How to Make a Fire Bed

How to Make a Fire BedBecoming stranded in the woods after a hike or outdoor excursion is something most people don't prepare for, but they probably should. Carrying essential items, such as an emergency blanket and some form of fire starter can mean the difference between life and death when you are lost out in the elements. Knowing how to make a fire bed is a skill that every outdoors person should have, especially when hiking in temperatures below freezing. The concept is simple and might just save your life.


Difficulty: Moderate

Things You’ll Need:
  • Dry location
  • Shovel or digging tool
  • Fist-sized rocks
  • Kindling
  • Matches, lighter, flint or other fire starter
  • Dry leaves, pine needles and other types of brush
Step 1
Scout out an area of flat land that is well protected from the elements. Most people will choose an area that is covered by a thick canopy of trees that can catch the snow and rain before it hits the earth. Building a fire bed under a group of pine trees is ideal because the dense needles provide added protection.
Step 2
Dig the trench that will be used to make the fire bed. If you have a shovel, you are golden. If not, you will need to find a thick branch or pointed stone that can act as a makeshift shovel. If you cannot find any of these items, your hands will have to be your tools. The trench will need to be at least 6 feet long, 1 foot deep and approximately 16 inches wide.
Step 3
Make a fist and gather rocks that are about the same size as your closed hand. These rocks will be used to line the inside of the trench. Gather enough of the rocks to cover the bottom of the trench. The rocks should be placed in rows and each rock should be approximately 1 inch away from the next.
Step 4
Search for kindling to heat the rocks. Kindling may consist of leaves, sticks and twigs from hardwood or softwood trees. However, kindling from hardwoods works best because it produces more coal as it burns, making it burn longer and stronger than softwood kindle. Cover the rock-lined trench with a thin layer of the kindling.
Step 5
Light it up. Set fire to the kindling using whatever medium you have on hand. Ideally, that would be matches or a lighter. However, if you have flint or a FireSteel and a scraper, that will work just as well. If you have none of these items, you will need to get creative. Think of what you do have that can be used to start a fire. If you wear glasses, or have a magnifying lens you can use either to start a fire.
Step 6
Allow the fire to burn for at least three hours. The rocks inside the trench will need to get good and hot in order to serve the purpose of heating the fire bed. Keep adding kindling to the fire bed if need be, and make sure that the kindling is covering every last rock inside the trench.
Step 7
Let the fire burn completely out after three hours and cover with a layer of dirt. The layer of dirt should be approximately half the depth of the trench. The dirt will insulate the rocks and keep them hot. Give the dirt a good stomp to ensure that the earth is nice and compact. It will take about 45 to 60 minutes for the earth to heat up above the rocks. During this time you can begin to gather soft items to lie on. This may include dry brush, leaves, pine needles, cattails or any other type of soft, natural items found on the ground.
Step 8
Curl up for the night on the fire bed and cover yourself with any extra pieces of brush that you collected. You may need to continue gathering dry material throughout the night because moisture can begin to collect from the heat that is given off from the fire bed.

Tips & Warnings

Always remember that hardwood trees are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves in the fall. These trees include maple, elm, oak, hickory, madrone and tanoak. Softwood trees are firs, cedars, pines and redwoods.
You can easily start a fire with a lens on a sunny day. Hold the lens on the kindling facing the direction of the sun. As the sun penetrates the lens, the kindling will get hotter and hotter. Eventually, it will begin to burn. Continue adding fresh kindling to the fire to keep it burning.
For the duration of the burn, you might want to consider utilizing the fire for purposes of cooking or sanitizing water. A coffee can, metal bowl or other metal container can be placed over the fire and filled with rainwater, snow or river water and brought to a boil. The water can then be cooled and used for drinking.
Make sure your dirt layer over the hot rocks is at least 6 inches deep. If it is too thin, you can get burned. Be sure no open air pockets are present and that no rocks poke through the surface. Either would allow heat or steam to escape.
Make sure your dirt layer over the hot rocks is at least 6 inches deep. If it is too thin, you can get burned.
Be sure no open air pockets are present and that no rocks poke through the surface. Either would allow heat or steam to escape.


Article Written By Eleanor Jewell

Eleanor Jewell started writing in 2007. She also has a background as a licensed cosmetologist and certified skin-care specialist. Jewell is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in education and a teacher certification.

Don't Miss a Thing!

All our latest outdoor content delivered to your inbox once a week.



We promise to keep your email address safe and secure.