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Every man should know how to build a fire. But every outdoor situation requires different types of campfire lays (set-ups in the firewood), so it’s imperative to know how to make more than one kind.

Here we highlight six of the most common and useful fire lays.

Teepee Fire Lay

There’s a reason this is the go-to campfire lay for most outdoorsmen: it’s very easy to get a fire going with a teepee lay. It’s also a great fire for cooking and warmth. The one downside of a teepee fire lay is that it burns quickly, requiring a lot of fuel to keep it going.

Many other fire lays rely on a teepee lay to initially get going, so it’s a vital lay to master.

How to make: Place your tinder bundle on the ground. Above your tinder bundle, use kindling to build a small teepee. Start with small twigs and build up to large sticks. Leave an opening in your teepee on the side the wind is blowing against. This will ensure that your fire gets the air it needs for effective combustion. Light your tinder bundle. As the fire gets going, add increasingly thick sticks, and eventually large fuel logs, in the same teepee shape.

Star Fire Lay

If you’ve watched old Western movies, you’ve likely seen a star fire lay. It’s the fire lay of choice for cowboys ranging in areas where there isn’t much wood. The star fire lay doesn’t make a very big or hot fire, but it’s economical in terms of fuel and easy to set up.

How to make: Lay five or six logs on the ground like the spokes of a wheel. The arrangement will look like a star. Inside the hub of your wheel/star, start a small fire with a teepee lay. As the main logs of the star lay burn, push them towards the center.

Lean-to Fire Lay

The lean-to fire lay creates a protective canopy under which you can place your tinder bundle. As such, it’s a good fire lay to use in windy or rainy conditions. The trade-off is that this set-up does restrict airflow a little, so it can sometimes make getting a fire going a bit harder.

How to make: Place your tinder against a large log. Lean small twigs and sticks against the log and above your tinder pile. Now you see why it’s called a “lean-to.” Light your tinder bundle.

The Log Cabin Fire Lay

One glance at its structure and it’s easy to see how the log cabin lay got its name. You’re going to build a small log cabin with fuel logs around a small teepee fire lay. The resulting fire burns big and hot and doesn’t require as much tending once you light it, as the flames start burning the big logs which form the log cabin shape. 

How to make: Start off by building a small teepee fire lay. Get large pieces of fuel wood and place them on opposite sides of the teepee. Lay other pieces of wood across the first set of fuel wood, parallel on the other sides of the teepee. Think of the way you build with Lincoln Logs. Build your log cabin until it’s the same height as your teepee, more or less. Light the teepee on fire.

Parallel/Long Fire Lay

The structure of the parallel/long lay funnels air into the fire, creating a hotter burn, which can come in handy for cooking. Because the structure blocks the wind from the sides, it can also be a good fire lay for windy conditions.

How to make: Place two large long green logs parallel to each other about six inches apart. Start a small teepee fire in between the logs. You can also dig a long trench in the ground and start a fire inside the trench. Rest pots and pans across the logs or trench to create a makeshift cooking range.

The Pyramid/Upside-Down/Council Fire Lay

The ultimate “set it and forget it” fire lay, this campfire will last for hours without tending. While it does take more work to set it up and get it going, if you need a fire that will keep you warm through the night, without you having to frequently arise to fuel it, this is the lay for you.

How to make: Stack your fuel logs in a pyramid shape, each layer perpendicular to the next. Start with the largest logs on the bottom. With each new layer, use smaller pieces of wood. Position logs so there’s minimal spacing between them. On top of your pyramid, place your tinder and build a small teepee fire. Light your tinder bundle. As each layer of the pyramid burns, it sinks and falls, igniting the layer below it. The fire feeds itself.

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More Than Ever, the Medium Is the Message

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You were dumped in two different ways, by text and in person. Although similar sentiments may have been expressed in both cases, the context will likely change your feelings and how you remember the relationship.

This example begins getting at what media philosopher Marshall McLuhan intended when he said, “The medium IS the message.”

We usually think of content when we consider the message in a communication. McLuhan, however, argued that the character of a communication can be just as important as its content. It is not what’s said but how it is said that matters. The medium can be as influential as the message itself.

A message’s character can change minds as easily as its content. McLuhan defined a medium’s message as “a change of scale, pace, or pattern” that it introduces into human affairs. The nature of communication media changes how we think, act, and behave, with second- and third-order social, psychological, religious, and other effects. We often consider communication technology to be neutral. However, this is not the case. It has a profound impact on individual psyches as well as collective culture.

It makes sense, when you consider how digital communication, which is often in the form of small, varied nuggets, that are always on, has fragmented our attention spans, and changed the pace and pattern of our habits. Social media doesn’t say “Don’t spend as much time reading” or “Be distracted while talking to someone.” But the medium conveys that message and we’ve absorbed it.

Modern media are characterized by a rapid-fire, shortened format that affects our rhythms in both the real world and the cognitive one. It also impacts the importance we give to its content.

Neil Postman, media theorist, noted in Amusing Ourselves To Death that the average length of a news story was 45 seconds. He also observed that while brevity doesn’t always imply triviality, it does in this instance. In order to convey the seriousness of an event, its implications cannot be exhausted in under one minute. Similarly, we subconsciously feel that anything that is conveyed through a 60 second TikTok or short tweet must not be very important.

But arguably the most significance-draining aspect of the medium of modern media is the way that each piece of context-less content is sandwiched between other context-less and entirely unconnected pieces of content.

Postman claimed that the phrase “now…this” is one of the most frightening phrases in the English language. Postman was referring again to news broadcasts and how the phrase allows the newscasters abruptly switch between two stories that are completely unrelated, such as “The missile attack killed over 100 civilians.” Now, this. “A koala was born in the zoo!”

Postman said that “the phrase is meant to acknowledge the fact the the world as it is depicted by the accelerated electronic media is devoid of meaning or order and should not be taken seriously.”

In the modern age, this “now…this” phenomenon is only intensifying. You scroll through your social media feed and see a video of a funny sports accident, then someone cooking nachos, someone explaining a Bible passage, someone exercising, someone giving relationship advice, and finally a car wreck.

Social media, because it presents these things all on the same plane, gives them equal importance. There is a great flattening. The loftier content doesn’t rise to the level of the baser, but the baser is brought to the loftier. All content feels as though it is of equal weight. . . Then, everything starts to seem trivial. All things start to appear trivial. All things start to seem the same.

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Podcast #984: Why Your Memory Seems Bad (It’s Not Just Age)

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You can’t recall what you were looking for when you walk into another room of your home. You may forget an appointment, or you might have trouble remembering someone’s name.

These memory lapses may be attributed to aging. Age can play a part in memory loss. As my guest will explain, there are also other factors involved.

Charan Ranganath, a neuroscientist and psychologist, is the author of Why We Remember – Unlocking Memory’s Power to Hold On to What Matters. Charan Ranganath explains on today’s show how factors such as how we direct attention, how we take photos and how we move through “event boundary” affect our memory. He also explains how our context in life can influence which memories we are able to recall. We discuss how you can reverse-engineer these factors in order to improve your memory.

Podcast Resources

AoM Article: 10 Ways to Improve Your MemoryAoM Podcast #546: How to Get a Memory Like a Steel TrapAoM Podcast #750: The Surprising Benefits of ForgettingReminiscence bump

Connect With Charan Ranganath

Charan’s Faculty PageCharan’s WebsiteCharan on IG

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Skill of the Week: Survive a Fall Onto Subway Tracks

A man’s ability to adapt to any situation is an important part of his masculinity. We’ll be republishing an illustrated guide from our archive every Sunday so that you can improve your manly knowledge week by week.

The underground platform of a subway is the most dangerous place to fall. A fall onto the tracks of a subway is dangerous because it can be difficult to escape on your own. The steep, high walls make it difficult for the average person to escape the tracks in time before the next train arrives. Because subway systems were built to serve a single purpose, they don’t include a lot extra space in the tunnels. Subway cars are able to pass through tracks with only a few inches of clearance. What should you do if you fall or are pushed onto the tracks? To survive, use the tips listed above.

You like this illustrated guide? You’ll love our book The Illustrated Art of Manliness. Get your copy at Amazon.

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