With winter either on the horizon or already here, does it mean that it’s time to give up all the outdoor activities that you enjoyed during the summer? Chances are that you probably can’t (and shouldn’t) go swimming for at least a couple of months.
But the truth is that if you know how to build a fire pit in winter, you can continue enjoying the outdoors even when it’s cold and snowy!
Better yet, knowing how to build a winter fire pit could even save your life if a winter adventure goes wrong, and you find yourself stranded in the outdoors. Keep reading to learn how to winterize your fire pit.
Why Create a Fire Pit in Winter
You might be wondering why in the world one would want to build a fire pit in winter. You’re probably covered in layers of clothing that restrict motion, you’ll be freezing before you even get your first spark of heat, and the whole affair just seems uncomfortable.
The reason is because knowing how to winterize a fire pit could be life-saving. Just because you know how to get a fire going during your yearly family camping trip doesn’t mean you’ll know how to handle the cold, wind, and snow a couple of months later. These three factors make for a very different challenges to building a fire pit.
Plus, even if you don’t find yourself in a life-threatening situation, learning how to build a fire pit in winter means that the long cold months of the darkest season of the year don’t have to be so restrictive. S’mores over a fire, anyone? How about gathering some chairs around the heat and singing some holiday carols? There’s suddenly loads of more activities to enjoy with your friends and family—you could even get a grill doing!
How to Create a Fire Pit in Winter
Chances are that you already know how to build a fire pit in mild weather, so this post will focus on how to winterize a fire pit. If you have no idea how to build a fire pit to begin with, I suggest you learn how to light a fire first (the post includes instructions on building a fire pit, too) and then come back.
1. Prepare a Spot
The first step towards building any fire pit, is, obviously, to decide where to do so. In addition to finding a location that is far away from anything that might catch the flame and start a forest fire (don’t be that person), when it comes to winterizing a firepit, you’ll be dealing with a few more obstacles.
Ideally you’d pick a spot that is as dry as possible and free of snow. During the winter, that’s not always possible. If the layer of snow is thin enough, you might be able to dig your way to bare earth. It will probably still be wet, but it’s better than nothing.
You should also choose a location that is relatively sheltered from the wind, which might snuff out your fire in one swell swoop if you’re not careful.
If you already know you’ll be building a fire pit on snow, check out our post on building a fire in the snow for more specific details.
2. Build a Platform
The problem with building a winter fire pit on top of snow is that even if you get a fire going on it, the snow will melt, and eventually extinguish your flame. But not all hope is lost!
If you can’t clear the snow away, then you’ll have to keep the fire pit off the ice. In reality, you should probably do this even if you’ve managed to dig away the snow, because frozen earth will cause the same exact problems.
You can do this by creating a platform out of rocks or logs, and then making your pile of tinder and kindling on top of that. This way even if the snow melts, it’ll be just the lowest layer of rocks or wood that sinks into the water, and the flames will continue crackling away above.
3. Use Dry Fuel
Now that you’ve built a platform to keep your flames away from the snow, the next step towards building a fir pit in winter is finding the right kind of fuel. While during the summer you might be able to get away with using some greenwood, adding more moisture to an already struggling winter fire is not a great idea.
During the winter it’s even more important to use dry tinder, kindling, and firewood to coax your flames—and as you might have guessed, even more difficult. Dead fallen branches could be a good option, as long as they haven’t been covered in heavy snow for a long time.
Sometimes you might even find dead branches still dangling from their trees. This is the best case scenario, because they haven’t yet been covered in snow or submerged in a rain puddle, and are probably still dry.
4. Light the Fire
Now that your winter fire pit is almost completely winterized, it’s time to get the flames going. Though fire starters are always a more convenient way to strike a flame than the methods they teach you at Boy and Girl Scouts, this is even more true during the winter. I suggest using a ferro rod, which never runs out.
5. Reflecting the Heat
Now that you’ve coaxed a fire to life, there is one last step you can do to winterize your winter fire pit. Hopefully you’ve already picked a sheltered location so that the firepit can warm up the small space faster—but you can also build barriers around the fire to concentrate the heat even more.
You can do this by building piles of rocks or logs in a half circle around the fire pit—obviously, on the side where you’re not sitting.
Now You Know How to Create a Fire Pit in Winter!
I hope this post has taught you how to build a fire pit in winter. Not only does a winter fire pit create opportunity for outdoor activities even on the coldest day, but it could be potentially life-saving if one of your winter adventures go wrong. Remember that fire pits in winter aren’t the same as those you build during the summer—they have to be winterized to account for rain, snow, and wind.
Excited for more survival fire content? Then keep reading for fire guides, tips, and suggestions!