How to suspend your pot over a camp fire

Whenever you cook over a campfire, you need a way to suspend your pot over the flames. If you didn’t bring any extra cooking materials (e.g. a metal grid or a pot stand) you need to improvise something with the natural materials around you.

Over the years, I experimented with a number of methods, mainly inspired by the ones described by Mors Kochanski in Bushcraft. Below are some of my findings.

Platform

platform
Platform

The quickest way to keep your pot over the flames, is to rearrange the wood in your campfire so that it forms a platform that supports your pot. You have to keep paying attention though, because as the platform burns down, the construction often becomes unstable

Simple stick

simplestick
Simple stick

Another quick way to cook your pot, is to prop up a stick somehow, and hang your pot from it. The stick has to be supported and anchored by something (e.g. logs). After a while the stick will burn through however so you have to finish your cooking before that happens.

Tripod

tripod1
Tripod with a withy
tripod2
Tripod with rope

My favorite method is the tripod. If you know how to make a withy (= flexible branch that can be used for binding) or if you have some rope, the tripod is easy and quick to construct and versatile. Here’s an excellent video clip from Ray Mears on how to make a withy and use it for a tripod. The height of the tripod can be adjusted by spreading its legs or bringing them in.

Burtonsville rig

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Burtonsville rig

No binding material is required for the elegant Burtonsville rig but it takes some time to cut all the pieces of wood for its construction.

High bar with forks

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High bar suspension with forks
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Pothanger made from a withy

Another method that doesn’t require binding material is the high bar supported by two forked sticks. Multiple types of pothanger on the high bar are possible.

Australian cooking crane

australiancookingcrane
Australian cooking crane

If you’re cooking for a large group in a fixed camp, it’s worth it to invest more time and effort to construct a more robust system like the Australian cooking crane. More pots can be supported by adding cranes.

High bar with tripods

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High bar suspended by tripods

My favorite method for cooking for a large group in a fixed camp is the high bar, over a long log fire, supported by tripods. It takes some time to build but it’s a versatile system and also works on frozen ground because no sticks have to be put in. You can use loops of metal wire or rope on the high bar to hook in the cooking sticks.

Below is a summary of all the pot suspension methods I have tested over the years including the construction time for a single and experienced builder, their advantages and disadvantages.

Summary

Pot suspension method Time to build Advantages Disadvantages
Platform 5 min.
  • Very quick
  • No materials needed
  • Pot does not need a bail (but then you need a pot lifter)
  • Can be unstable
  • Not height adjustable
  • Ash can easily get in pot without a lid
Simple stick 10 min.
  • Quick
  • Few materials needed
  • Stick will burn through quickly
  • Not easy to adjust height
Tripod 20 min.
  • Relatively quick to construct
  • Also works on frozen ground because nothing has to go in
  • Easy to move
  • If you don’t have rope, you need to know how to make a withy (= flexible branch)
Burtonsville rig 30 min.
  • No binding material needed
  • Need some precise cuts
High bar with forks 30 min.
  • Can put multiple pots over the fire by adding pothangers
  • No binding material needed
  • Forks have to be well anchored in the ground
  • Not easy to adjust height
Australian cooking crane 90 min.
  • Stable method for cooking for a large group in a fixed camp
  • Can put multiple pots over the (long log) fire by adding cranes
  • Takes quite some time and materials to build
High bar with tripods 180 min.
  • Stable method for cooking for a large group in a fixed camp
  • Can put multiple pots over the (long log) fire by adding cooking sticks
  • Also works on frozen ground because nothing has to go in
  • Easy to move
  • Takes much time and materials to build
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2 thoughts on “How to suspend your pot over a camp fire”

  1. Nice article. I often use the simple stick method. But I push the back end in the ground en use a movable support log. Moving the support log will in or decrease the pot’s height.

  2. I use the platform method and I carry usually in my kayak just a pot with no lid. Pot gets pretty black but ash inside is no problem if you take account of the wind. I always carry the lightest possible equipment otherwise I get wet in the kayak on windy days or in rapids.

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