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.
The Fire Triangle
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.
What happens when 3 elements of the fire triangle combine?
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.
We hope you found this a good refresher on ‘What are the three parts of the fire triangle?’
It’s 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.
They are usually spotted at low tide clamped to rocks and should you try and pick one up, will nearly always clamp down and become immovable. They are seriously impressive in this regard.
In this clamped state, they don’t really do a lot, but once the tide returns, and they have submerged once again, they ‘spring to life’ and start going about their business of feeding on their chosen home.
There are two main types to be found in Britain, the common limpet and the slipper limpet.
Today we will focus on the common limpet.
What is the scientific name for limpets?
The scientific name for the common limpet is patella vulgata.
Patella vulgata are the European common limpets and as the name suggests – are of the Patella genus
Can you eat common limpets? Are common limpets edible?
Yes, you can eat common limpets providing you follow the advice below.
Although I can say with confidence that there are certainly tastier wild treats to be had, the limpet is certainly worth knowing about from a wild food perspective, even if that said food does sometimes resemble the texture of pencil rubbers.
Are limpets healthy to eat?
Yes, as long as they were a healthy limpet when you collected them and you have stored and prepared them correctly, limpets are a high protein snack, with many many other vitamins and minerals to boot.
Do limpets have eyes?
Yes, the common limpet has a left and a right ‘eye‘, but there is little research on what they can actually view with these.
They also have two antennae for feeling their way around and sensing. The combination of the two helps them build up a picture of what is around them when hunting for food.
Can limpets swim?
Juvenile limpets spend the first part of their lives as free-swimming planktonic creatures and therefore do technically swim.
Once they mature though, they find a home that they like and stay put.
Fully grown limpets do not swim. They use their foot to travel across surfaces.
Where are limpet shells found?
The common limpet can be found in coastal areas all over the British Isles
They are not usually hard to find and are generally located in shallow water, on rocks or cliffs that are within the intertidal zone.
What is unique about the intertidal coastline?
The intertidal coastline or intertidal zone is unique in the fact that it is submerged by seawater around 2 times a day.
It is essentially the section of shoreline that is between the high and low watermark.
This area is fully submerged at high tide and then dry again at low tide.
Creatures and plants must therefore be able to survive in both of these states.
This makes for a special environment that supports many different creatures including limpets, starfish, sea anemones, sea stars, mussels, winkles, crabs and many more.
How do you identify a limpet?
What does a limpet look like?
The common limpet is cone-shaped and easy to identify. There will often be many limpets attached to one rock, in varying sizes.
Their shape and ability to tightly attach themselves to rocks allows them to remain in place – even whilst getting pounded by strong waves.
What do limpets eat?
At high tide, the limpet feeds by slowly moving around its chosen rock, feeding on algae and similar vegetative marine life.
Although classed as herbivores, they are also thought to eat small creatures like young barnacles etc.
Do limpets bite?
No, well they wont bite you anyway.
Limpets have a super tongue which they use to feed with. This is known as a radula.
The radula is similar to a tongue, but has rows of tiny ‘teeth’ attached.
As you can probably imagine, this radula is extremely tough, as it needs to be able to scrape food off rocks when feeding.
Limpets will generally stay in a localised area and not stray too far from their home, which they will always come back to when the tide goes back out.
Over time, this can cause an indentation on the rock which is known as a ‘home scar’.
The limpet clamps down on this section of rock, using its powerful ‘foot’ and remains there until the tide comes back in and it’s ready to move and feed again.
How do you forage for limpets?
Common Limpets can be collected all year round.
Ensure that the area you intend to forage from has a regular and strong tide to ensure that the limpets are regularly submerged.
Also, check that the local area has good water quality and is free from pollutants.
The common limpet is an important part of the ecosystem, keeping the rock’s algal growth in check.
It is vital therefore that you do not gather too many from one area, as an imbalance can occur.
Good practice would be to take only one from each rock or immediate area, leaving the others to carry on their good work.
If there is only one on a rock, then leave it be. Do not over-collect in one area.
Fill your bucket or collecting vessel with fresh seawater and place some carefully collected seaweed in as well if available.
This will help to keep your limpets fresh.
How do you remove limpets from rocks?
A variety of tools can be used to prize the limpet away, including an old chisel or sharp implement such as a knife etc, but a rock will usually do and is usually readily available.
One thing to know when collecting limpets is that you only really get one good chance at them.
Although they will be stuck to the rock when you approach them, they are not usually ‘fully clamped’.
A sharp whack from one side will usually dislodge them.
If you do not manage to dislodge them on the first whack, or they sense you coming, they will fully clamp down on the rock and you will have a hard time getting them off the rock, no matter how hard you try.
They are unbelievably strong.
You can follow up with a second strike very shortly after the first one, but if this fails, leave them alone or you risk damaging them, as they will now have fully clamped down.
Your best bet is to go and find another to work on.
When collecting them myself, I generally have one hand holding the dislodging rock and my other hand is placed on the opposite side of the limpet, ready to catch the dislodged morsel before it disappears into the brine below.
In a good area, it is not hard to quickly collect a bucketful. Remember, do not take more than you need.
If your camp is based nearby, you can always return if necessary, or visit another spot.
Can you eat a limpet raw?
The common limpet is edible and can be eaten raw, but you’re probably going to want to cook it.
Check that the limpet is still alive, especially if it has been a while since collection.
You will see it moving, so it’s not hard to check this.
Are limpets tasty?
I’m going to get straight to the point here and say that limpets probably aren’t going to on your top 10 list of bushcraft cuisine.
The fact is that they are usually chewy, really chewy – no matter what you do to them!
The flavour isn’t bad, it’s like a chewy mussle, but the texture isn’t always great – well never great actually!
Some say not to cook them for too long, but they seem to be chewy whatever you do to them, so just expect that to be the case.
One way to combat the chewiness is to finely chop them and add them to other dishes so that they are more easily consumed.
This can be done after they are cooked and then added to a curry or stew etc.
They will certainly add a new dimension to the dish!
Caveats aside, they are definitely worth a try and can form a great addition to other foods if prepared in a certain way.
If you want to cook them on their own, try cooking them upside down, straight on the embers of your fire.
If you have the luxury, try adding some olive oil and some garlic to add some flavour and cook until the oil starts to bubble.
Remove from the shell, remove the black part if you wish and enjoy.
I can guarantee you will remember the experience.
What does limpet taste like?
Limpets have a taste of their own, but to give you a rough idea – they taste a bit like a chewier version of a mussle and are equally sweet in taste.
Can you fry limpets?
Yes. You can fry them in their shells, or for a more direct method, you can remove them from their shells, tenderise them with a meat hammer or similar and then fry.
You can fry them as is, or coat them in a flour mixture first, depending on your preference.
Safety whilst common limpet foraging
As with all foraging, there is a degree of risk involved.
Coastal foraging brings additional dangers.
Apart from the food safety side that is mentioned above, the actual collection part can be risky in itself.
You are usually stepping on or wading through rocky areas when foraging, contending with slippy, jagged surfaces and possibly waves.
Common sense goes a long way here.
Take great care with your foot placement and move slowly and deliberately.
A wading stick may prove useful.
Wear appropriate footwear, something that will protect your feet from the sharp rocks and provide you with some grip.
Avoid standing on rocks with a slimy green surface. The last thing you want is a fall in this environment.
Be aware of the tides. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the moment, only to realise that the tide is a lot higher than you thought, with your access back to dry land now cut off.
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.