Essential Winter Firelighting Techniques

posted in: Winter Camping | 45

[You can also watch Essential Winter Firelighting Techniques directly on YouTube.]

In this video you’ll discover fire lighting techniques that are simple, straightforward and reliable in cold conditions.

When I filmed this video is was minus 28 to minus 30 degrees Celsius (25 below Fahrenheit).

In particular you’ll discover –

  • the two key natural firelighting materials found in the largest forest on the planet;
  • which natural materials can be combined for great winter fire lays;
  • the key preparations and considerations you need to make for failsafe winter fire lighting.

Make sure you watch right to the end for the deleted scenes….

In the comments below, let me know which part of this video you found the most useful…

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Paul Kirtley is owner and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog as well as for various publications including Bushcraft & Survival Skills Magazine.

45 Responses

  1. Gretta

    I’ve been using birch bark ever since seeing it used in Mongolia several years ago. Very effective. Didn’t know about the lichen though. A good tip.

    • Paul Kirtley

      Hi Gretta,

      Thanks for your comment. Birch bark is a fantastic matieral – one of nature’s best firelighters. And we are blessed to be able to find it on such a common and widespread genus. It’s a great one to know.

      I’m glad you found the lichen element of the video instructive. There are many similar beard lichens and all of them that I have tried work in a similar fashion.

      What were you doing in Mongolia?

      Warm regards,


  2. steve

    Really enjoyed this video Paul and the information is both valuable and well presented as ever. I like the idea of the deleted scenes too. . .”Here in the Northern Forest I am looking for somewhere stable to stand” Good fun!

  3. Liam Gadd

    Yet again a great video… The firelighting tips are always handy to re-cap on. I’m glad to see the same technique we’re taught on your courses used, and proven reliable even in enviroments were the snow is waste high! and the temputure is WAY below freezing!

    • Paul Kirtley

      Hi Liam,

      It’s good to hear from you. Yes, it’s nice to see the essential techniques working in a wide range of environments.

      As we always say, the subjects and techniques we teach on our training courses in the UK have a wide applicability that reaches much further than our small islands.

      Plus, the Frontier team are out there making real-world journeys, using these techniques in situations where it really matters that they work. We then bring this experience back to our training courses for the benefit of our clients.

      I know you already understand this interconnectedness but it’s good to discuss why it works.

      Warm regards,


  4. Liam Gadd

    oh and of course the deleted scenes are also very funny to watch! love it.

  5. goshawk

    Hi Paul,
    brilliant vid as always 😉
    It was nice to see that not every scene is ready with the first shot^^
    Where can I get a hat like yours ? Looks toasty.

    • Paul Kirtley

      Hi Andreas,

      It’s good to hear from you again. Thanks for your feedback on the video – I’m glad you enjoyed it and had a laugh at the deleted scenes. Not every shot works out first time – not by a long way! 😉

      The had I’m wearing was bought in a hunting shop in Stockholm and made by a Swedish company called Wigens. I understand that they recently went into administration/receivership, which is a real shame as they made good quality products. You might still be able to find one of the hats on the internet if you are lucky…

      Warm regards,


      • goshawk

        Hi Paul,
        thank you very much. Could it be rabbit fur with goat leather 😉 ? If so I just found the hat 😀
        And I fear that you won’t get rid of me as long as your vids are awesome like those you already made^^

        • Paul Kirtley

          Hi again Andreas! 🙂

          Don’t worry, it’s good to know you are liking my videos.

          As for the hat, the fur is rabbit fur but mine is not leather, just a synthetic outer material.

          Warm regards,


  6. wannabemountainman

    Great, and informative. I would love to post this in my forum, http://woodlife-people. .
    In the out-takes, I was somewhat disappointed that one did not show a bump into a branch, resulting in a “snow-shower”.

    • Paul Kirtley

      Hi there Ed,

      Well I did get a bit of a snow shower when I was collecting the small stick from the base of the spruce tree. That’s not the first time though, and I’d zipped my jacket right up to my chin, so it didn’t go down my neck 🙂

      Please do post a link in your forum if you wish.

      Warm regards,


  7. Leena

    Hi Paul

    Loved the deleted scenes…:) a good laugh. …reminded me of the ‘beaver walk’ !!

    A Much appreciated video for snowy days…it came in handy as we are on the outlook for firewood for keeping warm…there is something special in connecting with nature and having fire the natural way…so we have been scouring the woods and looking for those dry standing twigs….

    Its also made me appreciate how much the trees I saw a few months ago has changed..with season….as this is more indepth look at the trees and branches….it will be interesting it see them spring to life with green buds in spring.

    Have a great festive season…to all those berries soaked in liqueur….!!

    • Paul Kirtley

      Hi Leena,

      🙂 Glad you like the deleted scenes and that you were able to see an application for some of the more serious content almost immediately.

      Warm regards,


  8. Yari Todon

    Any chance for the video to be put on another hosting like YouTube? Here in Italy I can’t see it…

    • Paul Kirtley

      Hi Yari,

      Nice to hear from you. Sorry you are having problems with the video.

      Are you trying to view on a mobile device?



      • Yari Todon

        Hi Mr. Kirtley,
        I tried with different browsers, but no success. I think some Vimeo videos are blocked by Italian providers (which ones, I really don’t know – the usual “Italian Internet Freedom”).

          • Yari Todon

            Thank you. It would have been a shame to lose one of your instructional videos – and I’m looking forward to trying some fire-lighting on the snow.
            Thanks again

            • Yari Todon

              Thank you for uploading the video to YouTube, I had at last a chance to see it. Really useful, and also funny with the deleted scenes.

  9. Steve Bayley

    Hi Paul, I notice when you were lighting your split-wood and birch bark fire that, although we couldn’t see you doing it, we can hear that you are using the technique that appears in one of your 20 top-tips where you scrape off some material from the spark-stick before actually striking the spark. This seems an obvious environment and circumstance in which to use that technique as I expect that the very low temperature has a big impact on those key first few seconds where we need the sparks to become flames. I remember that when I needed to light a fire in the snow this January that I struggled to get my birch bark to take from sparks. If I’d have been familiar with your technique I think I’d have got my lunch much sooner! As usual the devil is in the detail and good preparation is key: lots of birch bark, lots of bark dust and small shavings plus a boost from the spark-stick shavings. It prompted me to dig out one of those magnesium alloy blocks with a sparking insert that I’ve had for years, but seldom use, which seems a perfect tool for winter fire lighting. I’ve been enjoying your recent series of tips; splitting wood, perfect feather sticks, making strong sparks, plus this new video which should combine to set us up all ready for the winter. Thanks again for sharing all this great stuff.

  10. Duane Yates

    Hi Paul.
    Another very clear and informative video, and the outakes were hilarious thanks for sharing Paul 🙂

    Take Care Mate,

  11. ryan

    great video paul, like the deleted takes at the end. take it you were by your self, as was listening out for the laughing camera man but could not hear any one.

  12. Dan M

    Great Article. A Lot of people don’t understand how tough it is to light a fire in the wintertime when your hands, arms and body are all freezing and you have to rinse, repeat the exact same steps again and again.

    • Paul Kirtley

      Hi Dan,

      Thanks for your comment. Agreed – there is no time when efficiency in firelighting makes more of a difference than in the depths of winter.

      Take care and keep warm!


  13. Randell

    Excellent Video, It never really gets that cold here in Australia – Well not anywhere I’ve lived in Australia, but i think these skills and knowledge is good for me to know. Once again top information thanks alot for sharing.

    • Paul Kirtley

      Thanks Randell. Yes, these are more directly applicable in some environments than others but the general principles are useful everywhere.

      All the best,


  14. Sander


    Very nice video, thank you.
    What jacket/smock did you wear? It looks like Fjallraven?

    Thank you,


  15. Adrian

    Very grateful for the information. Good video. I know its cheeky of me to ask but Could we see a video on setting and starting a long log fire please. I’ve Only had the opportunity to try it a couple of times and it kept burning out on the ends no matter how many coals I raked out to get the ends going. I looked on YouTube but there are very few good videos out there. Appreciate any advice.
    Many thanks for all the information on both your blog and website.
    Have been looking at some of your courses very interesting.
    Adrian spring.

    • Paul Kirtley

      Adrian, that’s not cheeky at all. It might take me a while until I have the right materials under the right conditions as well as someone to help me film it to do the subject justice but fundamentally yes, I can do that for you. I’ll add it to my list…

      Warm regards,


  16. Adrian

    Dear Paul
    I look forward to that. Many thanks again. Its a shame I don’t live closer I would pop round to film it with you. Have you any top tips when using a wood stove in a tent in the arctic please.
    Grateful for you sharing your knowledge.
    All the best Adrian

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