What’s so special about wild camping? I’m a fire starter…

Part 2 of 2

Wild camping is back to basics. That includes heat and cooking. I love making fires, it’s a skill. You can’t get a fire roaring quickly if you don’t find dry dead twigs to start your fire. I don’t put chemicals or fuel on a fire to get it going, but I will use paper or saw dust. I prefer the challenge of starting a fire authentically. I have used a flint and that does require a high level of organisation and a dry kindling ball to catch the spark. Twigs and sticks need to be organised before you start, if you can’t feed the fire at the right rate with the correct sized sticks, it’ll go out and you’ll need to start again. Making a fire can be an unforgiving process. You need to learn what to do and how to do it, then you must be organised and do it.

When I go paddling in Scotland, after lunch, the agenda changes slightly we start looking for a suitable place to camp and for dry wood for the fire. The boat can be piled high with bits of wood we have found left stranded from a time of flood water. Sometimes we find drift wood, in other places branches have fallen off a tree, the best kindling is the dry dead twigs on the tree. They snap with a crack they’re so dry. Look at the tree – does it have leaves and do the twigs/branches bend? If you’re getting a yes to either of those questions, it is alive, so leave it. There’s too much water in the wood, it’s better to find dead wood. No one should be cutting down live wood, it’s selfish destruction and ruining the area.

On the edge of the loch we’ll use an existing firepit or make a fire on the stones of the shore. Don’t scorch grass by starting a fire on it, lift the turf for your fire (that way you can put the turf back and leave no trace. Make sure any ash is cold and you water the turfed grass before you leave.) If there isn’t a fire pit bring one. Don’t start a fire in a stupid position where grass and undergrowth can catch fire or tree roots and peat – you will start a wild fire that could do acres of damage and kill wildlife. You are responsible for your actions. When in doubt don’t! I like the Picogrill it’s small, light and you can cook on the fire.

Sitting chatting round a fire just feels good, not just surface gratification, but good down to your bones. Fire has been key to our success as humans. Nurturing a fire and cooking on it, feels good, fundamental and connects us to our ancient core.  Fun snack -take two sieves, add popcorn and pop on the fire. Obviously, you can grill meat, haloumi and vegetables. I’ve cooked fish in foil, calzones and flat breads are good on a gridle. You can make an oven with a gridle and a metal bowl and cook cinnamon twirls. The food tastes so good with the smoky flavour. My all-time favourite is scrambles egg done on a wood fire – slowly so it gets the smoky flavours – it’s delicate, yet rich and complex. The perfect outdoor breakfast.

Watching a fire flicker and dance is beautiful. It allows your mind to just sit empty and satisfied. There’s no where else you’d rather be, there’s nothing else to do, other than maybe put another log on the fire and watch it burn. Watching a fire is mindfulness, you are doing just one thing. No racing mind, no internal chatter, just being outdoors, feeling the heat, smelling the smoke, listening to the crackling and popping, watching the flames turn to embers. As the night closes round, you feel safe and content. The embers glow red-orange. As you drag a poker through them they spring to life, maybe flames for a few seconds, then beck to red embers that twinkle like the stars. The heat is intense, it’s like looking in to a volcano.

Watching the fire die at the end of a night is deeply relaxing. It seems to reset your brain. You feel a calm bliss, like meditation. It allows you to deeply relax and recharge. These sort of wild camping experiences keep you going for weeks in the frenetic modern world. The freedom and the simplicity allows us to get back to who we are, replenishing us. Make time for you. Find a way to do something that accesses the feelings of freedom and simplicity, whether it’s going for a walk in nature or something more… make time for you. You’ll feel calmer and happier. You get a better perspective on your life and the by-product is you’ll be a nicer person to be around.

Make time for simplicity and freedom.

What do you do to experience the feeling of bliss that comes from simplicity and freedom? Or what would you like to do?