Having lived in the Himalayas for a decade, I bring you this writeup backed by solid experience.
- Find a coniferous tree ( pine / cedar / larch ).
- Amongst the lowermost branches, you will find a few leafless, dead ones. Snap off a few.
- Examine and smell the broken edges.
- If they have a strong perfume and have an amber / dark pink / red / bright yellow color, continue else go back to step 1.
This pungent brittle wood is known as 'Jhukti' by the locals. It's saturated with sweet smelling hydrocarbons and will not soak water in rain or snow. It's also found in the heartwood of the thicker branches of fallen coniferous trees.
- Place a flat stone or piece of bark on the ground and a couple of thick logs just by it. Light pieces of this 'Jhukti' and lean them against the logs , resting them on the stone or bark.They burn with fragrant smoke , spitting and sputtering , sometimes dripping burning droplets of thick sticky resin.
- Keep piling twigs leaving little air gaps for the flame to come through.Get bigger and bigger branches and pile them on.A big fire is a good fire. Watch out however! Some trees' wood will crackle snap and pop , throwing red hot coals all around.
- Do not use paper, cardboard, dry grass or soft rotten wood. They will choke up the fire.
- Do not try to use gasoline, kerosene or diesel fuel to start fires unless you are an experienced fire maker. It's very easy to screw up and lose your eyebrows and/or nosehair.
The locals spend large amounts of time looking for fallen pine trees to chop into the thicker branches and extract this 'Jhukti' thing. They use it for lighting up their homes when they cant afford kerosene , as it burns for a long time and with a bright yellow flame.
This works just fine if you live in an area full of conifers . In other areas however , lighting a fire boils down to being able to find wood which burns easily.
Here are some pointers.
- Hard springy wood is good.
- Light springy wood is good too.
- Soft spongy woods are bad.
- Hard , heavy logs are worse ( they might be waterlogged internally).
- Don't pick wood from the banks of rivers or streams.They have water and silt ingrained into them.
- The sound made when knocking logs against each other gives a good indication of the nature of the wood. It should be a twang rather than a dull thud.
- Strip the bark off if you can, before burning branches. Bark usually smokes and smolders.
Finally some safety tips.