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Hike: close to comfort; making a fire in Norway (and how to do it and when)

I must, in advance, temper your enthusiasm, for this article may not be relevant to most of you due to the stringent regulations surrounding open fires in Norway between April and early September. These restrictions are not designed to pester tourists but stem from the simple fact that Norway boasts abundant forests, and the summer months tend to be rather dry. Moreover, much of the ground cover here is often peat-like, highly flammable, and difficult to extinguish. If a fire were to break out, it would be nearly uncontrollable. Nevertheless, during the period from May to September, the weather is generally mild, and campfires are seldom necessary.

But yes, making a fire in Norway: there's several crucial considerations that come into play. In particular order:

1. Use dry deadwood: preferably fallen from the trees; it is strictly forbidden to fell trees for firewood. In fact, depending on your location, doing so may incur a substantial fine.

2. Select a safe campfire location: opt for a beach or stony ground and delineate your fire site with stones to form a compact circle. This not only acts as a windbreak but also prevents the fire from spreading. Additionally, the stones absorb heat, enhancing the fire's effectiveness. Furthermore, when you retire to your sleeping bag at night, it's highly recommended to take along a well-warmed pebble wrapped in a woolen beanie to prevent burns. I dare say the stone will still radiate warmth the following morning which can bring great comfort to your overall camping experience.

3. Lighting the fire: you won't need paper to start your fire. All you require are a few birch trees with white bark. Without harming the tree, make a small incision in the bark, but do not press too hard on the trunk. Make this cut about 20cm long. Now, you can peel off a portion of the bark. Place the bits of birch bark in a dry bag to increase your chances of successfully igniting your fire in the evening. It's also advisable to pack a few pieces of dry wood in your backpack. This makes it much easier to ignite your fire when it's cold and damp. Use a sharp knife to cut a stack of wood shavings. The thinner the combustible material, the better it will dry and burn. When the rest of your wood is somewhat moist, you'll need extra heat to ignite the larger pieces.

4. Fire arrangement: Place the pieces of birch bark on the ground, surrounded by a circle of large stones. If the floor is wet, cover it with a few branches from a pine tree. Add a substantial pile of twigs and create a mound of wood shavings with your knife. Build a structure with large pieces of wood around the mound of twigs.

5. Prepare firewood: before lighting your fire, ensure you have a good supply of firewood positioned right next to it. As the heat increases, you can begin to dry your wood, ensuring you have enough material to keep the fire burning when the initial load has burnt out.

Chances are you'll have a portable gas stove with you when camping, but if you're already starting a fire, you might as well use it to boil water and fill up your thermos for your tea the next morning. I always carry a small kettle with me, which I use for boiling water for coffee and rehydrating my freeze-dried meals. With a bit of rope, you can easily construct a tripod to hang your kettle from.

In summary, here's what you need to make fire effortlessly:

- Relatively dry wood

- A lighter, matches, or a magnesium stick (though the latter is for the hardcore firemakers)

- A multitool, preferably with a small saw blade and a small axe. I've personally used one of these for a comfortable amount of time.

- A good, sharp knife (especially for cutting wood shavings) and to fight off aggressive Norwegians. My favourites are Mora Knives.

Before even striking a spark, make sure you thoroughly research the regulations regarding making fires. You wouldn't want to be responsible for an uncontrollable forest fire, or catch a fine! In general, be a bit mindful.


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