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How to Make a Fireplace for an Outdoor Shelter

Learn how to make a fireplace for an outdoor shelter from NYC Outward Bound's Marko Yurachek in this wilderness survival skills Howcast video.


In order to make my fireplace, what I'm going to do is scrape away a lot of the leaves that are right here. Again, very, very wet, but once I get a fire going, it'll dry all this out, really dry, and potentially light it. So we don't want that to happen. We're going to put a pretty good hearth down here.

If we were to build a round fire, like your typical s'more-roasting Boy Scout fire, it'd be great for people to sit around it, but if you were laying next to it, it would warm one spot. The way this is, we have a nice, long fire, right? We have this reflector in the background. The fire's going to warm me from head to toe, reflect back off the wall. Behind us, we have all this. I've actually spent the night out with clothes like I'm wearing right now and a coat on a frozen river in about minus 30 degrees. And the way I did it was to built a system just exactly like what we're doing right now. At minus 30, I could spend the night out with just the clothes I have on. I didn't even have a rock reflector. I had to make a wooden reflector. With a long trench fire and a bed likes this covered with spruce, you could stay out minus 20, minus 30 degrees, and be fine all night.

So that's kind of what we're building here, even though it's not going to be that cold tonight. We're going to make a nice, long hearth for our fire. So what we've got here is a beautiful hearth. Were's going to use it in one way tonight because it's getting late. These rocks are going to serve two purposes. They're going to stop the fire from burning down to the duff, and they're also going to hold the heat. Say the fire dies during the middle of the night, you're going to have all this rock heated up, and it's going to hold that heat and keep you warm. Had we started this project in the morning, I would have built the fire on top of these rocks, let the rocks totally bake, and then put my bed on top of the rocks, so I'd have a heated rock pile to sleep on, which keeps you extra, extra warm at night.

We really don't have enough time to heat all the rocks, because it is getting dark, so we're going to put our fire on top of the rocks tomorrow night. If we want to keep our fire going all day, we can heat these rocks till they're so warm that we won't need a fire to sleep. So they have a double benefit. Really nice to have hot rocks.

On a cold, cold night, if you have a sleeping bag, you can take rocks from your fire, heat them up, wrap them in a shirt, stick them in the bottom of your sleeping bag, and your feet will be toasty all night. It's really nice to have a nice pile of hot rocks.

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