Firing Up The Day

Start-up essentials

It all begins when the decision to exit the warmth of ones sleeping bag is made. If it’s early in the year, the process of getting clothed is rapid and without delay. Socks and pants are anything but toasty and always seem to be slightly moist from their nightly storage in a condensation trap most commonly identified as a tent. If you’re sharing your abode with others, it’s almost impossible to complete the rise-and-shine procedure in a manner that doesn’t disturb those not yet willing to give up the heat. Shuffling on a plastic floor while dressing, followed by a 6-foot zipper search and an attempted undoing of this connector isn’t an especially quiet endeavour. In addition to the sounds generated by shifting amid a world of nylon, there are, at minimum, a couple of voice audibles that usually occur. The “son of a b****” comment might be expressed when the body first notices the temperature change amid the re-panting, and a second under-the-breath murmur only occurs when the protective zipper flap becomes part of said zipper nine inches into the pull.

Illustration by Keith Milne.
Illustration by Keith Milne.

Once outside, the firepit becomes the focal point for two specific reasons: heat and bug control. In a perfect world, paper, kindling and a lighter are readily available, a fire is started and a shift to coffee brewing is made. Unfortunately, not everyone’s a boy scout and the hunt for lighting components begins. Instead of struggling with dew-soaked beer cases, it’s advisable to visit the vehicle. If it’s the first morning after leaving town, the likelihood of finding an empty coffee cup, a fast-food bag or some store receipts is high and you can jump into the kindling cutting. If it’s the second morning of your trip, you might opt to use the old toilet-paper-inside-the-wet-beer-case trick. It should be noted that any effort you made to exit the tent in a quiet fashion becomes irrelevant if your about to split some rounds. At home, it would be similar to slipping out of bed in order to sound an airhorn in the hallway. On the odd occasion when adjacent campers hooted and hollered well into the next day, a little early morning round splitting can be somewhat rewarding. For the most part, nobody appreciates the post-dawn chop except the bugs. In the absence of a fire and its protective smoke, every pre-sunrise mosquito within 10 kilometres has focused in on your earlobes, neck and brow, each taking a kamikaze bombing run at the exposed flesh. Here, you are brandishing an axe and your only line of defence is a spastic self-slapping and the voiced frustration “son of a b****.” Had you been prepared, the bloodletting might have been avoided.

Regardless of how you got there and at what cost, let’s assume the fire is warming, the smoke is swirling and coffee is the next item on the agenda. If you don’t appreciate an outdoor A.M. brew you should re-evaluate your life priorities. When it comes to preparing the morning bean water, there are several methods currently sanctioned by the Canadian Outdoor Fellowship of Filter Everywhere Enthusiasts (I’ll leave the acronym up to you). The perked method still remains my favourite, though I have several friends who enjoy the product of a French press. I largely gravitate to the perked method because I’ve yet to find a 16-cup press that stays warm. If you’re going, make a pot that satisfies the gang and provides a guaranteed refill. The last thing you need is a two-cup paper-thin vessel that needs to be babysat for five minutes. If two of you are camping out of your Fiat, this might be appropriate for the rest of us not so much. I might also suggest that the perk be performed on the stove rather than the fire and I say this for a number of reasons: it’s much easier to control the heat on the stove and the boil can be precisely dialed in. Though a pot of campfire java sounds rustically appealing, the required temperature dial down conflicts with the very purpose of an early morning fire.

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Furthermore, when an open campfire is used, that coffee pot handle always seems to heat up and the first bare hander to grab it will undoubtedly spout the phrase, “son of a b****,” and that person is usually the maker.

In any given campsite, at any time of the year, the transition from sleeping bag to the fireside enjoyment of a fine brew can be achieved with smooth fluidity or it can arrive in a less timely fashion accompanied by a swollen eye, a ravaged neck and a burnt hand. For the sake of your own well being, be a boy scout and enjoy the perks of doing so.

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