Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Fire in lieu of sleeping gear?
Display Avatars Sort By:
John Doe
(jessearl) - F
Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 06/26/2008 16:14:36 MDT Print View

Just wondering what everyone's take on using a campfire instead of carrying a sleeping bag would be.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 06/26/2008 16:30:53 MDT Print View

Depending on temps, you may be woken up by the cold time and time again -- to add more wood and stoke the fire. The rest of the time, half of you will be toasty while the other half remains cold -- so probably lots of turning too.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 06/26/2008 17:44:16 MDT Print View

Did that several times in boy scouts 40 years ago. I do not remember sleeping.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Fire and sleeping on 06/26/2008 17:47:12 MDT Print View

does not sound like a good idea.....

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Fire and sleeping on 06/26/2008 19:02:47 MDT Print View

I can't remember what it's called in English, but in Japanese there are these things called "tampo" which is made of an insulated container into which you place red-hot coals. The coals burn throughout the night in the container and the containers are placed under the bed in mountain huts in winter. As an alternative you could heat up some rocks in the fire and then cover them with a cotton or wool bag that would protect you from getting burned. This and a lean-to tarp to reflect the fire's heat would do a lot to keep you warm, though I still recommend at least a blanket to keep you warm.

Though I do agree about having to tend the fire... I once slept in a teepee (a true teepee, not a silnylon one) in -15ยบ Celcius temperatures midwinter at 2,500 meters with just a wool blanket. I continually woke up all night long both to the smoke and to the fire going out and the teepee getting freezing. Not something I care to do again!

However, I think people are forgetting that for tens of thousands of years people slept without modern sleeping bags and somehow managed to stay warm. We just have to relearn the techniques they used.

Edited by butuki on 06/26/2008 19:09:12 MDT.


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 06/26/2008 19:46:23 MDT Print View

I'd recommend you read "Bush Craft - Outdoor Skills and Wilderness Survival" by Mors Kochanski. There's some really good information there concerning wood fires for warmth.

You didn't mention your geographical location or the low temperatures you expect to to encounter, but one thing to keep in mind is that the wood quantity requirements, especially when the temperature dips, are quite large. In other words, you will need a lot of wood. From a purely practical standpoint, it means you will probably need an axe, since there probably won't be enough loose fuel lying around in sufficient quatity and size to last you the entire night. You'll need the axe to prepare the firewood.

Edited by DanG on 06/26/2008 19:52:31 MDT.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Fire in lieu.. on 06/26/2008 20:30:22 MDT Print View

were you in my same troop? We didn't sleep either, then it started raining and everything got wet, killed the fire. Same for you?

If it was a Les Stroud situation, then you have to work with the cards you have.
I also see the issues of one side medium-well, the other frozen, rolling into the fire, embers catching your clothing / hair / whatever on fire. But if you planned it out well, it's probably workable.

I'm game to try it again, but would want a backup position...


(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
RE: "Fire in lieu of sleeping gear?" on 06/26/2008 20:48:28 MDT Print View

The most successful trips I had were all about the campcraft and just day hiking from a central point. It is more of a survival technique. It is a lot of fun but if you don't have hard wood vs. soft woods to choose from you are going to wake up regularly at night and have to stoke the fire on a cold night. Also, building wind protection will help you stay warm. Read a lot before you try this. If you try it while hiking, remember you may need to stop 4-6 hours before dark to get camp ready.

It is fun!

mark henley
(flash582) - F
fire in lieu of sleeping bag on 06/26/2008 21:27:06 MDT Print View

String an emergency blanket lean to style on the other side of the fire facing you, and one over you.

The heat will reflect very well .... but you'll still be waking up to stoke the fire regularly.

Now a fire bed. .... that's a different story.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 06/27/2008 07:55:50 MDT Print View

Miguel was on the right track.
Bury a buch of heated rocks under the dirt (about 1-2 inches should do it).
I have not done this myself but I know people who have and it will keep warm most of the night.
I do not think it will be enough warmth without a sleeping bag anywhere near freezing temps? You can test the concept by heating a rock in some coals and before its so hot it will burn you, put it under your arm pits or hold it in your crotch (where the arteries are). It will stay warm for a surprising amount of time.
A fire would have to be HUGE to last even most of the night, 20 min. to 1 hour cycles is best you can hope for in a warming fire. Ther are some set ups that will allow a log or two to fall in the fire on its own held up by a stick that burns through, but its not enough for the whole night and it may not work like it should while your sleeping.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: "Fire in lieu of sleeping gear?" on 06/27/2008 08:21:45 MDT Print View

One of my favorite scenes of all time from a movie is from "Dersu Uzala" (a Russian film directed by Akira Kurosawa, of "Seven Samurai" fame) when Dersu (a native Siberian, similar to an Inuit) and the Commander get lost on a frozen lake and have to race against time to prepare a shelter against an oncoming storm with only available materials. The ingeniousness of Dersu is truly amazing. He uses the surveyors tripod they are carrying to bolster up the reed shelter and they survive a night without fire.

Edited by butuki on 06/27/2008 08:47:22 MDT.


Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: Re: "Fire in lieu of sleeping gear?" on 06/27/2008 08:42:54 MDT Print View

There is a pretty neat video on youtube (search for "ray mears siberia") where he is with some native Siberians. The videos show them making various items like shelters, fences, boots, etc. They are raindeer herders and the fences that they build are pretty cool, using tripods for support. They don't use any kind of lashings or fasteners to build the fences, it's all done by having the poles interlock. Pretty neat stuff.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Re: "Fire in lieu of sleeping gear?" on 06/27/2008 08:56:35 MDT Print View

Her are various short term debris shelters and a few long term ones at the school I take classes at (when I have the $ and time)

(drown) - F - MLife

Locale: Shenandoah
Re: Re: Fire and sleeping on 06/27/2008 14:14:23 MDT Print View


I agree with you that people did this in the past for long periods of time. Also consider that sleeping for 8 hours at a time, at night, every night is a relatively modern concept.
Temperatures, daylight hours, hunting requirements, warfare, gathering needs all dominated when our human ancestors slept and some evidence indicates that it was likely not in solid 8 hour blocks during the night.

Alpinists climbing in Alaska in the spring have been known to rest during the warmer daylight hours and climb during the cooler more stable (yet still light) evening hours. A very smart way to cut weight and minimize risk. I suppose if hiking up north in the summer months one could use a similar approach if you could quickly adapt your body to sleep in the middle of the day. A tent ( even a light one) in the sun can get quite warm and negates the need for a sleeping bag.

Edited by drown on 06/27/2008 14:19:03 MDT.

Thom Kendall
(kendalltf) - F

Locale: IL
Re Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 06/29/2008 18:39:47 MDT Print View

One major problem with this is that many parks have fire requirements that may prohibit a large open fire. An old trick to keep a fire going all night is to create three sides to a box (open side toward the sleeper) with large cut logs. When the fire is made the logs, if large enough will burn all night and you will have coals in the morning. Another trick is to dig box hole in the ground and spread coals all over and then covering the coals with dirt. A ground clothe is then placed over it and sleeping blankets. I would not recommend the latter unless you have someone to show you who has done it before. I think fire alone would not work but in situations where needed fire with insulation (leaves, needles, etc) would work.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Fire in lieu of sleeping gear on 06/30/2008 23:59:41 MDT Print View

As a survival tool , several of the suggestions above make sense. As a regular replacement for a sleeping bag ,no.
Same reason why I would hunt for food if lost and starving but I don't take off for the bush with nothing but a Rambo knife in my hand.

Ryan Krause

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 07/02/2008 11:14:50 MDT Print View

Not sure if I would attempt it, but Bear Grylls in one episode of Man Vs. Wild made what he called an "Indian Smoke Blanket", where he made two fires and dug a shallow impression to lay in between them that was lined with rocks to prevent rolling into the fires.

Les Stroud of Survivorman fame shows a bunch of ways to stay warm - such as build a fire and place non-porous stones on the edge of the fire to heat up and once warm use them like you would a hot water bottle. Or build a reflector, or camp near a natural reflector like a rock face. Building a simple primitive shelter and bring the fire to the entrance or inside, etc.

Unless I was in a survival position though, I'd rather just bring the gear - even with all his techniques, most episodes of Survivorman Les doesn't sleep a whole lot and this is someone with a ton of experience.

Edited by rmkrause on 07/02/2008 11:21:07 MDT.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Fire in lieu of sleeping gear? on 07/03/2008 12:54:34 MDT Print View

When you look at what early hikers did, going out with a wool blanket in freezing temps, there are options they also used to keep warm if got too cold.

The fire is obvious as well as the heated rocks.

The other thing that can be done if it gets really cold is to dig an 8" deep hole the length of your torso and use it as the fire pit until you get ready to go to sleep.
You would also build a 2nd fire, the one you would use while you're sleeping.
Before you go to sleep, you just bury the coals and sleep on top.
This can add at least an addition 10-15* of warmth.

It's a lot of work, but could definitely save your life.
It has also been done on one of the survivor shows, but was mentioned on how well it worked the following morning.
I'm really surprised they don't use that method when they're out there a lot more.
All you see on the shows is that they are freeken cold all night long.