Fire: Nature’s Multitool

By Mark Kaz

When it comes to building a bug out bag (BOB), having the right gear will make surviving the crisis at hand much easier. The acquisition of individual tools and gear can become challenging in building your BOB, not only in price, but weight and space too. One answer to this challenge is a multi-tool, a must-have for your BOB. These tools combine all the attributes mentioned above into one very useful product. Well-manufactured multi-tools are sturdy and come with a multitude of applications.

Did you know that nature provides us with a multi-tool? The components of nature’s multi-tool are generally readily available everywhere and it is something we too must manufacture. By using the elements of air, fuel and heat to produce fire, this multi-tool can be harnessed to do many things. If one has the knowledge and experience to apply fire in a survival situation, they’ll know how to make good use of it. Most people already know that fire can be used for cooking and warmth, but those are just the basics. This article will expand your knowledge of fire so you can use nature’s multi-tool.

Basic Fire Applications
Here are several great ideas when it comes to cooking with fire. The use of a kettle or canteen cup works very well by placing it over hot coals and near the fire. Roasting poultry or water fowl is always a great idea and is easy to bake in a survival oven. Simply dig a hole approximately 18 inches in diameter and depth. Then dig two divots four inches deep and wide so your rotisserie branch won’t fall into the fire. Cook with hot coals and low flame while rotating the bird from time to time for an hour or two until done.

canteen cup
A survival meal is warming in a canteen cup.

foil chicken
A survival oven cooking a chicken wrapped in foil.

Cooking larger pieces of meat like venison, steak or pork can be easily done on a survival ground fire. Simply cook the meat over hot coals and control the heat and small flames by having some water to splash onto the grill. There are several other cooking apparatuses you can apply, such as building an above ground survival barbecue grill or a cooking crane.

survival crane
A survival cooking crane showing how to cook a large piece of meat.

Here is a survival ground fire grilling a steak on a bed of hot coals.

Animal Defense Fire
In a crisis or survival situation and planning to set up camp for the night, one of the first things to do is make a fire. Animals are instinctively afraid of fire because they know the harm it can cause. The application of a campfire or a torch will let animals know you’ve arrived. By placing survival torches around your camp, you can help ward off unwanted animals and add light to your camp. Fire can also create a calming effect and can aid you in becoming more aware of your surroundings.

Heat Source Applications
Before it’s time to settle in for the night, building a heat source is a great idea. Understanding how to build a slow, hot burning fire is going to be beneficial in staying warm all night. Building a reverse fire or upside down fire is actually easy to do. The trick is knowing where to light the fire to keep it from burning too quickly.

With a reverse fire, the application is to build a box fire approximately to the height of your hip. You’re going to build this fire by layering the logs in a crisscross form with four logs per row. Place the largest logs on the bottom and build your way up to the desired height. This will help stabilize the log cabin and you’ll have the largest logs burning last. As the hot coals settle near the base, the fire will burn through the night.

You should light this fire at the top, about four to six inches below the top layer of logs. This fire is going to self-feed as the hot coals fall from layer to layer, in descending order. This is an excellent fire to keep warmth around the camp for the entire night. By adding deflector walls you can direct the heat to specific areas of camp. An added benefit of this style of fire is hot coals waiting for you in the morning.

Here is a large base campfire.

Tools and Gear Applications
The combination of tools, gear and fire doesn’t usually come to mind in everyday situations. However, fire can be a great resource when it comes to keeping knives and utensils sterile. The knife that’s been used all day in the forest to cleave wood and harvest animals is the same knife you may have to use to eat with. Before you cut up your cooked bounty, it’s best to clean that knife by waving it in the flames for a few brief moments. Don’t forget to do the same with your fork and spoon or any other items you cook and eat with. The heat of the fire will kill any bacteria that may remain on the tools and utensils. Taking a few brief moments to kill the bacteria is beneficial considering the dangers of becoming ill from dysentery.

Another way to use fire as a tool is with fire hardening wood. If you make a spear, spikes for a trap, or knife out of wood this application is a must. Fire hardening strengthens wood similar to how you heat treat steel. It helps keep a strong edge on the tools you make. By simply waving the tip of a spear in the flames of a fire, the heat hardens the wood. Try not to burn the area being hardened and keep it from catching a flame. The result is making the working area of the tools you made strong and durable.

small fire
A small fire is the perfect size to use when working with gear and tools.

Hygiene Applications
Staying clean and disease-free during a survival situation can be challenging. Most people don’t know you can disinfect your clothes with the smoke and heat produced from fire. First, make a smoky fire by laying several wet logs over a big bed of hot coals. Then hang or wave your clothes over the smoking fire. The smoke and high heat will kill the bacteria in your clothes. The smoke will also remove any bad odors from them. Make sure your clothes remain very hot for several minutes when disinfecting them.

Here is a good example of a hot smoky fire.

Carbon is used to block body odor in some hunting gear. Charcoal is a form of carbon and can be used to block body odors. When you make a fire, COMMA carefully remove a burning log and let it cool. After it has cooled, scrape off the charred wood and smash these pieces into tiny bits. With a handful of these bits you can rub them on your armpits. Charcoal absorbs moisture and will keep body odors to a minimum.

Think for a minute: there is no other creature on this earth that knows how to make and harness fire. There are many ways you can apply that fire in a survival or crisis situation. This article has highlighted many ways to use fire as a tool and I encourage you to further research fire to find other things to do with it. I’m confident this information will add to your knowledge of fire, the creative and active element.

Mark Kaz actively practices survival and has an annual survival camp called Kaz vs Wild in northern Michigan. Details of this camp can be found on his website,

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