Winter survival: How to start a fire in the snow

By Stef Zisovska
Publish Date:

Wintertime is the hardest time when it comes to survival in the wild. The mixture of cold weather and lack of food has caused many people through the years to lose their lives or suffer serious long-term health damage. Correct preparation and care are necessary for any survival situation, and this is especially so in severe cold weather.

One big problem is that starting a fire in the snow is no easy task if you do not have the necessary skills and experience.

Springtime in mountains.

However, there is a solution to every problem in life including cold weather fire starting. Don’t despair if you have no idea how to do it, just follow these simple tips and get ready for the challenge.

Selecting a site

Selecting a site

The most important thing to consider when making a fire outside is finding the right location. Always choose a place protected from wind, snow, and water. Many people like to make a fire under a big tree while camping in the wild, but that’s not a good idea.

Big trees have a lot of snow burden on the branches that can melt, making your fireplace wet and unusable. If you do want to start a fire under a tree, then first knock the branches and make sure there is no snow left up there. Brushing the snow away from the actual site is the next step you should take and then make sure the ground is flat and stiff.

Always worth lighting a fire for

Building the fire pit

Making a stone floor in your fire pit is the best thing you can do if you want to start a fire in the snow or even in the rain. The base of the pit must be as dry as possible, and will let any water drain between the stones.

Make sure you leave a little bit of space between so the fire can breathe. Close to the fire pit, you can make a small stone platform where you can keep the extra firewood instead of having it on wet ground.

Building the fire

Building a fire

Gather tinder, kindling, and some larger pieces of wood. If your kindling is dry, then you shouldn’t have a problem starting a fire. If some of your firewood is wet, then you need to dry them first by raising the temperature.

Cotton balls and paraffin are effective in speeding up the fire intensity, so prepare some back home and keep them in a waterproof container until you need them.

Dutch oven cooking

Cotton make-up removal pads are even better for this purpose because they hold the paraffin better. Also, think about starting a fire close to a reflective surface such as a big boulder that will reflect the heat and keep you even warmer.

Getting the most out of your campfire

Camping in winter

When you’re camping in the snow, you want to make sure that your fire and your shelter are close. Build the fire right in front of your tent but make sure there are no flammables nearby. Remove all items that can be damaged by the heat.


Bring a couple of rescue blankets and place them in the back, at the bottom and on the roof of your shelter to keep in the heat from the fire and warm your tent. Before going to bed, put some rocks near the fire, then when they’re warm wrap them in an extra shirt and place them in your bed. Next to the feet is where you will feel the heat the most.

The coals from the fire can be moved with a shovel and buried under the ground where you’re planning to sleep. This method is especially useful if you have no tent and you’re lost in the woods. Stay warm and good luck!

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