What is a Survival Firewall?

Backcountry Hacks: Firewalls

Casey Keefer

What is a survival firewall? In the wilderness, even the simplest of tricks can score the biggest results. If you don’t have fire, you don’t have warmth. Say goodbye to cooked food. Say hello to bitter cold nights. When you are sleeping on the ground in below freezing temperatures, the orange blaze of a warm fire is not just wanted for comfort. It is needed for survival. We should know, right?

Fire is one of our top priorities whenever and wherever we are dropped….and it’s not just for the obvious reasons like food and warmth. After a long, brutal day in the bitter cold brawling with Mother Nature, the act of sitting around a fire at the end of the night restocks our energy. It gives us time to rejuvenate and regain mental stamina. And when you’re trying to survive, mental stamina is more than necessary. Fire is a lifeline.

Starting and maintaining a fire at camp is essential. But building a fire is one thing. Keeping the fire is another thing entirely.

When keeping a fire ablaze, the wind is often your biggest inhibitor. The best solution to preventing the flame from going out? Build a firewall.

1. What is a Survival Firewall?:

A firewall is a simple barrier that protects the fire from being blown out. Built by stacking rocks between the wind and the fire, the firewall redirects the gusts of wind to avoid the fire pit.

For a firewall to work, you need to use rocks that are sturdy enough to withstand the wind blowing against them. There should also be minimal holes between the rocks to make sure the wind doesn’t find it’s way through and take out the flame.

The rocks also absorb some of the heat, which helps redistribute warmth to the area. Build the fire close to a natural barrier so the heat can bounce between the firewall and the natural barrier. This distributes the heat and holds it within that space for a longer amount of time.

2. Fire Starters:

When you need a fire starter, there are some natural resources that act as solid solutions for tinder. The tinder fungus is a dark mushroom usually found around the base of birch trees. These little mushrooms can burn for hours, even in wet conditions. Pine-cones are also efficient tinder and will work even better when coated in wax. Pine resin is also known as a natural gasoline and burns well in most conditions. Taking some time to find resin on nearby trees is a natural way to get your fire going.

If you are in a camping scenario, you can use other materials from your campsite, like snack chips, Vaseline coated cotton, sparking steel wool via battery, directing sunlight through a clear bag of water, or packing dryer lint inside toilet paper rolls…just to name a few.

When starting your fire, make sure the ground is neither too wet or too dry. Too wet and the fire is less likely to catch. Too dry and the surrounding ground may catch and spread the fire.


Knowledge is crucial when you’re out in the wilderness, whether you’re dropped for weeks or camping for a weekend. Knowing how to start and keep your fire can be a game changer…and a life saver.