How to Send Smoke Signals

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Not getting any bars on your phone? That doesn’t mean you can’t communicate with faraway friends. Just send them a smoke signal!

1. Light Your Fire

No surprise here, but you’re going to need a hefty fire if you want to send a smoke signal. Build a normal campfire – start with small, easy burning tinder and gradually work your way up to heavier fuel.

2. Flash Some Green

As impressive as your roaring fire is, it’s probably not going to make all the smoke you need. To kick up your smokiness, gather a bundle of green sticks and grass. Dump them on your fire. While your inner camper may rebel against the idea of putting green fuel on a fire, the addition will actually help you kick out thicker, whiter smoke that’s easier to spot.

3. Embrace the Wet Blanket

Forget every negative thing you’ve heard about wet blankets. Douse your bedroll with water – otherwise you’re going to have a roasted blanket on your hands – and toss it over your fire until no more smoke is rising from the flames.

4. Go Under Cover

Once the smoke has stopped rising, quickly pull the blanket off the fire. A white cloud of smoke should rise from the flames, just in time for you to throw the blanket back over the fire. The cloud will rise as a single puff, your first signal.

5. Know the Code

Once you can send smoke signals, encoding your long-distance messages isn’t hard. Although there is no universal smoke-signal language, American campers have a pretty clear system of signaling. A single puff simply lets observers know where you are. A series of two signals is generally accepted as a code that all’s well, while three puffs in quick succession alert viewers to an emergency.
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Smoke signals are the most interesting way to broadcast your position in the wilderness. Need to broadcast that you’re a beer drinker with great taste? Grab a Dos Equis.

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September 18, 2013 - 8:00am
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