The Art of Fire Starting

Fire starting is an art.  I know everyone who reads this blog carries some type of fire starter and that is a good start.  However lately I have been challenging some people to actually start a fire with what they carry.  The results have not been very good, we are not all Davey Crockett’s or Daniel Boone’s.

Under ideal conditions, most people can start a fire with only minimal problems, but add damp to wet conditions and a bit of wind and things get bad fast.  Amongst the things, I am noticing is some of the fire starters were brand new and had never been used.  Knowledge of where to find dry wood or resin was lacking.

A few simple things will help you become a better fire starter.

  • The small lower dead branches on a tree will be somewhat sheltered and are usually drier during wet weather.
  • Find a sheltered spot to start your fire.
  • Pitch or resin of evergreens will burn even when wet.  Fresh soft pitch burns best.  If it is old dry and hard, break it up, the powder will be easier to ignite.
  • You can often find dry wood or fatwood inside old stumps and down timber.  Fatwood is wood that is impregnated with pitch.
  • Fuzz sticks, also called feather sticks work well.  Take small sticks remove the damp bark by using your knife-edge.  Cut small slices into the wood, this exposes drier wood and the thinner slices will burn more readily.
  • Birch bark will burn quite fiercely even when wet and it only takes a slight flame or spark to get it going.  Other types of dry bark will burn ok, check all the sides of a tree, one may be protected from the rain and the bark will not be as wet.
  • Look around the bottoms of trees and under downed logs for dry tinder.  You will often find dry tinder hidden in crevasses or holes in the trees.
  • Carry fire starting devices, it doesn’t matter what type you carry as long as you can start a fire and always have them with you.
  • My favorite fire starts are cotton balls soaked in Vaseline or small pieces of pitch.  I carry a couple of 35 mm film cans in my pack.  One with cotton balls, the other to collect pitch.
  • Cheating is allowed, use anything you have, gasoline, magnesium or anything else you have.
  • Check your jacket pockets for dry lint, or even cut one out if you life depends on it.

    A piece of pitch I found on the ground in my yard. You need to learn how to recognize it.

Now that you have read the above list, go outside and practice.  I am talking about in the snow, rain and windy conditions.  This is a skill that can save your life.

Howard

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2 Responses to The Art of Fire Starting

  1. Matt says:

    Of course Practice is always the best, but watching Cody Lundin on Dual Survival is pretty cool too.

  2. ke4sky says:

    The easiest way to get a fire going with wet wood when cold-soaked boy scouts are borderline hypothermic is a pine stump lightner knot and a railroad flare! When your hands have been reduced to nonfunctional stumps nothing else works. Been there and done that. Lived to tell about it.

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