Scouting in Canada's Resources Pages
CEREMONIAL CAMPFIRES vs COOKING AT CAMP
Most seasoned Scouters are very much aware of the difference between cooking fires and
the traditional campfire...there IS a very big difference. Please, while reading about the
different campfires, try not to get the two confused...I'd hate to hear about a Towering
Inferno being used to cook tinfoil dinners!!! Thanks for your co-operation.
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Yours in Scouting
Fire is perhaps the most important single factor in successful survival. Without it,
you'll have a difficult time meeting your basic needs - heat - food - water.
When you are lost or confused, a fire will give you a psychological boost...help you
relax, and provide company on a cold lonely night.
Fire is a great ally but it places an enormous responsibility on anyone using it in the
bush. A small fire, improperly set, can spread quickly and soon a forest fire is burning
out of control, causing additional problems to the person lost in the bush.
Never build a fire against an old stump; try to select a place where its rocky, or on
sand. Always build the fire close close to the water's edge.
The four most common mistakes people make when attempting to light a fire are:
- poor selection of tinder and fuel;
- failure to shield the match or spark from the wind;
- trying to light the fire from the downwind side;
- smothering the newly lit fire with too much fuel or pieces too large - cutting off
the oxygen supply.
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BUILDING A FIRE - WHAT IS REQUIRED?
Your first step is to plan your fire - its location, and the
materials needed. A few extra minutes spent now, will save you time, energy and
The sequence for lighting a fire is:
SPARK - TINDER - FUEL - OXYGEN
The spark can be created in many ways. Here are the six most
1. Matches - These should be carried at all times when you are
travelling in the bush. Make sure they are the "strike anywhere" type and that
they are waterproofed. This can be easily be accomplished by dipping each individual match
into nail polish. It's a good idea to place them with a piece of sandpaper in a waterproof
2. Cigarette lighter - An excellent source of spark even when
you run out of fuel. Its a good idea to fasten a string or wire to the lighter and tie it
to your belt.
3. Flint and steel - A descendent of the stone age, the flint
and steel method of fire starting is one of the safest and most reliable. Cold wet weather
will not effect this fire starter. A few sparks aimed at a small amount of dry, fine
tinder will get a fire going.
4. Battery - An electric spark can be produced from your car,
snowmobile, boat or airplane battery to ignite a rag dampened with gasoline. DON'T DO THIS NEAR YOUR FUEL SUPPLY!
5. Ammunition - Caution must be exercised with this method of
producing spark, and you must avoid needless waste. Remove the bullet or the shot from the
round of ammunition, and pour half the powder into the tinder. Place a rag into the
cartridge case and fire it into the air. The rag should burst into flame which can be
picked up and placed into the tinder.
6. Magnifying glass - Focus the sun's rays on a small amount
of good tinder. The lens from a camera, binoculars or any convex lens will do.
Tinder may be in the form of dead dry grasses, cotton,
gas-soaked rags, and fine amoounts of dry bark such as birch or cedar. The finer the
tinder the better. Start with a base of fine tinder and then form a teepee shaped pile
with the larger tinder over the finer; about 5 cm high.
Here is the place to use a sliver of pitch or strip of waxed
fire starter. In very wet weather, the most available tinder is the tiny brittle branches
from dead limbs. No larger than a pencil lead, they will burn even when damp. Those from
the evergreen trees are especially good. Select the ones which snap when broken. Soft
woods make the best kindling and split branches burn faster than whole ones.
NOTE: Tinder absorbs moister readily from the atmosphere and
may be least effective when you most urgently require it. Keep your tinder dry!
In going from the tinder to the fuel stage in fire lighting,
remember large fuel materials require greater heat to ignite; therefore, it is essential
some form of kindling be used to nurture the fire until it is hot enough to ignite larger
fuel. A few suggested forms of kindling are:
1. Dry, dead evergreen twigs;
2. Birsh bark, shavings, wood chips, or find splinters of
3. Feather sticks (dry sticks shaved on the sides in a fan
4. Gasoline or oil impregnated wood.
A good supply of fuel should be gathered PRIOR to attempting
to light the tinder to maintain the fire. Different types of fuel are desirable for a
variety of requirements. Use what is available, bearing in mind that all woods burn better
when dry and that pitchy woods or wet woods smoke. The finer the wood is split the less
smoky the fire will be. The denser the dry wood, the hotter the fire and usually the
slower the burning.
Green wood will burn, but requires a hot fire to start. Split
green wood fine and start with dry wood.
Personal experience has taught me that old Beaver stumps are
an excellent source of pre-cut fuel. The old stumps can be easily kicked out of the earth
and in Alberta, they are typically birch...very good for fuel!
A fire requires oxygen. Ensure that the fire is well
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The ideal camp fire site is on mineral soil or solid rock.
Forest fire hazard is always present with fires on muskeg, dry grass, leaves, evergreen
needles, or dead roots. A handy water supply or sand is useful for extinguishing flames.
If the ground is dry, scrape down to bare earth. In winter dig
down to solid earth, trample the snow, or dig out an area around your shelter and fire
area. If the snow is exceptionally deep a small fire may be maintained by lighting it on
top of a layer of green logs.
A cooking fire on the trail is ideal if built on a gravel bar,
presenting no fire hazard.
Avoid building the fire in a depression because long logs may
be bridged up out of the hot coals.
Do not build a fire directly under a tree because of the
danger of snow slides or igniting the dry humus and leaves.
A reflector is of little or no use unless it is burning. Large
logs rolled on the back of the fire make an excellent burning reflector.
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ADDITIONAL FIRE LIGHTING TIPS
1. Select a sheltered area out of the wind where the fire
2. Use dry tinder, or tinder which is highly flammable even
when wet, such as birch bark or pitch.
3. Have all the kindling and wood on hand before you strike
4. Use the match first to light a small rolled strip of waxed
fire starter or sliver of pitch and then light the fire with this.
5. Start with a small fire and add to it as the flame
increases. Blowing lightly on the burning wood helps increase the flame. Fire climbs.
Always add new kindling above the flame. Use dry dead wood.
6. Keep firewood dry under your shelter. Dry damp wood near
the fire and save the best kindling for the next fire.
7. With your first fire you should char some cloth by burning
it without air in a closed container such as a coffee can or a ball of clay. Use this
charred cloth for tinder to catch the spark from flint and steel. Your knife and the flint
on the bottom of the waterproof match box will generate a good spark. When the spark
catches and the cloth glows red, place it quickly in some tinder and blow into flame.
Build as many fires as possible without using matches, for you will need them to light
your signal fires or for other emergency uses.
8. To make a fire last overnight, place a layer of dry green
logs over it. This banked fire will still be smoldering in the morning. It is easier to
keep a fire going than to light one.
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BUILDING AN A-FRAME
Make a basic A-frame, or triangle, in the center of the
fire-circle with three sticks approximately one inch in diameter and one-half foot long.
One end of each stick should overlap another stick, and the other end should rest on the
In the center of the A-frame make a teepee with tinder,
starting with very fine materials and graduating to more coarse materials. Place some
kindling around the teepee.
Over the A-frame lay the type of fire structure you desire.
Light the tinder while it is still accessible, even if the fire structure is not entirely
Lay the fire structure so that air can circulate between the
materials. Without enough air the fire will not continue to burn. If necessary, fan the
smoldering fire with a paper plate to aid the circulation of air.
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TYPES OF FIRES
Fires are generally named from the manner in which the wood is
A basic fire used to begin other fires is the teepee fire. Lay
the A-frame and the tinder. Then set the kindling and fuel on end in the form of a teepee.
The high flames of this fire are good for one-pot cooking and for the reflector oven.
LOG CABIN FIRE
To get a good bed of coals, build the log cabin fire by
forming a basic A-frame and a teepee of tinder, then placing logs in the center as if you
were building a miniature log cabin. Gradually lay the logs toward the center as you build
the cabin. It will have the appearance of a pyramid, and coals will form quickly.
For a large, deep bed of coals for Dutch oven cooking or
roasting, prepare a crisscross fire. After forming a basic A-frame and a teepee of tinder
and kindling, place the logs on the fire in layers, one layer crossing the other . Leave
little space between each log for air to circulate.
INDIAN OR STAR FIRE
This fire is sometimes called the lazy man's fire because, as
the log burns down, they are simply pushed farther into the flames. It is a useful fire
for preparing one-pot meals. Use the basic A-frame and the teepee of tinder and kindling
to begin the fire, then feed the long logs into the center as needed.
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METHODS OF STARTING FIRES
There are many ways to achieve actual combustion. Some of the
more primative methods need be used only in times of emergency.
The most common method of starting a fire is to use matches.
They can be protected against moisture by dipping them into either paraffin wax or
fingernail polish. After dipping them in wax, place them in hold in corrugated cardboard,
then roll the cardboard. It should be transported in a waterproof container. Of course, if
you don't enjoy roughing it, you can by a wide variety of matches, including windproof,
and matches which come prepared and already in a waterproof container. The choice is
FLASHLIGHT BATTERIES AND STEEL WOOL
A rather dramatic method of starting a fire is to conduct the
electricity from two flashlight batteries through steel wool: Use 00 or a finer grade
steel wool roll, (You've seen Bulldog brand...I'm sure), cut or tear it into 1/2 inch
strips (approx 2 cm wide). When unrolled, the steel wool will lengthen out to a 7 or 8
inch strip. Use two flashlight batteries; old ones will work as well as new ones. Place
one battery on top of the other making sure that they are both in an upright position.
Take one end of the strip of steel wool and hold it against the bottom of the lower
battery, then take the other end of the wool and rub it across the top of the battery.
After the steel wool sparks, place it next to the tinder and blow on it to start the fire.
FLINT AND STEEL
A meat cutters steel, a steel knife blade, or a file struck
against stone will cause sparks. The sparks will create a thin wisp of smoke if they come
in contact with very dry tinder. When smoke appears, blow gently with short puffs of air
until the tinder bursts into flame. Very fine tinder or charred cloth will facilitate
A strong magnifying glass placed in the direct sunlight so
that a fine point of light is focused into dry tinder will cause the tinder to smoke and
eventually break into flame.
If constructed properly, a bow drill, consisting of a
fireboard, a drill, a socket and a bow, will create heat that can light tinder. A notch
must be cut in the side of a fireboard through which a drill will pass and rest on a flat
grooved surface below. a socket (lubricated with grease) to fit the hand will allow the
drill, operated with a sring of a bow, to rotate first one way and then another until a
fine, dust results. The dust will smoke when it becomes heated. Then it should be placed
into the tinder and blown into flame. * For this one, you really need to get together with
others and work on it in order to master the skill.
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MORE FIRE STARTING IDEAS
A cotton ball covered in petroleum jelly makes a great fire
starter. Simply roll each cotton ball in the jelly until completely covered, then put it
in a plastic film canister. (Each canister will hold about 30 balls.) To start a fire, put
two or three cotton balls under your dry kindling and light.
Make another excellent fire starter by cutting an old, worn
web belt or hiking compression strap into 8 cm strips. Soak them in wax and let dry. Next
time you want to start a fire quickly, use one.
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EXTINGUISHING A FIRE
Knowing how to extinguish a fire properly is as important as,
if not more important than, knowing how to start one. First, break up the fire with a
stick and spread out the coals. Sprinkle water over the coals. Keep stirring the fire with
the stick and drenching it with water until the coals are cool enough to touch. Take
precautions not to pour large quantities of water on a hot fire because of the sudden rush
of steam might burn you or any bystanders. A fire is not out until the coals are cool
enough to touch. If large logs have been burning, make sure all sparks are put out.
If no water is available, dig a hole or a trench and bury all
hot material, or stir the dirt thoroughly through the hot material and cover it with dirt
at least two inches deep. This method must be observed and checked to verify that the
coals have cooled down enough to touch because embers are known to burn for quite a long
time, even though they are buried.
It would also be logical to carry a fire extinguisher if you
are going to maintain a standing camp. Become familiar with the various types, and ensure
that you have the proper type for camping. A water type, that is easily refreshed is the
best for campfires. Make sure that rechargable extinguishers are current and properly
recorded on the tags provided.
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CEREMONIAL CAMPFIRE - JUNGLE STYLE (CUBS)
- Earl Bateman, 40th Mountainview Pack, St. Catharines, On.
"Come young wolves and join the pack. Come
join us Baloo the wise old bear, teacher of the jungle law. Come join us Bagheera the
black panther, who teaches us to hung. Come join us Kaa the great python, wh saved Mowgli
from Shere Khan. Come join us leaders and friends of the jungle and share your wisdom.
Teach us the law of the jungle. Come join our council tonight and be heard. I now declare
this campfire open."
"As our campfire fades, our council comes to an end. Akela,
leader of the pack, will you guide our steps in the jungle tonight? Baloo, the wise old
bear, will you help us to remember the law and help us to be good Wolf Cubs? Bagheera, Kaa
and all the friends of Mowgli and the pack (call out the names of all the leaders), will
you protect us tonight? Will you teach us our hunting and jungle skills? Young wolves,
return to your lairs. Let there be peace in the jungle tonight, and let it begin with us.
This council is ended."
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by Jim Sharpe and Jon Spencer
It is very likely that a boy's -- or an adult's
fondest memories of his Scouting experiences are of the times he sat around an evening's
campfire with some of his best buddies. Those campfires had a magical quality to them -- a
quality that often defies description. One would be hard pressed to come up with a better
way to end a day in camp, or an evening's activity, than with a campfire. But leaders with
the skill and confidence to make good campfires happen often seem few and far between.
Perhaps you are one of those leaders who find
it difficult to even think about involving your boys in a campfire, let alone set out to
plan one by yourself. It is our hope that the following will help and that you will use
the information, ideas and methods we set out, to help develop your skills in planning and
In our review of the resources available to
Scouters it quickly became apparent that we have a considerable wealth of information on
how to lay fires, how to light them with special effects, how to make campfire robes, and
torches, etc. What we found most lacking is information on how to plan and provide the
leadership for a good campfire program. That's what we have set out to provide you with in
A close relationship exists between the
physical arrangements for a campfire and the actual program. While a beautiful setting, a
well-designed and well-laid fire (lighted with a special method) is awe inspiring in
itself, the magic soon wanes with a poorly planned and executed program. Take the time to
develop a quality program, one that is well planned and with close attention paid to
format and content, and it will be difficult to detract from it with less than ideal
physical arrangements. No doubt you've seen an experienced campfire leader hold a group
"in the palm of his hand" in a school gymnasium or church basement hall seated
around an artificial campfire! The reason a good campfire leader is able to do it is
program. He has paid particular attention to designing a campfire program that will
involve and hold the interest of all the participants.
What a near-perfect setting with a well laid
fire can do is to compliment your campfire program, turning it into one of those memories
that will long linger in the heart.
Why a Campfire?
Perhaps B.-P.'s original idea of a campfire was simply a group
of Scouts meeting together in camp at the end of a busy day discussing their achievements
during that day and making plans for the following day. Campfires can still serve that
very useful purpose and they can do much more. Music can express a mood, release emotion
or bring a group closer together. Acting (often in the form of campfire skits) serves a
very useful part in youth development through which they can learn attitudes and
appreciations and through which social and emotional developments are stimulated. Value is
not limited to participants. While an audience gains satisfaction by identification with
the performers, an enthusiastic audience may so stimulate the players that their
performance reaches a high standard.
Whether it be song, acting, or other activity, what is most
important is not the quality, it is not the enjoyment of those who hear it or see it.
Rather, the real virtue is the effort a boy or group of boys have made - the self
consciousness which has been overcome and the sense of achievement when he (or they) sit
down to a rousing yell from the rest of the participants.
A campfire is more than just a gathering of people around a
fire. Rather than being just an isolated event, a campfire becomes an integral part of
Scouting in helping boys and girls develop into the men and women we want them to become.
A Sing-song or a Campfire
All too often we tend to feel that we can't just sit around a
warming fire and have a sing-song. Somehow we have a feeling inside us that someone,
somewhere, is expecting us to have a campfire. There is an important difference between a
campfire and a sing-song and it is important to realize that either may be appropriate.
Sing-songs can happen whereas campfires must be planned. Don't
deprive your youth (or yourself!) of the enjoyment a sing- song can provide. Let them
happen, perhaps, at first, with a little urging by yourself. But once you have introduced
your youth to the joy of song you'll find that singing will become a natural expression of
happiness and well-being. And they will happen -- on the trail, in a bus or perhaps as a
part of some of your regular meetings.
Campfires are usually seen as more formal events than
sing-songs. A campfire requires a considerable amount of advanced planning and can be
specifically designed to provide opportunites for further development of youth (or adults)
through song leading, acting, etc.
Our experience has shown that there are, perhaps, two rather
distinct types of campfires. We've classified them as formal and informal. An informal
campfire usually takes place with a bit less planning and a bit less pomp and ceremony
than what we have classified as a formal campfire.
The most popular type of campfire is the informal one and this
is the one which youth are most most often exposed to. There may be some campfire robes;
there might be a special technique for lighting the fire; there may be some other special
effects such as torches lighting the path to the campfire area, etc. But, just as likely,
almost everyone will be gathered around a hastily built campfire with nothing more than
the bare necessities in the way of seating and special effects.
The formal campfire has a real flavour of Scouting to it with
everyone displaying their prized campfire robes; the campfire circle has been thought out
and is very neat; the fire has been laid with care and is lighted as though a thunderbolt
has struck it, the pathway to the campfire circle has been cleverly illuminated to guide
participants and specially designed torches have been placed at strategic locations
surrounding the campfire circle to provide the necessary illumination for skits and
stunts; the campfire chief enters the circle and receives an enthusiastic greeting; a well
planned program involving most of the participants is executed with skill. The fire burns
low and the campfire concludes with an appropriate "Scouters Five Minutes", one
or two well-chosen spirituals or quiet songs, a prayer and "Taps". Quietly the
campfire chief leaves the circle, followed by the participants, all of whom are in a
thoughtful and peaceful mood. A suitable conclusion to another fine Scouting day.
It ia important to realize that the informal campfire and the
formal campfire each have their place in Scouting. All too often, though, we find that the
only people exposed to the formal campfire are Scouters. Youth and adult alike have a
common need for pomp and ceremony and it is important that we recognize this need and
provide the opportunity for it to be met. By providing the opportunities for your youth to
participate in a formal campfire you'll be providing them with some of those memories
which will remain in their hearts for many years to come.
One very good resource for ideas in building various types of
fires suitable for your campfire is the Scout Leaders' Handbook. It is important to
remember that the fire will serve as the focal point for your campfire and particular care
must be paid to the planning and laying of the fire. It just isn't suitable to pile a
great assortment of brush in the centre of your campfire circle and hope that it will
light when you throw a match into it!
The fire should be designed to provide warmth to the
participants, but it is equally important to ensure that the intensity of the heat will
not develop to a point where participants are forced to vacate their spot on the log to
retreat to a more safe distance. Through careful attention to design and through
experience you'll soon learn to size your fire appropriately so that it will provide just
the amount of warmth you require.
Pay particular attention to the type of wood you use in laying
the fire. While you may often find that you have little choice in the matter, try to find
dry hardwoods to minimize smoke and sparking.
Special techniques for lighting your campfire can add a real
sense of drama which helps to build that magical quality we are seeking. The Scout
Leaders' Handbook offers a number of workable suggestions and other ideas have appeared in
The Leader (see December, 1979 issue). Whatever means you choose to light your fire, take
the time to try it out several times in advance of the "big moment" to ensure
that it is going to work well. In the event that your method fails in spite of your
calculated preparations, be ready with several matches in your pocket! Don't direct
particular attention to the fact that it failed, for few will have known of your plans if
you've done your planning well.
Appoint a particular person to be the "fire tender"
for the duratrion of the campfire. It will be his duty to ensure that the fire is properly
laid (well in advance, of course) and to tend the fire during the campfire program. He
will need to be on his toes and ready to take prompt action if a log rolls from the fire,
if the flames leap too high and begin to threaten nearby trees (!) or if a small amount of
additional wood need be added to the fire if it burns more quickly than you had planned.
Make certain that adequate fire protection equipment is readily at hand whenever you plan
Your fire should burn in close relationship to your program --
strive for a fire that springs to life with bright flames and burns down at about the same
rate as you move towards the close of your program. As everyone joins in the singing of
"Taps" and the campfire chief intones the inspiring words of the closing, the
fire should be little more than a bed of glowing embers.
The Campfire Chief
The campfire chief is responsible for the campfire program. It
is important that he (or she) be ready with a well planned program. He will normally
arrange with others to be involved in leading various parts of the program (a job which
must be done well in advance to give everyone sufficient time to plan his contribution).
The campfire chief is responsible for the campfire opening and closing and often is
involved in the "Scouters Five Minutes". If he does his job well he'll find that
he often serves as the "co-ordinator" and involves as many others as is
The campfire chief should always be held in respect by the
campfire participants (regardless of the participants' ages). Normally, he enters the
campfire circle after the participants have entered and are standing . The amount of pomp
and ceremony which the campfire chief builds into the program is strictly a matter of
personal choice. However, he should be greeted with an enthusiastic and respectful cheer
such as the popular "Hail, Chief!" as he takes his place.
Anyone can be a campfire chief -- all it takes is a bit of
imagination, good planning and confidence. Everyone tackles the job in a different way and
, perhaps, that is what makes a campfire chief seem a bit of a mystical person. Don't fall
into the trap of feeling that you have to imitate to do a good job -- your individuality
is the most important aspect to consider.
What could be more ideal for a campfire setting than a quiet
spot in a bit of a hollow, surrounded by trees or a tranquil campfire circle near the
shore of a lake? It is important to consider the location for your campfire circle. Try to
make it a special spot, away from the more lived-in areas of your camp. Make it a spot
people will be drawn to.
If it is a spot which you will be able to use more than once,
then you will want to take the time to make it something very special. Again, your
imagination and your boys' imagination will help to develop a very special place. Careful
attention can be paid to comfortable seating (eight to twelve inch logs raised slightly
off the ground will serve admirably for many years) and you may even want to develop
special seating arrangements for the campfire chief, special guests and, possibly, other
An Indoor Campfire?
It isn't necessary to wait for a warm summer evening for a
campfire! It is quite possible to have an excellent campfire take place indoors on a cold
winter's night with participants seated around an artificial fire constructed with birch
logs and various arrangements of coloured paper, cellophane, lighting and maybe, a small
fan to give life to the flames. All it takes is a little imagination and ingenuity to
provide a suitable atmosphere to complement the campfire program. Take the necessary
precautions to ensure that your fire doesn't go up in smoke!
The important element for your indoor campfire will always be
the campfire program. Pay particular attention to developing your program and you'll find
that everyone will soon forget they don't have the open sky overhead.
A campfire robe serves admirably to provide the extra
protection required against the cold and dampness of the evening while our hearts and the
front of our bodies are warmed by the fire. And, too, it can display our traditions and
personal history. A smart campfire robe portraying the wearer's history, his achievements
and the events of importance in his Scouting career, can be an inspiration to others (boys
and adults) to want to work to earn the right to wear a robe which is equally grand.
Articles dealing with campfire robe styles have appeared in the October '77 and May '79
issues of the Leader. If you don't have access to back issues, contact your Scout Council
office and they may be able to provide you with copies of these articles. Take the time to
plan your campfire robe to ensure that it will serve you well for many years.
Duration and Pace
Duration, pace, content and style are some of the
considerations which you will have to attend to long before the first song is sung.
The duration of the program is largely determined by the
nature and age of the participants. In our experience a campfire program should range in
time from a maximum of 20 to 30 minutes for Beavers and Cubs and 40 to 50 minutes being
about right for Scouts, Venturers, and Rovers. We have found that it is wise never to
exceed 50 minutes even when working with a group of adults. The point of having what might
appear to be a campfire of short duration is quite simple: if it is going well we leave
participants in a very positive mood -- longing for more; if it isn't going so well it is
wise to conclude it without further prolonging the experience. It is difficult to talk
about duration for a campfire program without, at the same time, mentioning the pace,
since the two factors combine to give us the framework upon which to place the content.
The pace has often been described as a mirror image of the fire itself; rising quickly to
a plateau of bright activity and then gradually diminishing, as do the flames, becoming
like a glow given off by coals. Below is an outline of a program incorporating this
principle of a quick build-up (active) and slowing down toward the closing (reflective).
The Three Parts of the Traditional
11. General song
|2. Welcoming Song
(if any -- followed by a Yell)
3. Action Song
13. General Song
14. Quiet Song
15. Yarn or "Scouters Five"
7. Lively or Action Song
16. Quiet Song
9. Game or Skit
The program is sometimes viewed as being a parallel to a day
in the life at camp. Either way of looking at the program, as a fire or as a day, is
useful in that they both provide us with a guide or a model for us to use in the process
of planning the program.
Given that we now have an idea of how long we want the
campfire program to be and a particular conception of how we would like to see the pace of
the program develop, we can now address ourselves to the question of content.
If we are in the business of putting on a campfire in the
first place, we might just as well admit that it is a "production' and as such, the
content should be managed. As a production, it should have some style and we have found
that this is best achieved by using a theme. Not all of the content has to rigidly adhere
to the theme but it does help to set and maintain the tone if the opening/closing, yarn
(or "Scouter's Five Minutes") and the method used in lighting the fire are tied
together. A theme also helps in that it often suggests particular songs and skits that
might be appropriate and further help to make the program flow. Think of your program as a
piece of music and imagine it flowing in phrases.
The spontaneous part of the program is where the action is
fast rousing songs, fun action songs that get people moving, simple round games, skits and
yells all go into this early half of the program. The specific items will, in part, be
determined by the nature and age of the participants and, in part, by the material known
to those doing the presentation or leading the group in song. A point to be made at this
time is that it preferable to sing songs that most people know, since it is desirable to
have everyone participating. Singing songs known to most, or singing songs that can be
"picked up quickly" by the novice, ensure good participation and a feeling on
the part of most people that they are involved in the shared campfire experience. Skits,
games around the circle, yells and chants should be self explanatory or described easily
in a few words in order to be understood. The concept behind a campfire is one of a shared
experience and despite the fact that not all of us can easily act, dance or sing, we must
be made to feel that we are a part of the proceedings or the point of the exercise is
We have called the second part of the program reflective which
describes the mood we are striving for. This portion can be broken down into three parts:
the first being the two songs prior to the yarn, slowing the pace in preparation for the
yarn: the second is the yarn, giving the participants a few thoughts to ponder, and is
followed by the final part which eases the pace down, reinforcing the spiritual aspects of
Scouting. Let's look at the parts one more time.
We have indicated a transition point in the program outline
which is appropriate for presentations. If they are fun presentations they fit in with the
tone of the preceeding program. If they are of a more serious nature then they will fit in
with the tone of the later program. Either way, they should be followed up with our
Scouting form of appreciation -- the Yell. The two songs following the presentations set
the scene for the yarn. We are sure that you have all had experiences trying to present a
few words to a less than receptive audience. Bringing down the high spirits is essential
and the two songs prior to the yarn serve to do the later well.
The yarn should be a brief presentation giving a focus to the
late day activities. Four to five minutes is usually adequate to make your point. In
developing your theme and content for your yarn, it is probably best to look at some
activity or incident, common to all of the participants, that happened during the day.
However, there are many suitable topics, and suggestions often appear in the Leader.
B.-P.'s Scouting for Boys has a wealth of ideas. We have seen very effective use made of
poems, legends, and known stories (such as those of B.-P.) as a yarn. You have a wide
selection from which to choose.
The final part of the program consists of a quiet song,
spirituals, the prayer, and the closing. This part and the yarn should serve to highlight
the whole campfire program. The participants should be comfortable with each other and
relaxed after a day's activity, and the later part of the program should be supportive of
this mood. Most spirituals are well known and leading can often be handled by the shy one
in the group without great fear. The closing prayer can take the form of Scout silence or
of a more formal benediction, The official closing of the campfire by the campfire chief
After the closing, the campfire chief should make a point of
leaving the area decisively to alleviate hesitation about what one should do once the
campfire is over. Participants should follow quietly.
Style could be the subject of an article in its own right.
However, here are a few points to help bring success to you and your campfire.
* The campfire chief should have everyone aware of those who
precede him on the program, to ensure that each person involved knows when it is time for
his or her contribution. This allows introductions and fumbling to be kept to a minimum.
* The campfire chief should be also be aware that slip-ups
will happen no matter how well the program has been planned. Be prepared to quickly smooth
over the ragged edges when required. Quick thinking on your feet is a great asset.
* Flair helps -- but, if you don't have it, good execution of
your program can be equally beneficial.
* If you must read from a written program do so! Give some
creative thought to making your notes a part of the props -- for example, inscribe your
opening, closing and other program notes on scrolls of paper or birchbark.
* Well designed torches can be placed to illuminate your
notes. But if you don't have a torch and feel you need a flashlight, then use one. It is
far better to do so than to be constantly fumbling while trying to have the flames from
the fire illuminate your page.
The list of ideas is endless! Perhaps we can best summarize
this point by saying that you are in the process of managing a production and it is
worthwhile to think out all aspects of the program ahead of time. Consider how you can
maximize effects through an awareness of duration, pace and content. Style tends to be
something that develops and emerges over a period of time and increasing experience. Some
people have it from day one -- you can probably easily pick out those people now. But for
the rest of us it's a path which we have to travel along, working at developing our style,
but the results are worthwhile. You can turn good campfires into great ones!
Good Scouting and good luck! - James E. Sharp & John
Thank-you Scouter's James and John for providing this fabulous
information on Campfire Magic! At the time this article was originally written, James
Sharp was the Provincial Executive for Interior Region British Columbia and the Yukon, and
John Spencer was the Assistant Regional Commissioner for Interior Region of Scouts Canada.
Your contribution will be passed on... - The RedCoat Scouter
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The campfire circle is the place for memories and dreams. It
is the place to recall past camps, old friends and good times. Probably the most memorable
part of a boy's camping experience is the roaring fire at the end of the day with the
songs, games, and stories.
Good campfires don't just happen. On a rare occasion, when all
the elements are right, an impromptu campfire will be successful, but in general, it must
be well planned. The many component parts, from the actual laying of the fire, through the
balanced program, to the dousing of the embers, must all be considered. Good fires come
only with experience, knowledge, and planning.
Next time you are at camp with your group...light a fire in
the evening and put on a pot of tea or coffee. How long before others gather around? Do
they talk, swap stories or sing? What songs do they sing? A campfire is a wonderful thing.
In Scouting we have tended to make it "The Campfire" and in doing son have lost
much of the spontaneity and enjoyment. Too many of us have forgotten that campfires can be
used for warmth, cooking and fun. To test your reactions answer these questions:
- Do you have a formal opening and closing?
- Can Scouts toast weiners on the campfire?
- Is there a formal campfire leader?
- Do you sing other than Scout songs?
- Can you hold a campfire without singing?
How did you answer?
If these were your answers...why?
We can encourage singing by: * finding the songs that youth
enjoy * rediscovering our folk-songs * relaxing and enjoying our singing * keeping
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SAMPLE CAMPFIRE PROGRAM #1
OPENING... The fire is lit, come lift your
voice; Let song and skit while away the hours; The fire is lit, so let's rejoice; Our
hearts are gay, the night is ours.
ACTION SONG... Head and Shoulders
YELL... Round of Applause (Move hands in a circle)
ROUND... Row, row, row your Boat
MIDDLE SONG... She'll be comin' round the Mountain
QUIET SONG... He's got the Whole World
SCOUTERS FIVE... (or story)
QUIET SONG... Cub Vesper Song
CLOSING... To be on my Honour as a Cub... It means the Best
that's in me, of that there is no doubt. Truthfulness and Kindness, cleanliness and
strength to help the other fellow; to go to any length so long as I can honour; the
promise and my race. I know that all is well each day that I look God in the face.
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SAMPLE CAMPFIRE PROGRAM #2
OPENING... Have you ever watched the campfire, when the wood
has fallen low, and the ashes start to whiten round the embers crimson glow? With the
night sounds all around you making silence doubly sweet, and the full moon high abouve you
that the spell might be complete. Tell me -- were you ever nearer to the land of hearts
desire, than when you sat there thinking with your feet before the fire?
ACTION SONG... My Bonnie
YELL... Sprinkler Yell
YELL... Group #1 O-HISHIE, #2 O-HASHIE, #3 O-HOSHIE, then all
together... Leader "BLESS YOU!"
ROUND... Frere Jacques
MIDDLE SONG... Throw it out the Window
QUIET SONG... Michael Row the Boat Ashore
SCOUTER'S FIVE... (or story)
QUIET SONG... Kum Ba Yah
CLOSING... Wood and water, wind and tree, wisdom, strength and
courtesy, peace, and favour go with thee...
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CAMPFIRE CHEERS AND
Was it two? ...NO!
Was it four?...NO!
Was it five?...NO!
Was it six?...
YES...sic, sic, sic!
Was it milk? ...NO!
Was it coffee? ...NO!
Was it tea?...
Was it pie? ...NO!
Was it cake? ...NO!
Was it stew? ...
Was it five? ...NO!
Was it three? ...NOT!
Was it one?...
Was it grass? ...NO!
Was it a flower? ...NO!
Was it a tree?
Was it tide? ...NO!
Was it bold? ...NO!
Was it fab? ...
Was it a bird? ...NO!
Was it a plane? ...NO!
Was it a man?...
Was it six? ...NO!
Was it four? ...NO!
Was it two? ...
Was it a seed?...NO!
Was it a bulb? ...NO!
Was it a pit? ...
Was it an A? ...NO!
Was it a B? ...NO!
Was it an X? ...
Was it soup? ...NO!
Was it chili? ...NO!
Was it stew? ...
Everybody got their banana?
Let's peel it...(pretend peeling)
SPLAT! (pretend to squash)
Everybody got their great big banana? Let's peel it! (imagine
peeling the banana) Okay! Everybody let's eat! (Everybody rubs tummy after eating and
ACH VON DER MUSICA
(Caller) Ach von der musica (All) Deutches Vaderlander
(Caller) Ach von spieler (All) Ach von spieler (Caller) Ich-en-bee-en-zumba-za (All)
Ich-en-bee-en-zumba-za (Repeat 3 times)
1. Zumba-za (Base fiddle) 2. Vio-la (Violin) 3. Picco-la
(Piccolo) 4. Trumpet-ra (Dat drrat, drrat-dat-da) 5. Piano-la (Piano) 6. Radio
(Super-suds) 7. Telephone (Yakety-yak)
AH TA KA TA NU VA
Ah ta ka ta nu va, Ah ta ka ta nu va, Ay mis a day, Mis a do,
mis a day.
Hex a cole a mis a wa ta, (Repeat 3 times)
Alice's camel has 10 humps (Repeat twice) Go, Alice, Go! Boom,
C'EST EST LA SOIR
C'est est la soir, Le soir de wreck de Vienna. Il fait le
guerre, La Cavalerie chargez, Calvarie! Attention! Chargez!
1. un doight 2. deux doights 3. un main 4. deux mains 5. un
pied 6. deux pieds 7. tout le corps
HEAD, SHOULDERS, KNEES & TOES
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes, Head,
shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes, and Eyes & ears & mouth & nose,
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes.
I DON'T WANT TO MARCH IN THE INFANTRY
I don't want to march in the Infantry, Ride in the Cavalry,
Shoot the Artillery, And I don't want to fly with the V.I.P.'s, 'Cause I'm in the Queen's
IF YOU'RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT
If you're happy and you know it clap your hands, REPEAT If
you're happy and you know it Then you really ought to show it, If you're happy and you
know it clap your hands.
1. snap your fingers 2. slap your thighs 3. stamp your feet 4.
do all four
I'M A LITTLE PIECE OF TIN
I'm a little piece of tin, Nobody knows where I have been, Got
four wheels and a running board, I'm a Ford, oh I'm a Ford!
Honk, Honk Rattle, rattle, rattle Crash, beep, beep REPEAT -
but delete the last Beep (Anyone who says the last 'Beep' sit down and stop singing.)
IN A COTTAGE IN A WOOD
In a cottage in a wood, Little man at the window stood; Saw a
rabbit running sore, Knocking at his door. "Help me! Help me! Help!" he cried,
"'Ere the hunter shoot me dead!" "Come little rabbit, Come inside, Safely
JOHN BROWN'S FLIVER
John Brown's fliver Has a puncture in its tire, (REPEAT TWICE)
And he patched it up with chewing gum. Yum! Yum!
Silent on fliver-car crank Silent of puncture -
'p-s-h-h-h-h-t! Silent on tire- Arms above head in shape of wheel. Silent on 'Chewing gum'
- Pull imaginery gum from mouth and say N-a-a-h-h-h-h!
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One of the struggles of outdoor cooking involves not having
the convenience of a flat counter to prepare food or place to rest hot pots and pans. In
winter, an added problem is not having something conveniently placed to hang wet mittens
over the fire to dry.
A simple solution isn't so far away. Try building a chippewa
A chippewa kitchen is a sturdy, four legged teepee that stands
over your fire or cooking area. Because you build one with knots and rope, it's a good
project for patrols needing a reason to try out their lasing techniques.
Let's build a chippewa kitchen of our own. Begin with four
spars at least three meters long. Tie off the top using a tripod lashing. Lay the four
spars next to each other with the bottom ends even. Go to the top of the spars and attach
rope to the outside leg with a clove hitch. Bind the spars with seven or eight loose
wrappings (not snug), and two or three tightly wrapped turns between the poles to form the
hinge pivots. Finish off the lashing with a clove hitch on the other outside leg. Raise
the spars and spread the legs to the proper positions over the fire for stability.
To make counters, start by lashing horizontal poles 2 1/2
metres long from one leg to another, positioned waist high. Extend the ends of the poles
about half a meter beyond the spar legs. use a square lashing for these poles by starting
again with a clove hitch around the upright spar immediately under the spot where the
crosspiece is to be. Twist the loose end of the clove hitch around the wrapping length,
then wrap the rope around the crosspiece and the upright spar, binding them both together.
After three or four turns, make two or three tightly wrapped turns between the pole and
spar. Pull the rope tight with each turn. Finish with a clove hitch around the end of the
Lay sturdy poles across the protruding ends to make the
counter-top. Lash into place by going over and under each counter pole and wrapping around
the protruding pole as you go.
A variation of the chippewa kitchen counter top involves
making a table off one end instead. Use square lashing to build the frame and legs of the
table, then lay poles across the table top; lash them into place as you would the
A chippewa kitchen is a fun project that not only teaches the
benefits of lashings, but also allows some personal creativity as well. Every wilderness
chef needs one!
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WINTER CAMPING HINT
A CAMPFIRE HOT WATER TANK
Your in your lean-to nice and warm...your bedding is dry and
the campfire is set up to reflect towards your santuary... You feel yourself getting
thirsty for a nice hot cup of coffee or a hot mug of soup...slip out of that warm sleeping
bag and FREEZE YOUR KEESTERS OFF!!! NO WAY!!!! Try this, prepare a heavy pot with lid by threading a hole near the base
and one hole near the top. Using plumbers fittings and brass tube, you have yourself an
amazing device. By hooking up the brass tube so that one end connects to each hole and by
shaping the tube into a coil, you can now place the coil in your campfire and have the pot
near your lean-to. The water is heated in the campfire and circulates back to the
pot...hence, hot water all the time, and where ya want it!
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