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To Build a Fire: And Other Stories - Media 27


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Aaron Zagrodnick

While by no means an essential component of backpacking, I’ve found collections of short stories by various authors ending up in my pack more often than not. When tentbound in a thunderstorm, whiling away an afternoon beside an alpine lake, or passing the time on a long winter’s night, I’ve never regretted bringing along a book despite the extra weight. Perhaps no book has brought me as much entertainment, and been so perfect for backpacking, as “To Build a Fire: And Other Stories” by Jack London. London’s landscape descriptions, attention to detail, and well-crafted narratives allow for more to be delivered in a dozen or two pages than one would think possible...

@Mark reviews this classic Jack London read in Issue 27:

To Build a Fire

Reading Jack London by Fire - Drying Boots

Issue 27 Page 1

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  • 5 weeks later...

I love fires. I heat my house with them. I make fires in the backyard and cook in Dutch Ovens all year.  

Fire is carbon neutral and not the bogey man so many people think it is.  Build small fires and hide their evidence. I never put rocks near a fire except to balance a pot for cooking.  Dutch ovens go on the ground. I have spent my adult life tearing down rock enclosures around fire pits.

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Having some skill with fire is important even for backpackers.  In the West, it can snow in any month.  People get wet from rain, fall in creeks, and have other issues with staying warm.  Sometimes the conditions overwhelm people's equipment.  Getting warm in a hurry usually means a fire.  The more you need a fire, usually the harder it is to start.  Practice. 

Bring a warm sleeping bag. That is your fall back position. 

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