Fire up the grill

Unless you are grilling in a Category 4 hurricane (and then, really, what are you doing outside?), real men never need more than a light squeeze of lighter fluid to start a charcoal fire.

Want to go old school? Skip the petrochemicals and buy a chimney starter instead. Or better yet, make your own. It takes more time and just the right touch to get the BBQ glowing. But that is what real men are all about.

Get rid of trash

We know civilizations by their garbage. Archeology, after all, is really a form of historic dumpster diving. And we know real men by how civilized they are about their trash (OK, so the Romans tossed it out the windows. But at least they had plumbing.)

Some things never change. But other stuff does, and real men know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. And the truth is, it’s no longer in the cards to torch your trash and brush.

There’s the air quality factor. The nagging neighbors. Not to mention that in plenty of places you now have to get a permit to burn anything of significance. A man’s home is still his castle. But it’s no longer his personal garbage incinerator.

So what’s a real man to do?

Well, we’ll just whisper one possibility (recycling). Some other ideas? Chip in with some neighbors and rent a chipper to turn brush into mulch. Or pay a teenager (with a drivers license) to haul everything to the dump.

If you are fresh out of teenagers, or the local landfill is on strike, here’s how to handle it if you must burn.

  1. Know your local laws. You may be required to notify the fire department or burn only during certain hours.
  2. Check the weather. Wind + fire = trouble (but real men already know that).
  3. Location, location. Burn in a clear area and contain trash so it doesn’t scatter once it’s on fire. Look overhead and make sure there are no branches or wires.
  4. Stay with your fire until it’s out. You’re in charge of your fire. And if it gets out of control, you’re in charge of calling for a fire truck.

Own that campfire

This is a test. This is only a test: of your very manliness. Real men know how to start campfires. When it rains. When it pours. When you’ve spent the entire night battling masked intruders (a.k.a. raccoons) but the kids still wake up at dawn begging for s’mores.

If you are a real man, wet wood, whiney kids, and a mind-blurring lack of sleep are no match for your fire-starting skills. You know there are multiple ways to lay a fire, light a flame, and let the wife know she’s on duty (and you’re headed back to the tent for a nap).


Arrange the tinder and a few sticks of kindling in the shape of a tepee or cone. Light the center. As the tepee burns, the outside logs will fall inward, feeding the fire. This type of fire burns well even with wet wood.


Push a green stick into the ground at a 30-degree angle. Point the end of the stick in the direction of the wind. Place some tinder deep under this lean-to stick. Lean pieces of kindling against the lean-to stick. Light the tinder. As the kindling catches fire from the tinder, add more kindling.


Scratch a cross about 12 inches wide in the ground. Dig the cross 3 inches deep. Put a large wad of tinder in the middle of the cross. Build a kindling pyramid above the tinder. The shallow ditch allows air to sweep under the tinder to provide a draft.


Place two small logs or branches parallel on the ground. Place a solid layer of small logs across the parallel logs. Add three or four more layers of logs or branches, each layer smaller than and at a right angle to the layer below it. Make a starter fire on top of the pyramid. As the starter fire burns, it will ignite the logs below it. This gives you a fire that burns downward, requiring no attention during the night.