Originally published (in Dutch) on the Dutch Bushcraft Forum on July 28, 2011 in response to a post about efficient fires to sleep next to.
A fire which you can sleep next to, which burns the longest time and requires the least amount of management is – as far as I know – the Sami long log fire (in Swedish: Nuorrja). This is a fire lay that my buddy Rob Hofman and I learned last year from Johan Forsberg of Nordic Bushcraft in Sweden. The fire can burn about 6 hours without attention.
- Find a strong, straight, dead and gray (no bark) pine and chop/saw it down
- Saw the tree in two pieces of about 2 m and flatten both pieces on one side with your axe
- Light the flat side of the bottom log on fire with much birch bark and pieces of resin saturated pine wood (‘maya sticks’)
- Put the second log on top of the first one (the flat sides facing each other) and regulate the height of the top log and the stability of the construction with wooden wedges/extra sticks & blocks/nails/etc.
Hier are some pictures of the fire from our experiments in Sweden:
More pictures of the Sami long log fire (incl. the build-up) can be found in my photo-album of our trip to Sweden.
The experienced Canadian bushcraft instructor Mors Kochanski calls the Sami long log fire The King of Fires and experimented with it about 15 years ago. (He doesn’t mention this fire in his famous book Bushcraft because he didn’t know it yet by then).
In an e-mail exchange he gave us the following tips about the fire:
- Depending on the diameter of the spruce/pine (at least 50 cm), and the wind, this fire can burn 6 to 9 hours without management.
- It is one of the most practical fires to build on top of deep snow.
- Although the heat output is small compared to a classical long log fire (which requires you most of the time to keep at a distance of 1 step because of the heat), this fire lay is useful at half the distance and well suited for the front of the Kochanski super shelter (for an example of this shelter, see my 1-person and 3-person version from 2010).
- Fuel: in Northern Canada, Kochanski has good experiences with standing, hug-sized (or somewhat smaller) dead spruce.
- Wind: more wind causes better heat output but also higher fuel consumption. In an enclosed shelter the fire doesn’t burn that well because of little air movement. The fire probably burns well between 1- or 2-person lean-to’s facing each other when built paralel to the wind.
- Length of the wood: the shorter the fuel, the longer the fire lasts. The shortest fuel (1 m) is suitable for the super shelter. The ideal length is 2 m. 3 m is to long to burn ideally.
- Other: it takes about an hour before the fire reaches its full heat output. You need a large saw and a small axe to make this fire and it can be useful if you have metal wire and nails to stabilise the upper log.
Kochanski also has some good documents online about fires and shelters suitable for the boreal forest:
(Here he calls the Sami long log fire a Snow surface fire).
(For each shelter it is estimated how much fuel is needed to stay warm during the night).