Fire

fire

With the elemental comfort of an open fire inside the tent, your outdoor life becomes a truly secure, pleasant and cosy experience — even in harsh weather. And it’s so companionable to sit by the fire, cook food together, talk, relax and connect with your roots.

The importance of fire

It is no exaggeration to claim that without fire mankind would probably not have existed today, and certainly would not have colonized any regions beyond the equator. Since time immemorial, fire has been mankind’s portable summer and sun, protection against wild animals, a tool for making food, and a uniting factor for families and tribes. In brief, fire is the single most important factor for survival and is certainly the element which we at Tentipi passionately want to offer our friends.

In Tentipi’s Nordic tipis, fire is in its proper place: close to people and under strict control. This is a unique feature not found in any other type of tent. It brings the people living in the tent in close contact with the cultural heritage of our ancestors and the life of primitive peoples – quite simply, with the most natural form of outdoor life imaginable.

Fire-making in our Nordic tipis

All aspects of the design of our Nordic tipis focus on providing all the benefits of fire: light, heat and well-being, the possibility to cook food, to dry things and even to make things. This is why a Nordic tipi has a circular shape, with the fire positioned in the centre and with a broad base so there is plenty of room for its inhabitants. The height in the centre is needed in order to create the airflow which removes smoke from the Nordic tipi and lets fresh air in. This is possible because warm, smoky air is lighter than and therefore rises above the heavier, colder, smoke-free air near the ground. Tentipi Nordic tipis have the optimal height/width ratio which makes the extraction of smoke as efficient as possible while having minimal influence on storm resistance.

Getting rid of smoke is a delicate process since efficiency is dependent on the strength of the airflow. There are many factors that can interfere with what everyone wants: smoke-free accommodation.

Varying degree of smoke production from the fire. It is true that a skilful and attentive fire-maker will manage quite well but it is still easy to forget and let the fire die down too much before putting on more wood, which leads to a lot of smoke developing. Wood also tends to be of varying quality and logs can be unexpectedly difficult which can lead to a lot of smoke. In situations like that, the patented indoor ventilation regulation system which our Adventure tipis have is a very valuable feature. It enables you to immediately adjust the outflow of smoke. This is especially important in winter weather since a correctly regulated ventilator cap can increase the temperature inside the tent by several degrees.

Varying wind direction. A change in wind direction can also make it harder to handle smoke. All our Nordic tipis have a ventilator cap; if they did not, the wind would force the smoke back inside the Nordic tipi. The cap can be regulated so that no matter where the wind is coming from, the cap forms a barrier against it which creates an underpressure which actually sucks smoke out of the Nordic tipi.

Incoming and outgoing air. The smoke that is ventilated out must be replaced by new air; otherwise the smoke will stay inside the tent. However, nobody wants a lot of insects coming in with the fresh air which is why all of Tentipi’s Adventure tipis have one or more air intakes fitted with mosquito nets. Our simplest model has only one net on the door while our most advanced model has ventilation openings all around the base which facilitates fire-making when the wind changes direction. In order to increase the strength of the airflow, we have given our Nordic tips really large air intakes and a well-dimensioned smoke opening at the top of the tent.

Prerequisites for fire

Many people are very hesitant when it comes to making a fire in our Nordic tipis. In fact, these people are the ones who are best qualified to make a fire since they have a healthy respect for fire which admittedly can be a terrible enemy. But if you treat it well, it will become a good and faithful friend. We should view fire as a person rather than as an object. An object can be thrown around, even carelessly, usually leading to nothing worse than it possibly being broken. However, if a person is treated like that, there will often be negative consequences. So in that way, fire is a very sensitive “being” whose traits must always be understood and respected.

To keep a fire burning, three conditions must be fulfilled. If one of these is taken away, the fire will die. This is important to know in order to avoid problems and damage.

Combustible material. Most natural materials can be used as fuel but they give very different results. Birch bark burns extremely well but it gives off a lot of black soot and should therefore not be used in a Nordic tipi. The same thing applies for wood from pine stumps and other “tar pines”. Spruce wood has a tendency to give off flying sparks when the gases it contains suddenly explode their way out.

Wood burns in two phases. During the first phase, combustible gases are given off which burn with a flame. When there are no more combustible gases, there is basically only carbon left. This is oxidized with the help of oxygen in the air and carbon dioxide is formed as heat develops. What is then left in the remaining ash is completely non-flammable minerals, constituting a very small part of the wood.

Note 1: In order to prevent the fire from spreading to its surroundings, you must ensure that there is nothing combustible where the fire is to be placed. Often a ring of stones is placed around a fire precisely to stop it from spreading when the ground around has combustible materials such as dry grass, heather etc. However, it is even more important to ensure that the ground under the fire is not combustible. Peat or dead roots in the ground have the troublesome tendency to continue to glow long after the fire has been extinguished, which can result in glow creeping and setting something alight after several hours or even days. That could be sleeping bags in a Nordic tipi or a whole forest after people have left the camp. Checking the ground before making a fire is very important but don’t forget to wet it through before leaving the camp.

Note 2: Heavy types of wood give off heat for longer but provide less light. Lighter trees such as pine give off more light but burn for a shorter time.

Heat. This is the prerequisite which explains why a log does not burn up by itself. An adjacent burning object is what is needed to heat up a log so much that it gives off the combustible gases which are in fact what burn. However, thin, dry sticks which have a composition that gives off a lot of gases produce enough heat to be able to burn by themselves, e.g. a match or a tar-stick. Generally speaking, it is better to use quite fine wood since it burns well and for not too long. This means you can quickly see the effect caused when a certain amount of wood is added and this gives you better control over the size of the fire.

The reason why damp wood does not burn well is because the moisture inside it must first boil away before the wood can burn. This steals heat which leads to poor combustion. You can compensate for damp wood by chopping it more finely and by putting on a somewhat larger amount. The reason why an open fire often gives off smoke is because the ends of the logs are not sufficiently warm and therefore they lie smoking at the edge of the fire.

Oxygen. Oxygen oxidizes the combustible gases and the carbon in the wood. This is the process that creates the necessary heat which means that new gas is continually created and which is the cause of the chain reaction which makes the fire continue to grow as long as it has access to combustible material.

A fire made straight on the ground will often have some problems with oxygen supply since only the top surface of the wood can be fed with oxygen. Moreover, even dry wood contains moisture which heats up and turns into steam which then cools the air and prevents oxygen-rich air from getting to the fire. This is why a fire made straight on the ground often flickers and smokes.

Fire-making can truly be an art

Just like the Sami people who lived in traditional Nordic tipis all the year round, skilful fire-makers can keep a fire burning even using raw wood. The principle behind this is to pile the wood on high so that the top layer is dried by the hot flames underneath. By the time the top logs end up at the bottom of the fire and catch fire, they are relatively dry and therefore burn well. This may seem a strange way of making a fire but it actually does work. Of course the logs must not be too thick if this method is to work. Moreover, it works best with winter wood since wood with sap contains too much liquid.

Making a fire by “drilling”, i.e. by rotating a stick, is not a question of magic. The method is based on the three prerequisites for fire: heat, which is created by friction, fuel which in this case is the actual drill stick, the material drilled against and the ignition material which the glow that is created is to light, and finally oxygen. Oxygen is added when you blow on the glow, whereby the combustion and then the heat also grow. This sets fire to the ignition material and a flame is created.

There are so many tips and so much knowledge about fire-making and many people want to master this skill. However, a perfectly good fire can be achieved by simply using ordinary matches or a lighter and dry, quite thinly chopped wood. Of course it is also important to note and learn from one’s mistakes. In that way, you will become a skilful fire-maker, with a style of your own.

Tentipi’s fire-making accessories

The Hekla fire box, available in two sizes, handles all the challenges of fire-making in an elegant way and it also has some other advantages: it gives off more light and it makes cooking over an open fire easier.

The fire box has been designed to hover some way over the ground, which creates an oxygen-rich airflow through the wood. It keeps the wood gathered in one place and reflects heat back from the sides so that smoking stumps are eliminated. It has a level area where cooking pots can be placed.

Our Eldfell stove is even more efficient in that the supply of air can be reduced by using its damper which means that less warm air is lost from the Nordic tipi. Moreover, the tent is kept completely free of smoke thanks to the smoke chimney.

The special design of the stove makes the fire pass along a longer route which means more of the heat is given off lower down, which is of course where the people in the tent are. It has a level surface where food can be cooked. Naturally, having a fire in a stove does not give any light unless you choose to have the door open.

Respect the fire!

NEVER make a fire without at least one person being sober and continually in charge of it. It is lack of respect for this rule that lies behind most incidents of damage caused by fire. There are some people who have set fire to a tent by putting all the paper plates used at the party on the fire at the same time, causing flames several metres high! We must stress the importance of someone watching the fire. Never leave a burning fire unattended in a Nordic tipi!

Hint: If you make your fire in a Hekla fire box, the fire can easily be carried out and extinguished.

Tentipi — embrace the elements

 
 
 

Design features and fabrics

Find out what makes our Adventure tipis so special.

Read our fire safety document

Learn how to use fire safely in our tipis.

Adventure tipis brochure

Embrace the elements like no other tent.

 

EMBRACE THE ELEMENTS