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This is especially problematic if you dress up in layers, the last one being, for example, a raincoat. Putting a burn hole through your rain coat let's the rain in...

Are there some tricks in fire-making that reduce this risk? Any other tricks to protect what you're wearing (be it a raincoat or one of those down coats; you don't want your precious down falling out)?

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Wear cheap stuff that you don't mind burning holes in. –  Jan Hlavacek Jan 27 '12 at 18:10

4 Answers 4

If I make a wood fire I usually lay aside my water proof layer. Getting small holes in your insulation layers doesn't really affect the thermal efficiency of the fabric. If the hole is big enough that the filling falls out you can still patch it, which again does not affect the insulation.

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Yes, I do that when it's practical. But my rain jacket also acts as wind-proofing so this is sometimes more difficult. –  Shawn Jan 27 '12 at 20:27

Like Thomas Rawyler said, one should lay aside his waterproof layer or anything similar that a cinder can burn through when he is working with fire. One doesn't need a waterproof layer when he has a fire, since he is being kept warm by the fire. Or in most cases anyways. If it is raining or you really need it, then the fire is not doing it's job.

So I would suggest keeping it aside and out of reach of the cinders. On a related note, keep your tent out of reach of the fire as well, since most tent fabrics can be burnt by cinder holes.

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Here are a few rather obvious tips to reduce embers and sparks:

  • A smaller fire may still keep you warm with a reflector behind it (logs, rocks, etc).
  • Avoid materials that are very likely to fly away, such as leaves, shredded bark, pine cones, edges of logs, paper, etc.
  • Logs burnt down to coals don't produce as many sparks as a roaring fire, and you can easily ignite one or two logs in the center of the hot bed without as tall of a fire structure.
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Know your woods. In addition to materials that fly away, which are obvious no-no's for safety reasons, the other source of burning cinders is wood that pops, throwing embers at you.

As a very broad generalization, wood from evergreens tends to spit and pop quite a bit more than hardwoods. If you've got any choice at all in the matter, use evergreens to get your fire started, as they tend to catch pretty easily, but switch to hardwoods for fuel after that. Hardwoods will burn hotter, more evenly, and with less popping and sparking than pines, cedars, and so on.

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