Low Cost Survival Fire: How to Build a Swedish Fire Torch
Although the name suggests something you carry around to light your way like Indiana Jones, the Swedish Fire Torch is actually a very practical survival campfire. Requiring only a single log, some kindling, and an axe or other tool to make some deep cuts into the log, you can have a long-lasting fire that you don’t need to constantly tend while you setup your camp or cook your meal. Owing to its design, it actually sits above the ground, providing protection from snow and water, as well as a modicum of protection from wind. As a final bonus, the top of this fire even has a convenient flat top that is great for setting a pot on to boil water or warm up a can of soup!
How to build the Torch
- Gather your materials. Any medium-sized log will do for the main part of the torch, ideally one that is dry but not completely rotted. If you would like to cook with a pot or skillet, make sure that the top is reasonably flat and large enough to support the pot/pan you want to use.
- That log can also be used for shavings that you can use to start the fire, if other sources of kindling aren’t immediately available. A maul, axe, hatchet, or other even a wedge shaped rock that you can pound on to split the log round out the list.So long as you have equal segments for stacking kindling, the number doesn’t really matter. Common splits are 4, 6, and 8, depending on preference.
- Taking your cutting tool cut from the top of the log into the wood, splitting the top of the log into equal segments. The deeper into the wood you go the more kindling and airflow you’ll have for a larger fire, but if you have standing water or snow on the ground keep your cuts above the level of the moisture in order to protect your fire. Be warned that if you split the log completely you’ll have to bind it together with a metal band or piece of wire to hold it together again.
- Pile in thicker shavings or pieces of kindling on the bottom of the slices, adding thin pieces of tinder in between each layer. If possible use sticks or shavings long enough to fit through the entire log and stick out slightly at both ends. Stack them in a crisscross fashion all the way to the top.
- Taking the thinnest, most flammable shavings you have, pile this tinder on the top of the cuts in the center of the log.
- Set the tinder alight, and ensure that the fire gets a good start. Once it begins going in earnest, you should not need to add any more material for several hours, as the fire will grow hot enough to feed on the log itself.
A Swedish Fire Torch can be used to cook delicious meals.
An alternative to using a single log and then splitting it: Make your own log!
If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the tools to split a log, you can still build a rough imitation of a proper Swedish Torch. If you have any flame-resistant bands (pieces of wire work great for this) you can simply take pieces of split firewood, a bundle of large, long twigs, or other flammable material and bind them together in a similar fashion. Always make sure that you bind it tightly enough to stay together, but loosely enough to allow consistent airflow for your fire. If you wish to cook on these artificial logs, you will need to flatten the top out by chopping off pointed tips and making a flat surface for the pot or pan to rest on.
If you’re careful with placement, you can use mildly flammable materials for your binding. I still recommend metal wire over string or vines.
And there you have it: the perfect survival campfire. It requires very few tools, uses little fuel, and burns for hours without needing tending. These actually operate on a principle similar to many expensive Rocket Stoves and although they’re one-time use only, they also cost a lot less than a metal stove. Try making a few for yourself and see how simple it is.