How to Build a Bushcraft Shelter with a Fireplace Safely

by | Sep 24, 2020 | Shelter

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When it comes to bushcraft and survival, there isn’t much room for luxury. At first glance, building a bushcraft shelter with a fireplace may seem like an unnecessary addition. But sometimes the situation really may call for it.

Whether you want to learn how to build a fireplace inside your shelter for survival, or to impress others, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know.

First Things First: Planning Stage

Building any kind of shelter requires planning. Meaning, you need to scope out the area, find the perfect location, and take into account all the available resources around you. Things get even more tricky when you’re adding a potentially hazardous feature to your shelter. 

Fire is no joke, especially if you’re going to be spending significant amounts of time next to one in your shelter. For that reason alone, we strongly recommend you take the initial planning stages seriously.

Smoke Ventilation

Fire creates a lot of smoke, which can cause difficulty breathing. Not to mention the damage it can do to your lungs. Without access to oxygen, your fire will begin to create carbon monoxide, which leads to even more problems

Therefore, it is essential that your bushcraft shelter has ventilation to accommodate a fireplace. It can be a hole in the roof or it could be a mash shift chimney. The higher your chimney is the better it is.

Be careful not to cover the roof of the shelter with a tarp or foliage under which the fireplace will be made. The last thing you want is for your shelter to catch fire.

Fire Size

Our relationship with fire is a delicate one to say the least. We need it to survive, but too much of it can turn a survival fire into our worst enemy. 

Maintaining a proper fire size within your bushcraft shelter is important. It’s how you ensure that the fire doesn’t get out of hand, and burn up all your survival gear. Therefore, check if you have enough space in your shelter for a fire pit and enough room overhead so that the fire does not burn your shelter. 

If you’re not working with much room, take some extra precautions. For example, you can use stones to create a smaller area in which the fire can burn, and help control its spread.

Materials Needed

Whenever you take your next trip, your survival kit should have a firestarter and a tool to chop wood. While foraging in the surrounding areas of the camp, keep an eye out for dry tree branches, leaves and bushes.

If the things you find are damp, set them aside for later use and use the fire to dry them out.

In addition to that, find stones for the fire pit. It should be enough, so that it forms a circle around the fireplace. Find as much as you can beforehand beforehand instead of foraging later again.

Adding a Fireplace to Your BushCraft Shelter

Once you have all of your materials collected, it’s time to get down to business. By following the steps below, you’ll learn what you need to do to build a bushcraft shelter with a fireplace.

  • Step 1: Once your shelter is built, make sure to properly ventilate it by creating an opening for smoke to safely flow out of.
  • Step 2: Create a fire pit using the stones you have foraged. This gives you an idea of the size of the pit you want. 
  • Step 3: Like placing bricks on top of one another on a wall, do the same with the stone you find. Make sure you build it in a circular manner to contain the fire
  • Step 4: Leave an opening at the top of the pit for ventilation, and another moderately sized opening at the bottom, so that you can easily place the materials inside the pit to set the fire on. 
  • Step 5: Look for and collect dry tree branches, leaves, hay and bushes. 
  • Step 6: Place the materials your foraged through the opening of the pit at the bottom
  • Step 7: The final step is to use a matchstick or a firestarter to set the materials on fire and keep on adding branches and leaves at certain intervals, so that the flames do not die out.

What to Avoid Burning

Even though your shelter is going to be properly ventilated, sitting in a confined space in close proximity to smoke can be hazardous. Adding any of the following fuel to the mix is only going to make matters worse. So, we suggest you avoid burning the items listed below.

Wet Wood 

Wet or unseasoned firewood contain up to 40% water. When they are burned, they create more smoke than normal, and do not create as much heat as dry wood.

Painted or Treated Lumber 

Luckily, if you’re in nature, you won’t find any painted, treated, or manufactured wood. However, if you happen to have some on you, or come across any, it may seem tempting to throw into your fire. 

Avoid this temptation.

Paint and manufactured wood, like plywood, release toxic gases and carcinogens when burned. If you’re in a shelter, it doesn’t really matter how well it’s ventilated, you’ll end up breathing in chemicals that are harmful to your body.

Accelerants

Never use kerosene, grill started fluid, or gasoline as they can create flare ups and heat your fireplace to extreme levels. This is very unsafe.

Plastics

When burned, plastics also release toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide, dioxins and heavy metals, that can be bad for you and the environment altogether. 

Cardboard, Dryer Lint, and Driftwood

All of these materials contain toxic chemicals and burning them would make a fireplace unbearable to be nearby. They do more harm than good to your health.

Bottom Line

Never leave your fireplace unguarded, especially in a bushcraft shelter. Fire has the potential to spread fast, and can quickly spiral out of control. Even if you leave your shelter for 5 minutes, make sure you put out the fire before you leave. Make the fireplace at a reasonable size and from which you have a safe distance.

Keep in mind that having a fireplace outside is always safer. If you don’t feel comfortable building a bushcraft shelter with a fireplace, you can also opt for alternative options. For example, you can bring heated stones inside your shelter if you want a source of heat without a fire.

Brian Segal

As an outdoor enthusiast, I was drawn to bushcraft at a young age. I constantly find myself trying to learn and improve on my survival skills, and enjoy writing about everything I discover to help pass along to others.

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