When all 3 elements of the fire triangle combine what can occur?
Well, if you have the correct proportion of heat, fuel and oxygen present and you have a source of ignition, such as a spark, or flame – then you have a good chance that a fire will start, as it has all the required elements.
This could be a good thing if you are looking to start a fire…It could also be a very bad thing if you are not.
Always be mindful of potential ignition sources and keep things such as tinder and stored wood well away from anything that could ignite it.
What are the Three Parts of the Fire Triangle?
The three parts of the fire triangle are heat, fuel and oxygen.
Most of us will be aware of the fire triangle from those school science lessons.
However, it is worth briefly going over again though, to reinforce its importance when lighting a fire in the field.
Let’s take a look at each of the 3 components.
The fuel needs heat in order for it to release its combustible vapours, which in turn, ignite from a flame or spark.
This heat also dries out the surrounding material, causing that to release combustible vapours also and is how a fire spreads and takes hold.
This is why a wood fire will start slowly at first but start to blaze, once the correct conditions for it to do so are met.
A fire needs fuel to burn. This is pretty obvious, but the type of fuel needs to be considered.
The most common fuel that we use in bushcraft is wood, as it is freely available and for the most part, sustainable.
You can’t usually just set fire to a large log though, as you need to build the fire up in stages.
To light an all-wood fire, we generally need 3 grades of wood fuel:
Tinder: This takes your ignition source and transforms it into a flame or ember.
Kindling: These are small pieces of wood that have either been collected in that state, ie small twigs or that have been chopped down to size from a larger log.
Main fuel: Anything larger than kindling – usually large branches and logs that are dry and form the main fuel source.
A fire requires 16% oxygen to burn.
Oxygen acts as the oxidising agent for the chemical reaction that produces the flame.
A flame will not form without it.
Therefore, oxygen is vital to the success of a fire.
Fresh air contains approximately 21% oxygen, depending on your altitude.
Therefore, as long as you maintain a good supply of fresh air to the fire, it should continue to burn, as long as the other conditions are met.
Elements to create fire
Without all 3 parts of the triangle present, you will not achieve a sustained fire.
If you have fuel and fresh air for example, but not enough heat to ignite and sustain it, your fire will go out.
Equally, if you have heat and fresh air, with wet fuel, such as very damp wood – your fire will not start.
The fuel element has not been satisfied and the triangle implodes.
An example of not meeting the oxygen requirement would be that you load too much fuel onto the fire, too quickly, in which case you smother the flames and kill off the airflow.
To be successful, you need to keep all 3 elements in balance, ensuring a sustained and controlled fire for you to warm yourself and cook with.
Keeping all 3 parts in mind will ensure greater success.
The video below from Coalcracker Bushcraft explains this visually:
What are the 3 stages of a fire?
Generally speaking, a fire has 3 stages:
Growth stage: when the fire is building and gathering heat and voracity. In this stage, the fire is very much dependent on the oxygen and fuel supply that it has.
Fully developed: this is the stage when the fire has reached its peak and is now giving out a good amount of heat.
You should also have a good bed of embers now to keep the fire sustained.
Decay: once you stop feeding the fire with fuel, the fire will enter the decay stage and start to burn down.
The embers are still extremely hot at this stage though and will likely ignite any fresh fuel that you put on.
If left alone, however, the fire will die out on its own.
The fire triangle is a very simple concept, but quite often forgotten about when trying to get a fire lit.
Next time you do light a fire, try and bear all the elements in mind and you should have more success
Want more??? We have loads more articles for you to read in our fire section here.
Using a bivvy bag is a great idea if you are sleeping out. They provide you with some extra protection from the elements, increasing your chances of a good night’s sleep.
They can, of course, be used on their own, with your sleeping bag inside, using the bivvy as your sole outer protection.
This is great for sleeping out under the stars, in good conditions.
They are also great when used in conjunction with a tarp or basha – which is the preferred method if you are expecting rain or snow.
This can be done straight on the ground, or in a hammock setup.
You may even want to use one inside a tent, affording you a bit extra warmth when needed.
Most are breathable and waterproof, but the quality does vary.
British Army Bivvy Bag
One of our favourites is the no-nonsense, British Army Gore-tex bivvy bag that is pictured above.
As with most equipment designed for the military, these are solidly made with fully taped seams and a drawstring hood section.
They are heavy compared to others, but this is made up for by the excellent, bomb-proof quality that they afford.
They will last you for years.
There is no zip on these, so you have to slide in and out, but on a plus point, this means there is less to go wrong.
As they are made with Gore-tex, they are relatively breathable, while still providing a good degree of all round water protection.
They are designed to be used underneath a tarp as the hood does not completely cover you, but you can sleep out in them on their own if the weather is dry.
If it does start to rain though, you can always roll over and sleep on your front if necessary.
The only problem is that these bags are not easy to come across these days, especially new.
If you can get one though, we would recommend them for a heavy-duty bag.
Due to the sourcing problem, we will recommend another which is more widely available, this being the Snugpak Special Forces Bivvi Bag.
These are not Gore-tex, but do incorporate Snugpak’s Paratex Dry Fabric, which is designed to do a similar thing, in that it allows moisture from your body to escape, while not letting any outside moisture in.
They feature a central zip, which helps with getting in and out of them, as well as being very lightweight and packable.
Some users find that they get a condensation build-up in these bags, but this will depend on the conditions and sleeping bag used etc.
They are ultimately, a well-made bivvy bag for a reasonable price – that you can actually get hold of!
These types of stoves are usually cylindrical in design and incorporate an external jacket.
How does a wood burning camp stove work?
This jacket funnels warm air (taken from the external vents below), upwards.
This warm air is then deposited into the top of the main fire compartment, via the internal vent holes, just above the flames.
The Solo Stove diagram below shows the process in more detail.
As you can see in the diagram, the airflow process effectively fans the flames, similar to when you blow on a fire to get it roaring.
This creates a hotter, cleaner burn, and also helps to reduce soot build-up.
The above process will begin to happen once the fire in the main compartment has warmed the stove up to operating temperature.
Wood stove round-up
Whether you opt for the box or wood gas type, these stoves are very popular and have very little to go wrong.
They are therefore a great choice if you are looking for a no-nonsense stove, that should last for many years.
The fact that most can also incorporate other fuels, such as meths or hexy blocks, is an added bonus and further increases their versatility in the field.
The main consideration on which type to go for would be transportation.
If you want one that can fold away into a flat package, the box type is probably your best bet.
They take a little assembling, and they can be a little frustrating to put together at times, but once together, they are solid.
If portability isn’t your primary concern and you are happy with a fixed unit, the wood gas type is a great option.
Theseare already good to go, so are great from a time perspective, but do not fully pack down.
Your choice will ultimately boil down to space and your trip length.
What is a Solostove?
A Solostove is a type of wood gas stove that is cylindrical in design and incorporates a jacket, so that cold air can be drawn upwards from the bottom of the stove, warmed by the flames and then delivered to the top of the stove where it fans the flame and produces a hotter burn.
See the image above for a visual description.
What is a twig stove?
A twig stove is a type of camping/outdoor stove that uses natural materials, such as dry twigs, leaves, pine cones, pine needles etc.
These stoves are a great option if you have a reliable supply of fuel as they can be run on free to find materials.
Additionally, some models allow you to incorporate a basic burner, such as a Trangia or you can just use a basic hexy block. See above for more on these.
Sometimes known as an alcohol or spirit burner, this style of stove is another simple option for bushcraft activities.
They are generally known as Trangias, although this is a brand name and they are not all made by Trangia.
These stoves are small in design, lightweight and portable.
You will need some form of pot support as well, as these will not generally work with a pot placed directly on them.
However, there are many options available.
How does a Trangia work?
These burners all work on the same principle, in that you partially fill the main central chamber with fuel, then light it.
The main chamber will slowly burn (sometimes it’s very hard to see) and heat up the stove and fuel.
Once it is up to operating temperature, the fuel that is in the outside chamber, starts to vapourise.
This vapour then rises up to the small pinprick vents at the top, where it combusts.
This is often referred to as ‘blooming’ and means the burner is now ready to cook on.
Trangia spirit burner
The Trangia Spirit Burner pictured above is the best known and most widely used meth/alcohol burner out there.
Low cost, virtually indestructible and brilliantly simple in its design, this is a fantastic, relatively lightweight stove, with a multitude of applications.
Designed back in 1951, at Trangia’s headquarters in Sweden, not much has changed.
It is made of brass, with a weight of 110g and consists of the main burner unit, screw-on lid and a simmer ring.
The simmer ring’s design allows the flame to be regulated and also allows you to extinguish the burner completely when finished.
The stove is designed to run on methylated spirits (denatured alcohol). This fuel can be obtained very cheaply from your local hardware store.
It is worth noting that this burner can be used on its own if it is placed in a sheltered depression and your cooking vessel suspended above.
In general, though, the spirit burner is designed to be used inside a cooking system.
This shares the same chemical structure as butane but delivers higher pressure, which increases flame performance.
If you want to read more about gas stove fuel options see the MSR article here.
Modern gas stoves may struggle at extreme altitudes, but for most applications, they will operate absolutely fine.
Due to the above, these stoves are slowly becoming the choice of professional mountaineers.
This is due to their simplicity and the fact that they are generally more lightweight and safer in use than liquid fuel options.
One thing with gas stoves is that you do need to have the correct gas canister cartridge for your stove.
You also need to be able to find these fairly easily should you need to get replacements.
This is not usually a problem in more developed parts of the world, but may be an issue in more remote regions.,
Make sure to check this before setting off if you are likely to need more.
How does a camping stove work?
In general, most gas stoves simply require you to:
attach the gas canister by screwing it onto the burner (clockwise)
deploy the pan and stove supports (if any)
turn on gas by opening the valve
Some stoves even feature an integrated piezo ignition, which ignites the gas for you when you turn on the gas.
This is a handy feature to have.
However, even if your stove has this, you should always carry an alternative form of ignition.
This could be a ferro rod or lighter, in case the piezo ignition fails for whatever reason.
Top-mounted canister stoves
This is the most common type (see picture above). The gas canister screws onto the bottom of the burner and acts as the stove’s base.
Because of this, top-mounted stoves require a very stable and level surface to place the complete unit on.
This style of stove set-up often becomes top-heavy.
This is especially true if you have a lot of liquid in the cooking vessel that might slosh from side to side.
This sloshing can then end up tipping the stove over, including your food.
It is therefore important to site the stove correctly in the first place, on a flat, level surface.
Be vigilant of any gusts of wind that might have your pot toppling.
You also need to guard against you or your companions knocking into it.
Although the above is a bit of a drawback with this style, the fact that they are simple and generally cheaper than other designs, makes them a popular and solid choice for your bushcraft cooking needs.
Remote mounted canister stoves
This style of gas stove is by far the most stable, due to the burner being much lower to the ground and having a set of wide legs for stabilisation and support.
The gas canister is attached to a hose that allows the canister to sit to one side, adjacent to the burner.
However, due to the additional materials used, they are generally a little more expensive to buy than the top-mounted style.
Other than that, they generally operate in much the same way as top–mounted stoves.
Liquid fuel portable stoves
Liquid fuel stoves generally cost more than their gas-fired cousins.
They also usually weigh more and involve a bit more effort in their operation.
With this in mind, why would you choose to opt for liquid fuel over the more common gas cartridge type?
What are the advantages of a liquid fuel stove?
In most cases, it chiefly centers around the fuel that you can obtain.
If you are operating in remote locations, for extended periods, a liquid fuel stove may be the better option over gas or other types.
The reason for this is that gas canisters are not always readily available should you run out.
They are usually stocked in outdoor shops and available online.
However, if you are out of area and certainly if you are in a different country, you may not be able to come across them quite so easily.
You can obviously bring 1 or 2 in your pack when you are on shorter outings.
For extended trips though, such as expeditions etc, you need to be mindful of how much fuel you are likely to use.
It is likely that you will find that you do not have the room to be taking heaps of gas canisters with you.
Added to this, once used, empty gas canisters need to be brought out with you and disposed of responsibly.
This creates additional dead weight and space that you will have to carry out with you.
Here lies the advantage of liquid fuel stoves!
In most places around the world, you can find some form of fuel to use in your stove.
Most liquid fuel stoves burn a variety of fuels, that are readily available across the globe, so you should never (hopefully) find yourself without a fuel source.
These include – white gas (also known as Coleman Fuel), petrol (auto gasoline), kerosene, diesel and more.