The Self-feeding V Fire Fallacy

You’ve probably seen this type of fire at least a few times on social media. If you know how it’s supposed to be a great all-night fire, skip to the next paragraph. If you don’t, I’m going to quickly explain what it’s all about. This is simply a type of fire that is supposedly self-feeding and, if done properly, is said to keep you warm all night by allowing the logs to slowly catch fire from one another as they burn out and slide down.

I’m not going to bore you with technicalities. If you want to see and hear more, just watch the video below. I guess we could say there are three main elements that determine whether or not a particular type of fire lay makes sense.



1. Is it safe?
2. Is it going to keep me warm on a cold night?
3. Is it easy to build and maintain?

Unfortunately, in this case the answer is no, no and no.

1. The way it is set up makes it very easy to set the frame as well as the entire firewood supply aflame within minutes. I don’t have to tell you what a giant flame torch like that means in the woods among trees. Yes, you can use green wood but even green wood will eventually dry out and catch on fire. It actually doesn’t take that long.

2. Another problem with green wood is smoke and rather low heat output. The V shape that is supposed to make the fire maintenance-free, inherently forces you to sit or lay in the coldest and smokiest spot possible. When preparing an all-night fire, we usually want it to be a bit longer than our bodies in order to keep us warm from head to toe. It’s easy to imagine what’s going to happen when all we have is just a tiny bit of a fire pointing toward our belly button, with most of the heat being reflected upward and wasted. If possible, a fire should be oriented parallel to the wind allowing it to pass freely between our bed and the fire and reflector if we have one. If we block the air flow to the right and left, we’re inevitably always sitting in the way of the smoke.

3. I personally don’t believe in maintenance-free fires and this one is no exception. There is simply too many factors that we have no control over, that can affect the way a fire burns. Wind strength and direction (which BTW can and often does change throughout the day or night), wood and air humidity, wood type and availability… Because we can’t forget that more often than not, we work with what we have, rather than what we’d like to have. But this V-shaped fire is especially tricky because it requires a special frame to support the wood supply. Building it takes extra time and effort, which doesn’t really pay off when it comes to the fire efficiency. Not to mention, the danger associated with the firewood supply being positioned almost directly above the flames. All it takes is a little stronger wind to blow the flames out of control while we’re asleep, which calls for extra vigilance at all times.

Warm and safe long fire

My opinion? If you really want to save yourself some time and trouble, stay away from such contraptions created to generate Facebook likes and YouTube views.


The shepherd’s axe and bushcraft by Polish highlanders

Some time ago, I traveled to the Tatra mountains and even climbed one of its highest peaks Rysy, which is also the highest point in Poland.

Simon the HighlanderBut what I really wanted to talk about are things I saw there. Not just up the hills but also in the local museum. So let me explain how all this relates to what we know today as bushcraft.


Me in the Museum


Ciupagi i kapelusz thumbnailYou see, I come from a country where up until relatively recently, people had to be largely self-sufficient. You can still observe that, especially, in the Polish highlands. The highlanders are renowned for their independence, hardiness and strong attachment to tradition, which by the way is also quite unique. Many of them still dress, sing and dance like their ancestors 200 years ago! Although, now it’s mostly to entertain tourists. They also have their distinct dialect, which to me sounds pretty damn awesome. I guess it’s a bit like the Appalachian American, which I also find very pleasant to listen to, only it doesn’t seem to have any negative connotations in Poland.

Highlanders Clothes  Swinica mountain

So when you go to a museum in the biggest and most famous tourist town in the area – Zakopane –  you quickly realise that self-reliance, survival and bushcraft are not just empty words, fads for crazy people with too much money and too little to worry about or terms reserved for some distant tribes from tropical regions. You learn that this is how people lived less than a human lifetime ago in a large European country.

What did I see? Well, just take a look at this awesome outdoor cooking rig and shepherd’s axes.

Highlander Bushcraft cooking rig

These, by the way, are probably the most underestimated survival tools I know. You take it on a hike as a walking stick but if need be, you can use it to take down a small tree, delimb it, split wood, drive nails or use it as a weapon since it is practically a little pole axe.

Timeline photo z ciupaga  Ciupagi thumbnail


Nowadays, the axe has become more of a prop in traditional dances and performances and is most often sold as an unusable souvenir. However, you can still find and buy proper shepherd’s axes, although, I hear that outside of Poland they can be ridiculously expensive. I got my carefully selected axes, with historically accurate ash wood shafts and decorated carbon steel heads for about $15-$20 each, and decided to bring this tool back to live and use it like in the good old times. It worked great.

Me as a highlander  Góralso kompozycjo

Ciupoga z copkom Ciupagi i kapelusz


But let’s take a look at some other interesting bushcraft and survival type tools I saw in the museum. Bear in mind, that these are things used on a day-to-day basis just a few decades ago.

axe heads and anti_wolf dog collarDecorated axe heads and an anti-wolf collar for a shepherd’s dog

Highland cleaver  Highlanders knives and pipes
Regional cleavers, typical highland-style knives, pipes and brooches

Highlander hunting equipment  Hunting_trapping
Hunting and trapping equipment including some massive bear trap, and hand-made slingshot/crossbows. Joerg Sprave from the slingshot channel would be proud.

Drill_chisel  Highlander White Room
A pump drill and a ‘spoon-making chisel’, plus an entire ‘white room’. It’s called white because it was the only room without a fireplace. It was to preserve the bright wooden walls and protect them from smoke.

And a little something from the mountains themselves

Bear  Słowacka strona z żółtego szlaku


Alpine accentor  chamois


My mountain  Cabins in the Mountains