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Thread: Smokeless, undetectable fire?

  1. #1
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    Smile Smokeless, undetectable fire?

    Hi,

    First up, happy new year, I hope you all had a great christmas.

    I seem to remember reading about a fire that was designed to be largly undetectable and relativley smoke free. I think it was dug into the ground somehow, anyone got any info about this type of set up?

    Thanks for the help,
    Paul.
    The problem with real life, is there's no danger music.....

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    Hope your holiday was good too and the New Year is great

    Is this the fire you're thinking of ?

    http://www.bushcraftuk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=37816

    cheers,
    Toddy
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass; it's about learning to dance in the rain.

  3. #3

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    I remember reading about the vietcong using very elaborate underground chimneys to eliminate smoke - but it wasn't so much 'undetectable' as undetecable from a helicopter gunship doing 200mph'

    On the ground the idea was to confuse the location of the actual fire and release the smoke and cooking smells away from the tunnels they were using. It wasn't undetecable, just less obvious.

    I think the ideas only really worked if you were permanently dug in.
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    Hi Paul,

    I have gone for hexy blocks on the issue burner when I am trying to be discrete as that is almost undetectable, I guess gas or meths would smoke free too.

    If you're after a wood fire then I would think that this depends on what you are burning as well as 'how'. Very dry wood will give less smoke if combusting fully, a gassifying stove will also give less smoke.

    Anything dug into the ground needs to be done in such a way that organic-rich soils (eg peaty or leaf mould) don't start to smoulder but I'd be interested to see a link if you find one.

    Cheers,
    Steve

  5. #5
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    paul-

    the dakota fire pit is the most common hidden fire i've read about. i've seen a couple built and used, one with a rock slab used as cooking surface. a modern version that can be easily made for a hut or cabin is called a rocket stove, as i recall.

    the fuel you use determines how much smoke you get. however, the smell of the burning fuel and whatever you are cooking will probably give you away anyway.

    i personally have trouble lighting the flame on my kitchen stove. so i tend to stay with smaller gas (propane) stoves which are relatively smokeless and scentless.

    good luck

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    Quote Originally Posted by taws6 View Post
    Hi,

    First up, happy new year, I hope you all had a great christmas.

    I seem to remember reading about a fire that was designed to be largly undetectable and relativley smoke free. I think it was dug into the ground somehow, anyone got any info about this type of set up?

    Thanks for the help,
    Paul.
    I'm no expert, but I can usually smell a fire a long way off, wind permitting. I dont know if you can eliminate that altogether, but I think you can do an awful lot to reduce the amount of smoke by selecting your wood carefully, splitting and drying out damp wood before trying to burn it. You only have to throw one crappy, damp log on there to start a big column of smoke and choke everything out.

    There is a rhyme somewhere about the different burning properties of different wood, I can never remember it, so I tend to just stick to what I know works, beech, birch, or any old, dry hardwood I can find. Split the logs down and bake em by the fire first. I think Ash is supposed to be the best, but I never see it round here. Oak is supposed to be good if it's seasoned, but that's pretty rare too. Holly is also good and it's worth remembering that it will burn green. Softwoods like pine are useful for starting fires cos they tend to be resinous. But pine burns too quickly for maintaining a fire and I find it can be wet and smokey.
    Last edited by Martyn; 04-01-2010 at 06:26.

  7. #7
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    As said above: split and dry your logs if possible. Remove the bark. You could also go for cooking on coals (bbq style), they produce a lot of heat and are nearly, if not completely smokeless. This is (another) way of how the Vietcong prepared their meals (though by using portable braziers).

    Downside is how to get them, if you didn't carried them with you - other than make them yourself.

    So I think you'd be best of with wood. Dead standing wood, splitted, bark removed, positioned next to a fire to dry even more.
    Johan

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    Blackthorn is pretty good for a hot, smokeless fire.

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    There is a good write up on here about it.
    My blog

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  10. #10

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    Supposedly the frontier hunters around here made small fires of white oak bark when they were worried about Indians in the vicinity. Haven't tried it, but hopefully will remember and report back next time I go to a grove of white oaks near here.

    Firelight is conspicuous at night, and smoke during the day. Lighting a fire at dawn helps minimize both problems. That's also when people tend to be less alert, or at least less likely to investigate. As has been mentioned above, sticking to dry hardwoods will reduce smoke. A screen of tree limbs above helps diffuse it, too.

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    another very good firewood (my personal favorit) is hornbeam it burns long and hot with little smoke and not masses of flames.

    char coal is your best option if you want to stay undetected but you have to carry it with you which just isnt practicle sometimes



    pete

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    Interesting thread. I think the dacota pit is used to mask the light from the fire at night more than the smoke, as it will be as smokey as the wood put on it.

    The best bet as mentioned, is to burn only dry wood and to remove as much bark as possible. This is a real problem anywhere thats wet, which in the UK usualy is!

    If you could arrange a covered drying area over a period of time and use this as the main stash, then use the fire to dry damper wood thats been split. This makes it hard work, and the inevitable result of finding your wood pile missing unless its your own land etc.
    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

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    Guess a wood stove like the bushbuddy would be an option if you want a smokeless fire. I have not tried the stove but am curious if it would be of any use when wildcamping and not wanting to be seen. I had made a burner like it with cans myself but didn't find it that comfortable to use, but it wasn't such a good design as the bushbuddy. But most of the time I have no problem wildcamping with a real fire because people are not expecting anybody to camp out in those small forests..

    The kelly kettle is also quite undetectable. I've used it a lot when I lived on a camping and it was not allowed to make a fire there. Sometimes it got noticed though When travelling the fire in the kettle was never noticed. But it wasn't such a handy format in the cycle bags. I liked it though, because it was possible to put quite a lot of fuel in it.

    I know this thread wasn't about stoves.. so ontopic..I have also used the dakota fire in small woodland with many houses in the neighborhood. It's a nice quite smokeless fire, once it's going and the ground has started to dry out. But it takes some time before it reaches that point and can be smokier then other fires if the ground is damp. One trick to avoid this is to line the ground and sides of te firepit with wood or stones.

    With any fire you have to be careful not to put on a lot of wood at once. Just add one or two bits of wood at a time, and start with very fine wood and only gradually go to thicker. For smokeless fire I'd say maximum wrist thick wood, unless it's really dry.

    In the tipi smoke is best avoided as well.. There we used a small fireplace (size of a small "laxen" woodstove) with square straight sides (as best as possible with stones) to reflect the heat back into the fire. A pipe came out under the fireplace and brought air from outside. Then the tipi itself acts like a chimney if the windflaps are positioned correctly.

    So think chimney, air inflow and small dry fuel..

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    Dry, dead standing (seasoned) wood with the bark stripped off is the best method I have managed.
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    Thanks for all the replys and links everyone.

    I think the fire I was thinking about was what the 'Labouskies' used in the French forests to remain undetected from the Germans during the war, Ray done a programme about them if I remember right.....

    The Dacota fire pit looks kind of like what I was thinking about.

    What type of fuel does this 'bushbuddy' stove use?

    Thanks for all the help,

    Paul.
    The problem with real life, is there's no danger music.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oblio13 View Post
    Supposedly the frontier hunters around here made small fires of white oak bark when they were worried about Indians in the vicinity. Haven't tried it, but hopefully will remember and report back next time I go to a grove of white oaks near here.

    Firelight is conspicuous at night, and smoke during the day. Lighting a fire at dawn helps minimize both problems. That's also when people tend to be less alert, or at least less likely to investigate. As has been mentioned above, sticking to dry hardwoods will reduce smoke. A screen of tree limbs above helps diffuse it, too.
    Careful Oblio, your not supposed to say 'Indian' anymore, you have to say 'First Nation'

    I think all fires will make some smoke to a degree, certainly they will smell so I suppose your better off with a stove using gas or liquid fuel really if your in some sort of 'stealth mode' style of camp

    Paddle faster...I hear banjo music





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    Quote Originally Posted by rik_uk3 View Post
    you're not supposed to say 'Indian' anymore, you have to say 'First Nation'
    actually here it's "native american".

    in an anthropology class there was a observation made that several tribal names meant "the people"...in our tribe = people...not in our tribe = not people.

    i read an account of the texas rangers encounters with the commanches wherein the commanches could determine if a fire was made by white folks by its size (large).

    the commanches said that whites were afraid of the dark and the creatures that used it to move about. one of the rangers said that commanches fires were small so that they weren't killed by rangers.

    or it was just another story.

  19. #19

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    There was something about smokeless fires on one of the Ray Mears progs.

    The one about the Bielski's, obviously it was necessary to conceal the camp fires from the Nazi's.

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    That's the one I'm thinking of Laurentius, I've not got a copy of the programme, but they did have a method of hiding their fires effectively.
    The problem with real life, is there's no danger music.....

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    I disagree that smoke cannot be seen at night. On a clear, starry and moonlit night smoke can sometimes be seen for quite a distance. I have observed this many times.

    As was stated in the thread mentioned above by Toddy, a small fire of dry twigs, (which is totally adequate to cook over) built in a Dakota hole, near the base of a tree, preferably, a conifer, will be virtually undetectable. I have built them, they work great, and you can use small green branches for a grill over the hole to set you canteen or whatever on to heat water.

    Remember, your goal as I understand it, is camping unobtrusively, not evading Native Americans, or Nazis. It doesn't have to be perfectly smokeless.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chinkapin View Post
    I disagree that smoke cannot be seen at night. On a clear, starry and moonlit night smoke can sometimes be seen for quite a distance. I have observed this many times.

    As was stated in the thread mentioned above by Toddy, a small fire of dry twigs, (which is totally adequate to cook over) built in a Dakota hole, near the base of a tree, preferably, a conifer, will be virtually undetectable. I have built them, they work great, and you can use small green branches for a grill over the hole to set you canteen or whatever on to heat water.

    Remember, your goal as I understand it, is camping unobtrusively, not evading Native Americans, or Nazis. It doesn't have to be perfectly smokeless.
    You are right, any smoke can be seen for some way off. I think though, actually pinpointing where the fire is, especially amongst trees when you try to find it would be more difficult if the light from the fire wasn't present. And then thats only if you can get above the tree line like on a hill overlooking etc.

    The only way I could think of effectively hiding the smoke would be to have some form of chimney, or tunnel laid horizontally with spaced holes, letting little smoke out over a larger area.
    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tjwuk View Post

    The only way I could think of effectively hiding the smoke would be to have some form of chimney, or tunnel laid horizontally with spaced holes, letting little smoke out over a larger area.
    Dont chimney's have to point upwards? I would have thought that a ground level, horizontal pipe wouldn't draw smoke?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Martyn View Post
    Dont chimney's have to point upwards? I would have thought that a ground level, horizontal pipe wouldn't draw smoke?
    Yes I didn't explain it very well!

    You would need quite a long vetical section before the horizontal pieces, or at least slopped. Never tried it mind you.
    Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

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    Peter T's suggestion of Hornbeam is right on. It is one of, if not the, hardest woods readily available in the UK and in America as well. It burns relatively slowly, produces little smoke and burns quite hot. Our two hornbeams are not the same species but I believe the American Hophornbeam is probably the closest and would be my wood of choice. It is generally a rather small understory tree here. Not sure about yours.

    Ours looks like a young beech tree. The older hophornbeams look like there is muscles under the smooth bark, which of course the Beech does not have. I'm curious as to whether or not your hornbeam has this tell-tale feature.
    In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.

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    Raymondo did mention this in his programme about the Jews hiding from the Germans in the Taiga forrest cant remember which series it was though.
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  27. #27

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    The Bielski camp was in the Naliboki Puszcza of Belarus.

    Some years back I was lucky enough to be invited, by a mate from Warsaw, to take an illicit 5 day trip into the Białowieski Park Narodowy in N E Poland. He grew up in the region and used to go poaching in the forest with his father when he was a boy.

    I soon became acutely aware of his stealthiness and discovered after the event that unlicensed wandering in the forest was illegal, as was wild-camping and fire-lighting, and that poaching was punishable by imprisonment. And he was a Big-city businessman!

    The vast majority of firewood was dead-wood taken from live trees with a saw-chain and noisy chopping was definitely not recommended. Fires were only ever lit in the early morning and evening, were small and only ever of the driest of hardwoods, a lot of oak but a few other trees I didn't recognise. (I was somewhat perturbed at first that much of the perfectly good wood I collected was discarded.) We filled vacuums in the morning and lunch consisted of bread, cheese and kiełbasa (sausage).

    I'd love to go back but have unfortunately lost touch with him.

    I may well write a more detailed account to post.
    Last edited by pango; 19-01-2010 at 14:49.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pango View Post
    I may well write a more detailed account to post.
    Please do!

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    Smile Woodsman's poem

    Quote Originally Posted by Martyn View Post
    I'm no expert, but I can usually smell a fire a long way off, wind permitting. I dont know if you can eliminate that altogether, but I think you can do an awful lot to reduce the amount of smoke by selecting your wood carefully, splitting and drying out damp wood before trying to burn it. You only have to throw one crappy, damp log on there to start a big column of smoke and choke everything out.

    There is a rhyme somewhere about the different burning properties of different wood, I can never remember it, so I tend to just stick to what I know works, beech, birch, or any old, dry hardwood I can find. Split the logs down and bake em by the fire first. I think Ash is supposed to be the best, but I never see it round here. Oak is supposed to be good if it's seasoned, but that's pretty rare too. Holly is also good and it's worth remembering that it will burn green. Softwoods like pine are useful for starting fires cos they tend to be resinous. But pine burns too quickly for maintaining a fire and I find it can be wet and smokey.
    I think this may be the poem you were thinking of Martyn?

    An old woodman's poem to help you decide which fuel to use;

    Logs to burn! Logs to burn!
    Logs to save the coal a turn!
    Here's a word to make you wise
    When you hear the woodman's cries.

    Beechwood fire burn bright and clear;
    Hornbeam blazes too,
    If logs are kept a year
    And seasoned through and through.

    Oak logs will warm you well
    If they're old and dry,
    Larch logs of pinewood smell
    But the sparks will fly.

    Pine is good and so is yew
    For warmth through winter days
    But poplar and willow, too
    Take long to dry and blaze.

    Birch logs will burn too fast,
    Alder scarce at all.
    Chestnut logs are good to last
    If cut in the fall.

    Holly logs will burn like wax,
    You should burn them green,
    Elm logs like smoldering flax,
    No flame is seen.

    Pear logs and apple logs,
    They will scent your room.
    Cherry logs across the dogs
    Smell like flowers in bloom.

    But ash logs, all smooth and grey,
    Burn them green or old,
    Buy up all that come your way,
    They're worth their weight in gold.


    Hard woods for roasting
    Apple, Ash, Beech, Birch, Sweet Chestnut, Hazel, Holly, Hornbeam, Larch, Oak and Willow.

    Soft woods for boiling
    Alder, Aspen, cedar, Hawthorn, Horse chestnut, Lime, Pine, Poplar, Spruce, Sycamore.

    This has been a very interesting thread - thanks everyone.

  30. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by pango View Post
    The Bielski camp was in the Naliboki Puszcza of Belarus.

    Some years back I was lucky enough to be invited, by a mate from Warsaw, to take an illicit 5 day trip into the Białowieski Park Narodowy in N E Poland. He grew up in the region and used to go poaching in the forest with his father when he was a boy.

    I soon became acutely aware of his stealthiness and discovered after the event that unlicensed wandering in the forest was illegal, as was wild-camping and fire-lighting, and that poaching was punishable by imprisonment. And he was a Big-city businessman!

    The vast majority of firewood was dead-wood taken from live trees with a saw-chain and noisy chopping was definitely not recommended. Fires were only ever lit in the early morning and evening, were small and only ever of the driest of hardwoods, a lot of oak but a few other trees I didn't recognise. (I was somewhat perturbed at first that much of the perfectly good wood I collected was discarded.) We filled vacuums in the morning and lunch consisted of bread, cheese and kiełbasa (sausage).

    I'd love to go back but have unfortunately lost touch with him.

    I may well write a more detailed account to post.

    Please do - it would be good to hear more.

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