Humans have known how to make fire for half a million years. And across Finland, campfires are a great way to beat the cold and dark in the heart of winter.
Winters in Finnish Lapland can be cold and dark, with only a knitted cap and a pair of mittens shielding you from the Arctic chill. Lucky for you, Finns love campfires. That’s why we set up campfire spots and laavus (Finnish lean-tos) across the north so you can beat back the cold and put a little color back in your cheeks.
You’ll need a few things before you begin: spark, kindling and wood. Matches make a great source of fire, because they’re cheap, convenient and pretty foolproof. Tinder and kindling can be dry grass, used paper towels, or bark. Especially birch bark. It’s thin, soft and burns easily. Lastly, you’ll need wood. In most laavut (Finnish lean-tos), you can find free wood stacked under the floor. Birch burns well but pine takes a little coaxing. Start with birch, if you can, and then throw on some pine when the campfire is going.
A note on kindling: Plastic might burn easy and hot, but it is not environmentally friendly to burn. No matter where you set your fire, plastic goes in the recycling bin, not the firepit.
There are a multitude of ways to stack your wood in a fire. There’s the teepee method. This means you stack the wood in a cone, with the tinder and kindling in the middle. There’s the lean-to method. This means, you put one piece flat, and then lay the others atop it. And then there’s the advanced log-cabin method. This makes your firepit look fancy, and you look like a pro. It also has the added advantage of airflow. However you stack your wood, you want to make sure the fire has lots of air.
When your campfire is almost out, or you’re leaving, it’s time to put out the fire. While it may be tempting to just throw snow at the campfire, don’t do that. You’ll leave a frozen mess for the next firestarters to contend with. Instead, toss a little snow at a time, and mix the embers well. Use just enough snow to put out the fire. When you think the fire’s out, don’t touch the embers! Instead, put your hand over them and gauge their warmth. If you feel heat, it’s too hot. When it’s cold, you can leave it alone.