in: Outdoor/Survival, Skills, Visual Guides

• Last updated: September 26, 2021

How to Carry Fire

Six ways are displayed to carry fire with hands.

Fire is one of four essential survival components, along with shelter, water, and food. In some environments, fire can be the trickiest to acquire and the most precious to sustain. If you’re out of matches and other man-made fire-starters, starting a fire with friction and natural materials is quite difficult. Thus, once you do get a fire going, it’s not “disposable” but rather something you want to “recycle,” if possible.

Enter fire carrying. Carrying the fire isn’t just a great metaphor for passing on your moral values, but a practical, millennia-old way to reuse an ember. When you’re moving camps, you can take an ember from your current fire with you, and use it to start a new fire at the place you choose to camp next.

The goal with fire carrying is to allow a preexistent ember to potentially last for hours as you journey from one place to another. Choosing the “packaging” to accomplish this is tricky, as you want to pair the ember with a material that will smolder (helping keep the ember alive), without itself burning up. Materials that strike this needed balance include things like punky wood, fungus, or pine cones. Once the ember is paired with smolder-friendly materials, you wrap this coupling in wet moss that will hold things together without burning.

Above we outline three methods for how to do this. Keep in mind that no matter what technique you use, you should plan on babysitting the ember while you’re on the move. You may have to periodically blow on it or adjust your packaging to ensure the right mix of oxygen and fuel. Once you arrive at your new camp, you can unpack your ember, place it in dry tinder, and blow your fire back to life. If you’ve got time, practice a few fire-carrying techniques while you still have a good fire. Practicing your method beforehand will help you refine your process and give you a good idea of how long the ember will last. 

Fungus Fire Carry

1: Find bracket fungi – a type of hard fungus that grows on tree trunks.

2: Break off a chunk, hold it to an ember until it begins to smolder, then loosely wrap in moss to carry.

Ember Box

1: Gather charcoal, moss, and a ventilated container like a tin can or even a seashell.

2: Line the bottom of the container with moss, then add charcoal, and an ember. Cover with moss and close the container.

Ember Bundle

1: Gather thin twigs, dry leaves, and other tinder, as well as strips of bark and moss.

2: Place an ember in the dry material and then wrap it tightly in the bark and moss like a cigar.

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Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

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