I watch several of the survival shows on TV and occasionally find some good information that slips by the directors. (It seems that many of these shows are more hype than substance.) I wouldn’t want to have my life depend on what I have learned from those shows. However, there is one skill that most of them point out is extremely important and that is fire starting.
Now over the years I have talked with people who thought that they could play Daniel Boone and start a fire easily. Most of them ended up using a surprisingly large quantity of matches and never did get a really successful fire started, and this was in good weather.
Even if you are planning to bug in, fire starting will probably become part of your life. You may be starting fires for cooking, heating, for light (candles or kerosene lanterns) or simply to get rid of some trash. The bottom line is that even if you have a Coleman stove and a lifetime supply of fuel you still need something to light it.
If you are out in the woods the situation is even worse. You may be dealing with wind, rain, and damp wood. Learning tricks like using resin to help start fires can save your life. Give some serious thought to what type of fire starting devices you carry and stock. I have canned a significant number of boxes of strike anywhere matches, but they will run out eventually.
Other good fire starters are fire tabs, charcloth (this isn’t hard to make as a DIY project), a fire steel, and something I just recently saw, a solar fire starter kit (we used a magnifying glass when we were kids, but this is a little different!)
Here are some links to previous posts I have written on fire starting.
- Fire Starting is an Art that You Need to Master.
- Speedy Sharp, a Knife Sharpener and Aid in Fire Starting a good multi use tool
- Jute Twine and Fire Starting
- Starting Campfires Safely, Without Starting a Wildland Fire
- A Comparison of Four Different Fire Starters
I am an avid reader and one skill that I have found to have been extremely important to our pioneer ancestors and primitive people thought out the world is the ability to preserve fire. By this, I mean banking your fire at night so that you can restart it in the morning without a fire starter. Also vital is the ability to transport fire. Primitive people made all types of fire bundles that would allow them to transport hot coals all day and be able to use them to start a fire that night. I have to admit these are skills that I have not developed but am starting to work on. When I have made some progress, I will write a post on the results.
4 thoughts on “Fire Starting is a Skill You Need to Practice”
A few of the most useful tidbits I have learned over the years are:
Carry a hand, twist-type pencil sharpener, the big one used for contractor’s marking pencils, which can be worn on a lanyard. These will easily make piles of wood shavings from sticks for tinder, as well as to sharpen sticks for skewers, frog spears, etc.
Place your tinder ball on the tip of a metal spade or your K-bar, so that you can easily position the smoldering tinder under your bird nest starter fuel and quickly add gradually larger toothpick, chopstick, pencil and drumstick sized fuel before putting larger wood on.
Carry a 1 metre piece of surgical tubing in your kit and a 6″ piece of metal pipe which fits it. This serves multiple purposes: as a blow-tube to help your fire get going, to suck water out of rock crevices, and a cutoff inch chunk of rubber tube, initiated with a bit of insect repellent, hand sanitizer, or vaseline from your first aid kit, split open and hit with a spark from your ferro rod, burns hot as tinder if you have no other…
Excellent advice, thanks Howard
ed harris,thanks for the good info. some things are so logical that they are easily overlooked. – UCO stormproof matches has a new big brother on steroids. this 4.125 inch long, FAT titan stormproof match is what you need if a one match fire is absolutely necessary. – amazon $9.88 for a box of 25. these matches are too long for most match safes. to make them fit, cut the bottom yellow part, which doesn’t burn anyway, to a length which fits your match safe, strike, insert in water, pull out while there is still 1/4 inch of orange still left. BURN BABY BURN
I have heard of some shelf life issues with the UCO matches, not being moisture resistant, etc. I don’t know how widespread the problem is. The only matches I carry are NATO and Coast Guard specification “lifeboat matches” NSN 9920-99-665-4243 which I get from Best Glide ASE.
But another tip I can relate, is when you have a canoe load of hypothermic Boy Scouts whose canoe has capsized and you need a warming fire NOW and all you have is wet wood, nothing beats a railroad flare!
You want at least three, one to start your three signal fires as a beacon, two as batons to direct the helo safely onto a night LZ, and at one which you have drilled a 1/4″ hole through its wooden handle so that you can securely tie a 6 foot lanyard through the hole so that you can spin it in a circle high above your head as a night distress signal which can be spotted miles away by the air evac helo.