, this type of fire will burn for at least an hour, giving you plenty of time to make your meal, boil water, and warm yourself up. Because the Swedish fire torch sits upright, this is a terrific method for use on snow, where a more traditional type of fire is at risk of being extinguished by wind and moisture. Check out this video demonstration of the easy-peasy Swedish fire torch, and please try this at home!