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Make Your Charcoal Right At Your Campsite!

Updated on January 23, 2013

Charcoal Briquettes Right In Your Campground Bon Fire

So you have plenty of wood around for the huge camp fire, but you forgot to pack the bag of Charcoal for the grill.

So what's a guy to do?

Especially a guy that prides himself on being ready for anything nature throws at him!

Make your own charcoal! Right there in your campfire! Quality ones too.

Follow my lead here and we'll make you the hero after all!

Charcoal From A Cookie Tin?

Are you crazy?

While searching for a set of plans for one of my visitors I ran across a new posting in some of the forums by a fellow who built a charcoal furnace from a chocolate tin. You know a small tin about the size that the Christmas Danish Cookies come in?

Of course I'll let you in on an emergency trick to do this same thing, you'll just have to make sure to put a roll of tin foil in your emergency kit!

Are you ready?

Campfire Charcoal

the easy way

Punch five holes about 1/2 inch in diameter in the lid. Chop your small sapling into sizes that will stand in the tin; floor to lid. Arth from BushcraftUK used Ash because of its low water content, it cooks out quicker. Stack them standing up but don't compress them too much. Set the tin on the campfire until the large flame that comes out of the five small holes burns out, then smother the lid by pulling it from the campfire and flipping it upside down on the grass or sand.

Or another user put little plugs in the holes so he didn't have to flip the tin just yet, but you will need to remove it from the fire and allow it to cool down, or they will self-ignite.

Let stand for about an hour or so, until tin is cool to the touch.

Now open the tin and use your easy lighting charcoal. This charcoal will not need any lighting fluid and it will be enough for a cook out for over 10 people as well as lasting much longer.So for your next camp out, make sure that even if you don't remember the charcoal.

Thanks to Arth from the BushcraftUK Forum for the cool idea and the awesome pics!

Emergency Uses For Campfire Charcoal

Keep your tin foil handy

Now that you understand the basics of the unit above, let's help you to realize that this could possibly save your life someday.

Wood will completely burn up because of the oils and gases that it has naturally. This form of wood will only last a few hours at best, in the best of conditions.

Cut some small chunks of wood, preferably about an inch or two in diameter and an inch or two across. Lay the chunks on your tin foil stacked like the picture above in the tin. Using a second piece of tin foil, bunch all of the edges in a tight roll around the wood, but don't get the wood too tight as you want to be able to cook the wood completely. Now poke a couple of small holes in the top of the tin foil to let the turpentine and burning oils out as the wood cooks.

Think of baking the Thanksgiving Turkey. Nice and slow makes for tender meat. Sorry to the vegans out there for that analogy... but I think you might understand that we are cooking the gasses and tars out of the wood and leaving the "meat" to burn at a more controlled rate.

The "cooking" will be nearly complete when the flame dies out that has been coming from the holes that you punched in the foil. When the flame dies out, remove the tinfoil from the fire and place it so that the holes are smothered. If heat and oxygen recombine at this point your charcoal could re-ignite itself. It would be good to make sure you don't punch any holes in the tender fire beaten tin now. Wait to remove the tin foil until it is cool to the touch, which could be several minutes to an hour.

Now you could do this method with leaves grass clippings and pretty much anything else organic, but I'm thinking for an emergency, you probably won't have those options then wait for your extruded cakes to dry thoroughly before using.

So in your emergency kit you will need to add the water proof matches, because that first fire won't light itself and neither will the charcoal, though by doing it this way, you won't have to have lighter fluid. A roll of tin foil, which has other uses for cooking as well. And a good sharp hatchet or small saw. This on top of anything else you might consider important for survival.

Your charcoal will light easier than your campfire did.

A good ten or fifteen chunks will make enough charcoal to last several hours, you could have a couple batches going even after you start your charcoal fire. When the fire starts to die down just add another couple of chunks. In fact, If done properly, one match should be all that you need to keep a fire going for days, you just have to take turns tending it during the night while the others sleep. If you are by yourself, you need to make sure you have built a tent-like structure around the campfire to hold as much of the heat in as possible.

Survival In The Wilderness - From Amazon

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I had no idea that one could do this. Interesting.

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