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So I built my survival shelter and I decide a nice fire would really warm things up. Is there a way I can build a fire that would heat the shelter without too much smoke? I know I could make the shelter better and warmer, and I would need to sit and stare at the fire making sure it didn't burn the shelter down.

Is there a way to build a fire to do this? Side note, I am assuming a typical low crawl in shelter, would there be a better one to use with fire?

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Is the shelter highly flammable, e.g. anything made with lightweight synthetics? –  BMitch Sep 18 '12 at 2:25

3 Answers 3

up vote 6 down vote accepted

To avoid starting fire inside your shelter, you can do it outside and use a screen (sorry for my drawing):enter image description here

This is view from aside. On the upper picture there is a widely used method for sleeping under a screen (a piece of fabric). Screen is set above your sleeping place at 45 degrees and the heat is reflected from the screen towards you, so you are warm from almost any direction. I've tried this at -15 C and it worked like charm.

You can use the same idea - set a screen or a couple of them to "focus" the heat on your shelter (on the entrance hole, missing wall, whatever). This way you can't get all the heat your fire produces, but you'll be able to capture a good part of it. I haven't tried this in practice, though. You profit is that you don't need to worry much about your shelter, the fire gets enough oxygen and no smoke comes inside.

P.S. Ther is another drawing of the same method:

enter image description here

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If you are in extremely cold climes, setting a fire inside your shelter may be essential. Key issues are around getting enough oxygen in to it, and getting the smoke out.

Taking these in reverse order:

  • You can keep smoke levels low by using dry wood or smokeless fuels, but if using a survival shelter these may not be an option, so you may be collecting wood that is damp. It will produce a lot of smoke, so you need to ensure you build a chimney - ideally out of something you can turn so the smoke exits downwind. The higher you can make the chimney the better the draw of air through the shelter. If your shelter has a roof of branches or leaves you may not need a chimney, but you will still want to have a section of roof that is higher than the rest, so most of the smoke will rise higher than your head.

  • Providing a way for air to get in to the base of your fire is essential - too little oxygen means your fire will be producing carbon monoxide, which is dangerous as you can't smell it and it can make you fall asleep and then suffocate. Typically a shelter made from branches will not have a problem here, but for a shelter dug into an earth bank or similar you need to make sure air can get to the fire.

Make your fire under the highest part of the shelter, and check whatever material is above it on a regular basis to ensure it isn't becoming dangerously dry and hot.

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An alternative to building a fire inside your shelter is to heat some rocks in a fire outside, and bring them inside (don't burn yourself!). A fire can sometimes be the best thing, but the heat from a hot rock can be a safer option if you're nervous.

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Nice tip. Just watch for exploders: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/801/… –  LBell Oct 3 '12 at 12:38

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