How to Tie Different Paracord Knots

How to tie different paracord knotsHow to tie different paracord knots

There are a variety of paracord knots that can be used in bushcraft, each used for different situations and purposes.

In this guide, I will attempt to run through the most useful and widely used paracord knots for your bushcraft needs.

What is the easiest paracord knot?

The easiest paracord knot to tie has to be the overhand knot which we detail below.

With that being said, you can easily master many different knot types through practice, so don’t be overwhelmed.

Start with the overhand and then move on to the more advanced ones.

You will soon become a paracord master!

Rope terminology

Good quality paracord is supple and can be tied into a variety of knots very easily. It is therefore ideal for securing items and providing support.

There are various paracord knots that you can use, depending on what you are aiming to achieve.

Before we begin though, there are a few terms that we need to understand.

  • Working end: this is the end that you are tying the knot with.
  • Standing end: this is the opposite end to the working end.
  • Standing part: any part between the two ends.
  • Bight: a section of cord that is formed into a U shape, without crossing over the standing part.
  • Loop: formed by turning the working end back on itself and crossing the standing part.
Paracord length with working end to the right
Paracord length with working end to the right
Paracord bight
Bight in cord

Now we have the terminology sorted let’s move on to a selection of paracord knots that will cover most situations in the field.

Overhand Knot

 Overhand knot paracord
Overhand knot (double)

One of the simplest and probably one that most people already know is the overhand knot.

It can be tied on one piece of rope or cord or used to tie two pieces together in a parallel fashion.

One use for the single overhand knot is to tie a stopper knot, to keep something in place on the cord.

Another is as a distance aid if you want to measure the distance you have travelled during navigation.

A simple overhand knot in a piece of cord every 100m will aid you when you come to total up the distance covered at the end of your walk.

The overhand knot is also very good for joining two pieces of paracord together, should you want to make a lanyard or form a loop of cord, as shown in the image above.

How to tie overhand knot:

  1. Take the section of cord that you want to tie a knot in and form a loop.
  2. Take the end of the cord and pass it through this loop and pull tight.

Simple!

The Reef Knot (Square Knot)

Reef knot square knot - paracord knots bushcraft
Reef knot

The reef knot, sometimes known as the square knot, is also well known.

It is a useful knot for tying two pieces of cord together for simple tasks and also provides a flat surface, which comes in useful if using it in certain situations such as first aid.

There are better and stronger knots available if you are looking to tie two pieces of cord together and put them under strain, which we will cover later.

Indeed, you certainly shouldn’t be using a reef knot for any type of load.

However, for a simple and quick knot for securing items, such as binding down equipment, etc, the reef knot is a valuable one to know.

How to tie a reef knot:

  1. Hold one end in your right hand (working end) and the other in your left hand (standing end), with both ends facing upwards
  2. Take the working end and pass it over the standing end, then tuck underneath and bring back up – both ends should now be on the opposite side to where they started.
  3. Then take the working end (now on left) and pass it over the top of the standing end, tuck underneath and bring back up.
  4. Pull together to form the knot.

Remember the adage: right over left and under – left over right and under.

Following the above will ensure that you tie the reef knot and not the less useful granny knot.

The Prusik Knot

Prusik Knot Paracord
Prusik knot

Designed by Austrian mountaineer Dr. Karl Prusik, the prusik knots original purpose was to allow a climber to ascend a rope in an emergency (or unplanned) situation.

More on this here.

However, aside from climbing, the prusik knot is also very handy for bushcraft and outdoor purposes.

One of the most common bushcraft/survival uses is for stringing out and tensioning a tarp whilst using a ridgeline.

How to tie a prusik knot:

  1. Create a loop, known as a prusik loop, by tying two of the paracord ends together. You can use a double fisherman’s knot for this or similar.
  2. Next, take the opposite end to the knots and form a bite.
  3. Assuming your chosen pole/branch/rope (that you want to tie onto) is laying horizontally, take your bite end and place over the top of this and then back underneath, so that your bite end and knot and are on the same side and pointing towards you.
  4. Take the knot end and place through the bite end.
  5. Dress towards the pole/branch/rope.
  6. Take the loop that is on top (that was the bite) and take it back over and around again, mimicking the first step.
  7. Again, take the knotted end and place through the loop.
  8. Dress this down to create the prusik knot. You should be able to count four wraps in total.

How it works:

When loaded, the knot tightens securely around its subject. It does this as it is a friction knot.

This allows the user to tighten and secure against this knot, allowing them a fixed point to secure to.

When the knot is unloaded and the tension released, the prusik should loosen, allowing the knot to slide along the rope and re-grip at the next intended point.

This allows the user to move the knot along the rope, to the next required point and then load again.

This allows for a very useful knot, that can be secured and quickly moved as required.

The Clove Hitch

Clove Hitch Knot Paracord Bushcraft Hub
Clove hitch

The clove hitch is used to tie onto a pole or branch and is a handy knot to start a lashing or binding with.

It’s not the best of knots if used on its own, as it slips quite easily and needs to be combined with another knot or lashing to be properly secure – but it is a handy knot to know nonetheless.

How to tie:

  1. Take the end of your cord and place over the top of the pole of or branch that you want to secure to.
  2. Take underneath and back around, so that the working end crosses over the first wrap of cord.
  3. Go around once more and feed the end underneath the ‘cross over’ loop that you just formed, so that the cord runs parallel with the tail end.
  4. Dress together and you will have a clove hitch. This can be confirmed by checking that you have a cross formation, as shown in the above image.

The Bowline Knot

Bowline knot - 550 commercial spec
Bowline knot

If you want to tie a fixed loop at the end of your paracord, the bowline knot is a solid choice.

This knot is great as it locks the loop in place and stops it slipping.

How to tie a bowline knot:

  1. Take the working end of your cord and form a loop in it, where you want the knot to form – the loop should follow an anti-clockwise direction, with the working end should sit on top, and should now be facing downwards, towards you.
  2. Take the working end and thread back through this loop, on the right-hand side, passing it behind the standing end and bringing it back around through the loop again.
  3. Pull tight to form your fixed loop.

You now have a bowline.

The Alpine Butterfly

Alpine butterfly Knot 550 cord green
Alpine butterfly knot

If you want to create a loop in a length of paracord, without having to get the ends involved, then the alpine butterfly knot is a good choice.

It enables you to tie a strong loop that you can tie onto, whilst maintaining the strength of the main line.

This provides a variety of possible uses, one example would be to provide the loops for a trotline, to tie your mono-filament hook-lengths onto.

All in all, a very handy knot to know.

How to tie the alpine butterfly:

  1. Take some slack and wrap the cord around the palm of your hand 3 times.
  2. Take the middle section and tuck it underneath the right-hand section.
  3. Bring it around the front, to the left, and over the original left-hand section.
  4. Take it underneath the other two sections, and bring out on the right-hand side.
  5. Grip the loop on the right and pull the two rope ends to form the fixed loop.

You now have the alpine butterfly.

And now the video run-through of the above…

I hope you find the above article useful for learning and tying your paracord knots. Please let us know how you get on in the comments below.

Thanks for reading

James

Bushcraft Hub

Fire lighting – Ignition

The Fire Triangle in action

This article outlines the main fire lighting options that are specific to bushcraft applications, in the Northern Hemisphere.

There are a number of ways to light a fire, with various tinder and ignition options available.

What you use will ultimately depend on your environment and what you have with you.

For this article, we will concentrate on the equipment used to start a fire, using a spark, flame or other magical force.

After reading this post, you should have a solid understanding of the different firefighting methods available and how to implement them effectively in the outdoor environment.

Matches

Picture of matchbox
Matchbox

Although it has slightly fallen out of favour to the more widely used lighter, the humble match is still a great option for fire lighting, as long as you take a few precautions.

It is good practice to become proficient at lighting a fire with just one match.

This way you do not to go through all your matches just to get a single fire lit.

Ideally, you should be aiming for one match, one fire!

This is easier said than done, but with practice and with the correct preparation, this can be achieved consistently.

Remember, prepare your kindling and fuel in advance, so that everything is ready to go.

Good practice

Keep the matches dry: it sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget about your matches until you go to use them.

Matches and moisture don’t do well together – the heads will soften and disintegrate when trying to strike them.

Store your matches correctly, in a dry environment.

A dedicated waterproof matchbox is the best bet, such as a 35mm film canister, with a section of the striker glued to the inside lid.

If you have the time, you can also make one out of birch bark.

Ray Mears has a video on how to make one below:

How to light a match correctly

Everyone can light a match, can’t they? Well yes, but most don’t do it correctly. And why would they?

Most of the time it’s not the end of the world if you go through a few matches at home, lighting the BBQ or some candles.

If you are out in the field though, away from it all, it can really matter!

You need to get maximum use out of those matches and not use half the box to get a fire lit.

It may be your only ignition source, so learn to make them count.

Correct fire lighting technique

Assuming your matches are dry, the most important thing to have ready, before you even think about getting a match out of the box, is your kindling and main fuel source.

Using a standard pack of matches, find out which way the heads are facing. 

If the weather is dry, open the matches however you like. It will not make much difference.

Should it be raining or snowing though, open the pack from the other end (stick end) and keep the open end pointing downwards.

Put your back to the wind if it is raining, to shield the pack even further.

This is to stop any chance of a water droplet, or snowflake, getting in there, potentially ruining your match heads.

Assuming your hands are dry, take one match from the box by pulling one out and downwards.

Close the box. 

Hold the box in one hand, with the striker facing towards the match in the other hand.

Grip the match at the bottom of the stick with your index finger and thumb.

You now also want to place your middle finger directly on the match head itself.

This provides support to the match head and minimises the chance of it snapping on you.

If you have not done this before, you can be forgiven for being a little nervous about burning this finger when you go to strike the match.

However, in practice, the striking action is so fast, that your finger will be well out the way of the burning match head before it gets a chance to burn you.

You should naturally remove the middle finder when you strike and just have the match gripped between the thumb and index finger.

Strike the match!

Now that you have lit the match, immediately cup your hands and shield the flame.

You do not want the flame blowing out from a gust of wind. 

After a few seconds, the flame should establish and the main wooden stick should start to take and establish a stronger flame.

Now carefully take your flame to your kindling and keep it shielded while you ignite it. 

Once you have lit the kindling, you should now have an established flame that you can slowly build on with your different wood sizes, until you have a well-established fire.

Once the fire is stable and doesn’t need your constant attention, place the matches back in their box – not on damp ground.

Place back inside your pocket/backpack etc, to ensure they are kept dry.

You only used one match didn’t you, so you have plenty left for next time 🙂

Cigarette lighters

Clipper Lighter Bushcraft Firelighting
Standard refillable gas lighter

It doesn’t need much explaining and indeed some would regard it as cheating, but we all use lighters from time to time. 

They are fast and reliable.

Even though this is a common igniter, I would 100% advise that you practice and become proficient in the other methods (match, firesteel, etc), in all weathers.

This ensures that you can light a fire confidently, in a variety of conditions and environments, with multiple ignition options at your disposal.

If one fails you have another to use – it always pays to have a backup option.

Gas lighters

The disposable type is the most common and what most people think of when they think of a lighter.

I would urge you not to use disposable lighters if you can, as they are not great for the environment.

A good standard one that I like is the Clipper. They are refillable and you can replace the flints in them when needed.

They also just work! 

Windproof lighters: Another gas option is the windproof type – sometimes known as a butane torch.

These are designed for lighting up in bad conditions, by providing a jet like flame.

They use a piezo ignition and create quite a roar, which in turn uses up more gas than the standard type above.

The only problem with these types of lighter is that I am yet to find one that is reliable, as they all seem to break pretty quickly and stop igniting, hence me not recommending them.

If you do find a good one though, please let me know in the comments below.

Petrol lighters

Black Zippo Lighter
My trusty Zippo

One of my favourites is the petrol lighter, or to be exact a Zippo.

I just really like these and have used my trusty black version for donkey’s years.

They are solid and have that great unique ‘Zippo’ sound when opening and closing.

They are refillable, using the recommended specific lighter fluid – but at a push, you can also use other fuels, such as petrol or Coleman fuel.

Be very careful with these though and follow directions.

You can also replace the flints and wicks on them – and genuine Zippos also come with a lifetime guarantee.

The fuel can evaporate if left for a while, but if you are a regular user, these are a great option.

Correct technique

Using a lighter is pretty instinctive and I’m not going to insult you my telling how to light one up. There is only one way to do it.

However, I will mention trying to avoid rolling the strike wheel the wrong way, as this messes up the flint. That’s all I will say.

Once lit, as with matches, cup your hands to protect the flame whilst it ignites your kindling.

Place back in your pocket and get that fire roaring!

Ferro rods

Swedish Fire Steel - Light My Fire - Ferro Rod - Ferrocerium - Fire Lighting
Swedish Fire Steel – Light My Fire

The original ferro rods were composed of a mixture of 30% iron (ferrum) and the rare earth metal cerium – hence ferrocerium rod.

In recent times, this has been shortened to ferro rod, but is also known as a Swedish fire steel – or just fire steel.

Modern-day ferro rods are made from an alloy of rare-earth metals, known as mischmetal, which includes iron and magnesium to harden the material.

When struck with the back of a knife, or metallic striker, this action causes the metals to shed from the rod and combust.

This produces incredibly hot sparks – that can reach temperatures of around 3000 deg ℃ (5432 ℉).

If you have a good dry tinder such as some scraped birch bark or amadou, these sparks will ignite it very efficiently, with just a few strokes.

Ferro rods are incredibly simple in design and will last a very long time – that is their beauty.

They are very low maintenance and will still strike in all conditions, even if it is wet and cold.

They are an excellent tool, even if you only carry one as a backup to your lighter – I would always recommend carrying one when you are out.


Which ones are good?

Most firesteels are able to create a good shower of sparks.

Some are easier to use than others, with different lengths coming into play and handle options.

Some people like to take the time to make a custom firesteel, by affixing a handle made from deer antler or similar onto a blank rod. This makes for a nice looking tool.

Most standard options have a plastic handle though and are a solid, no-fuss option.

The one I currently use is the Light My Fire – 2.0 firesteel.

Light My Fire are a Swedish company, with their factory based in Västervik

They have been around a long time, and this simple to use and uncomplicated design makes this a great choice if you are looking for a decent ferro rod.

Flint and steel

Flint and steel striker in hand - fire lighting
Traditional flint and steel striker

The flint and steel is a traditional and time served fire lighting method.

When the steel striker hits the flint, the flint removes a very small piece of the striker’s metal and this creates a spark.

Not the other way around as is commonly believed.

You will not get anywhere near the same amount of sparks as you would with a fire steel, but this method does work and is ultra reliable.

The sparks produced are known as ‘cold sparks’, so you will need to be patient and try and catch one while it’s still glowing.

If you manage to get this spark to land on your chosen tinder, such as char cloth or some birch bark, you can then blow on this to encourage ignition.

As per the video below, you will need a nice sharp stone for this to work correctly, so that the small fragments of metal are removed.

Flint is ideal for this due to its ability to shed material and leave an incredibly sharp edge as it flakes away.

You can obtain some locally, or bring some in and keep it in a pouch along with your striker and tinder.

With some practice and correct technique, this is a great, reliable method, that has very little to go wrong.

Fire piston

Camp Fire Piston - Slam Rod - Fire Starter
The Camp Fire Piston – USA made

A fire piston – sometimes known as a slam rod – uses compressed air to ignite a small piece of tinder.

The fire piston is made up of two sections, one male part, one female.

The tinder – usually a piece of char cloth (see below) – is placed at the end section of the male part.

The male part then slides into the female (sorry).

When pushed down with force, the airtight seal causes the air inside to compress and raises the temperature to around 250 ℃.

This is usually hot enough to ignite the tinder.

The male part can now be removed and the ember placed onto your awaiting main tinder.

You can now blow on this to get your fire going.

Which one to get

There are a multitude of fire pistons on the market, with the bulk coming from China.

If you can, go for an American made fire piston.

One that works and also looks great is the Campfire Piston. It is made in the USA out of hickory wood.

A good video showing the fire piston in use can be viewed below:

Bow drill

A bow drill set is a great tool to use in the Northern Hemisphere and can create a good ember even with slightly damp wood.

You will need the following parts to create one:

Bow section: the main part that is drawn back and forward to create the drilling action. This is a formed from a carefully selected tree branch.

Cord: this attaches to the bow and is what grips and spins the drill. 550 paracord is usually used for this.

Drill section: this is what spins and ‘drills’ into the hearth below to create an ember.

Bearing block: used to create a low friction ‘cup’ that sits on top of the drill section and is held in place with your non-dominant hand.

Hearth: the base section of wood that stays fixed in place and is ‘drilled’ into, to create an ember.

Ray Mears demonstrates the process in the video below:

For an even more detailed look, MCQBushcraft has an excellent video on this also.

Magnifying glass

A very basic but effective method is to start a fire from a lense, usually a magnifying glass.

If you carry a standard plate compass, such as the Silva Expedition 4, then you will have a magnifying lens built into the compass.

You do need bright sunlight for this to work, but assuming the sun is strong enough, you can move the lens closer to the tinder until you have a small concentrated spot of light, that is laser focussed on your tinder.

If the beam of light is intense enough, the tinder will start to smoke and with a little help – eventually, ignite.

This is a great method to use, as it enables your compass to have a dual purpose.

Not much use if it’s cloudy though!

Summary

As you can see, there are many different ways to get a fire going. I would encourage you to try and master as many methods as you can.

Not only is it fun, it could save your bacon one day and is certainly not wasted effort.

We positively encourage you to leave a comment below or contact us to let us know what you think, good or bad.

We read them all.

Until the next time….

James

Bushcraft Hub

What Does Paracord Mean?

Paracord-Hanked-550-Green

The term ‘paracord’ is the shortened version of parachute cord.

It is used for the suspension lines on military and commercial parachutes.

However, due to its superb strength and other properties, paracord is also widely used for a variety of other applications.

In fact, its potential uses are only limited to the imagination.

Paracord uses

The options are almost endless, but to give you an idea for bushcraft and survival purposes, let’s list out a few common uses for 550 cord below:

  • Erecting shelters: whether stringing out a tarp/bivvy or used as a binding to construct shelter from natural materials.
  • Lanyard: to ensure precious items such as a knife or compass do not fall out of your pocket and get lost in the bush.
  • Bootlaces: some use paracord as their standard lacing system, or it can be used as a replacement if your main laces fail.
  • Animal snares: if absolutely necessary, the inner strands can be removed and used to trap wild game.
  • Emergency fishing line: as above, the inner strands can be removed and used as fishing line.
  • Bow drill cordage: strong, pliable cord is an essential element of a bow drill. Paracord does an excellent job and will help you get that fire going.
  • Equipment repairs: for lashings etc, or for more delicate tasks, the inner strands can be removed and used for sewing.

Make sure it’s real

It must be clearly stated that not all ‘paracord’ is actually paracord. Confused? You’re certainly not the only one!

There are a great many imitations on the market, of varying quality, with most claiming to be the real thing.

Most of this cord is imported from China. This is sometimes known as ‘Chinese cord’.

It may be marketed as 550 cord, but it is usually much cheaper and of a much lesser quality than the genuine, US made article.

It will certainly have its uses for less demanding applications, but you need to know the difference, especially if you are going to depend on it.

Put simply, if you were going to rely on it to jump out of a plane, would you trust the imitation version?

I certainly wouldn’t!!!

550 Paracord - Green - Hanked
Hanked 550 cord

Mil-spec paracord

Genuine ‘mil-spec’ cord is made in the USA, by trusted and certified US government suppliers.

The U.S Department of Defense extensively vets these manufacturers to ensure compliance.

This ensures that the quality and specification of their ‘mil-spec’ cord meets the Department of Defence’s strict paracord requirements, MIL-C-5040H.

These requirements stipulate what raw materials must be used, down to the exact construction method required.

This paracord is called MIL-C-5040, commonly known as Mil-Spec.

Mil-spec is manufactured in different strength ratings, but 550 (type III) is the most popular, this being 550 pounds in strength.

[table id=1 /]

Most paracord that you see on the market claims to be ‘mil-spec’.

However, unless it has been made in the USA, to the requirements of MIL-C-5040H,  by an approved government supplier, it is not mil-spec.

It is vital therefore that if you are after real paracord, that you purchase it from a reputable supplier.

It is also worth knowing that mil-spec cord will have a coloured strand inside, that is unique to the manufacturer.

This is known as the Manufacturer ID Marker.

The purpose of this is to essentially provide traceability so that the end-user (military) can identify which manufacturer produced the cord, should there be any issues in use.

This presence of this identifier is another way that you can tell if your paracord is mil-spec or not.

The most popular strength mil-spec paracord will be the type III, 550 class.

This is the most commonly available and provides great functionality.

Mil-C-5040H type III specifications:

  • Approx diameter: 3.8 mm
  • Weight: 6.6 g per metre
  • Certified minimum tensile strength: 550 lbs / 249 kg
  • 100% high-quality nylon yarns
  • Sheath structure: 32 Strands
  • 7 core strands, each made up of a further 3 twisted strands
  • Rope Construction: kernmantle
  • Unique manufacturer ID marker inside the cord

Commercial 550 paracord

In addition to their mil-spec cord, US Government approved manufacturers will also usually manufacture a commercial version.

This is known as 550 Type III – commercial spec.

This is almost identical to the mil-spec, but with some subtle differences.

It still consists of 7 core strands, as per the military-grade version, and has the same strength rating, it just differs in its construction.

Instead of using 3 intertwined strands per core strand, as the mil-spec does, commercial-grade 550 uses 2 intertwined strands, per core strand.

It also does not have the internal colour coded core (Unique Manufacturer ID Marker) that the mil-spec does.

Although it varies slightly in its design, it is as strong as the equivalent mil-spec version and a great alternative, should it be made by a reputable supplier as above.

Commercial 550 type III Specifications:

  • Approximate diameter: 3.8 mm
  • Weight: 6.6 g per metre
  • Certified minimum tensile strength: 550 lbs / 249 kg
  • 100% high-quality nylon yarns
  • Sheath structure: 32 Strands
  • 7 core strands, each made up of 2 twisted strands
  • Rope construction: kernmantle

[table id=2 /]

For those looking for genuine paracord for bushcraft or survival purposes, the above (and their strength variations) are the only 2 real options.

Safety

Although it is extremely strong, paracord is not to be used for climbing activities or similar.

The 550 lb / 249 kg rating (assuming you are using 550 cord) is its ‘static load’ rating.

This essentially means a load that is not moving and stable.

When climbing, you are placing what is known as a ‘working load’ on the rope.

This will likely be much, much higher than your actual body weight in a static situation, due to the movement and shock load placed upon the rope.

There is also likely to be abrasion from the rope touching rocks etc under tension.

Serious injury or death could occur, so do not use paracord for this purpose, or anything similar.

Summary

Paracord is essential bushcraft equipment, that has a multitude of uses.

If you are serious about your equipment and want the best out there, go for the ‘real deal’, genuine US made paracord, that has been manufactured by a US Department of Defense approved supplier.

Unless you specifically need a certain type of cord, the two main options are:

  • 550 type III mil-spec or
  • 550 type III commercial-spec.

Mil-spec is more expensive, but this is the exact cord that the US military gets and is, therefore, more expensive to produce, due to the manufacturing requirements.

If you opt for 550 Type III commercial-spec, you are getting an almost identical cord to the mil-spec above but made for commercial use.

Just make sure it is from a supplier who also supplies the military.

The commercial is usually sold at a more competitive price.

Either of these two cords will serve you well.

We use and recommend Clutha paracord. This is US-sourced, from a reputable and US Department of Defense approved supplier.

You can find them here.

Thanks for your visit today! We hope you found this article helpful.

James

Bushcraft Hub


What is the Best Bushcraft Stove?

Bushcraft liquid fuel stove - MSR XGK EX

Although it is generally preferable to cook on an open fire, there are times when you will want, or indeed need, some form of bushcraft stove.

Fast and reliable, they will get things cooking in minutes.

So what’s available?

Wood burning camp stoves

If you can’t have an open fire due to it not being practical, or perhaps they are prohibited at your location, then you may be able to use a wood-burning camping stove.

These are also sometimes known as Hobo Stoves.

If used with wood, these are as close to an open fire as you can get, whilst having the benefit of keeping the flame concentrated and controlled.

Of course, the main benefit of a wood-fired stove is that you can operate them using free fuel.

This is presuming this is available at your location, or you have brought some in with you.

Most of these stoves are fairly compact, with some being foldable.

They pack down into a smaller carry bag, making them suitable for transportation.

These stoves are primarily designed to burn small twigs and sticks, but most will also run on a variety of other fuels if required.

This includes hexy blocks or meths/alcohol.

Some will even let you incorporate a gas burner.

There are various models and designs on the market, with some performing a lot better than others.

The main options are the foldable box type or the wood gas type.

Box type

Honey Wood Stove - Bushcraft
Backpacking Light’s Honey Stove

The box type wood stoves feature a series of sections that slot together, allowing for different configurations, providing a solid base and pot support.

A popular choice is the Honey Stove which is made by Backpacking Light.

The Honey Stove consists of multiple pieces that can be constructed in a variety of fashions.

You can alter this depending on what you are cooking/boiling and what fuel you are using.

This stove allows for many fuel types including dry leaves, grass, wood, hexamine blocks, to name a few.

It can also incorporate a meths burner (Trangia type) and will even utilise an Optimus Nova burner if required.

All in all, it’s a very versatile choice for bushcraft activities.

These stoves fold down to a very compact size and are therefore ideal for transportation.

Similar alternatives to the Honey Stove include the Firebox or BushBox XL.

Wood gas stoves (Solostove)

Solo Stove Lite Wood Gas Stove
Solo Stove Lite

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.

Solo Stove Airflow Diagram

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.

These are 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.

Meth burners

Trangia Meth Alcohol Burner Bushcraft Stove
Trangia Spirit Burner

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.

Examples include Trangia’s popular 25-2 cooking set or other makes such as the Honey Stove mentioned above.

The meth (or alcohol burner) is an extremely simple and effective cooking system, that has stood the test of time.

Esbit alcohol burner stove

Esbit Alcohol Burner Methylated Stove - bushcraft stoves
Esbit alcohol stove

A good alternative to the Trangia is the Esbit Alcohol Burner.

It is based on the Trangia, however, the Esbit also incorporates a foldaway handle, that operates the simmer ring.

This lessens the possibility of you burning your fingers when adjusting the flame – making it more user friendly.

You can purchase the Esbit here: USA | UK | CAN

Gas stoves

MSR Pocket Rocket 2 Gas Stove
MSR PocketRocket 2 Gas Stove

One of the most convenient and simple options out there is the gas stove.

As long as you have a ready supply of canisters, these stoves are a great choice for your cooking needs.

They provide a quick, clean heat-source, providing minimum hassle for the user. They are just as quick to dismantle and pack away.

Gas selection

Historically, gas canisters were 100% butane. This is the worst performing gas for stoves.

In the early days, 100% butane fueled gas stoves struggled to work at all in cold conditions.

This is due to the fact that butane’s boiling point is approximately -2 deg C.

Essentially, this means that below -2 deg C, butane gas reverts back into a liquid.

It, therefore, loses its pressure and does not want to leave the canister, as it is no longer a gas.

This doesn’t help matters if you are relying on it to ignite.

What gas do you use for a camping stove? The modern solution

In more recent years, nearly all gas canisters are a butane/propane mix, generally around 70% butane and 30% propane.

Propane has a much lower boiling point of around -42 deg C.

When combined with butane, the mixture provides good performance well into the minus figures.

Another gas commonly used in isobutane.

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.

Fuel availability

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
  • ignite

Simplicity!

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

Primus Express Spider 2 Gas Stove - bushcraft stoves
Primus Express Spider 2

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 topmounted stoves.

Liquid fuel portable stoves

MSR XGK EX Liquid Fuel Stove
MSR XGK EX

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.

Available fuels

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.

Read more on this here.

If you are travelling by vehicle, an additional benefit is that the stove can share the same fuel as the vehicle.

This can simplify things by eliminating the need for additional fuel storage.

How much fuel should you carry for your trip? Check out this MSR article here.

Economy

Because they can run on standard unleaded petrol or in some cases diesel and other fuels, they tend to be more cost-effective, when compared to resealable gas canisters.

This is especially true if you are on an extended trip.

This needs to be balanced with the fact that they are usually more costly to buy.

However, over the lifetime of the stove, this difference is negligible.

Safety procedures for using a liquid fuel stove

There are safety considerations to take on board when using liquid fuel stoves.

You have a bottle of extremely flammable liquid, usually petrol or similar, a few inches away from a roaring burner.

This sounds worse than it actually is, as the stove is obviously designed to operate this way and is safe as long as you use it sensibly.

How to fill a liquid stove fuel bottle

MSR Stove Liquid Fuel Bottles
MSR Fuel Bottles

One of the big things to remember is to wipe everything down after filling the fuel bottle, as you will no doubt spill a small amount whilst doing this.

Tip – It sounds obvious, but do not fill the bottle over its max fill line.

If you do, when you go to insert the pump, it will spurt out fuel all over your hands and the bottle, as the fuel pump takes up quite a bit of volume.

Only operate the stove once the stove is properly connected and you are sure there is no fuel residue left on the outside.

Can you use a camping stove inside a tent?

As with any stove, only use in a well-ventilated area. It’s not a great idea to use stoves inside of tents.

Apart from the obvious reason of potentially burning the tent down, you can get carbon monoxide poisoning too.

Follow the instructions and use some common sense and you won’t go too far wrong.

Remember, gas and other stoves are potentially hazardous too.

How to use a liquid fuel stove

One thing to note is that liquid fuel stoves require priming before they will work.

This means that a small amount of fuel is pumped into the stove and burnt off before it can be used properly.

The main purpose of priming is to heat up the section of metal tube that sits over the top of the burner.

This is known as the Generator Tube.

This is what fuel passes through before it reaches the burner. Once this is warm, it transfers heat to the fuel passing through it.

This, in turn, enables the now heated fuel to vapourise and combust correctly when it reaches the actual burner.

Stove Maintenance

MSR Expedition Service Kit for MSR Stoves
MSR Expedition Service Kit

There are more moving parts on a liquid fuel stove as opposed to gas.

Due to this, although very reliable, it is essential to carry some form of field repair kit if you are relying on your stove to function effectively.

Most of the stoves mentioned below will come with a small parts kit included.

However, it is wise to bolster this with some extra parts such as those included in the MSR expedition service kit.

Periodic maintenance of the stove is required to ensure long term performance.

The MSR expedition service kits will cover most eventualities in the field and are a good item to carry with you.

If looked after, and properly maintained, these stoves should last a lifetime.

Summary

There are many options available when selecting a bushcraft stove.

If you have a good supply of small twigs etc and don’t mind longer boil times, the closest and most environmentally sustainable option is the wood type, such as the Solo Stove, or Honey Stove.

The fact that this fuel is usually free and readily available, further adds to their appeal.

However, if you want or need to go down the fuel route, meths, gas and liquid fuel stoves are all excellent in their own right.

Your choice will depend on the environment you will be in at the time, trip length and of course, personal preference.

Hopefully, this post has outlined the main bushcraft stove options available.

If you feel you would like anything else mentioned, please leave a comment below or use the contact us page and I will do my best to oblige.

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