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 his classic book Bushcraft. Below are some of my findings.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
|Pot suspension method||Time to build||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Simple stick||10 min.||
|Burtonsville rig||30 min.||
|High bar with forks||30 min.||
|Australian cooking crane||90 min.||
|High bar with tripods||180 min.||