The ability to make fire is such a critical skill for any survivalist. Whether on a planned camping trip or in an extreme survival scenario, fire can make or break an experience and could certainly be the difference between life or death. I have spent more hours than I can count on my hands and knees blowing a tinder bundle – eyes burning from smoke – desperately trying to get that first ignition. I practice “the skill” of making fire as much as I can. I practice in all kinds of conditions using all kinds of tools and sets. I use modern tools such as matches & fire steels and I use primitive methods such as bow drills and hand drills. [pullquote]Over the years I have tried to become familiar with making fire in almost any environment and condition.[/pullquote] When I spend time in the wild, I always carry with me what I call my “Fire Kit”. It is a 8″ x 4″ x 2″ Army Molle Pouch filled with a variety of fire making tools and implements. I keep a similar kit in my Survival Bug Out Bag – only it is about 1/3 the size with less tools.
Let me preface this post by saying that I ALREADY KNOW this kit is overkill. While I am a big fan of redundancy (especially when it comes to important things such as fire), I am aware that this kit contains many more items than I need to get a fire going. However, the main purpose of this kit is to practice using different tools in different ways and in different environments and having this kit with me at all times gives me the opportunity to do just that. I try to start a fire in a different way each time. Sometimes I use modern tools from my kit, sometimes I use natural tools that I gather while in the bush and other times I use a combination of both. Having different tools and kit items on hand gives a lot of flexibility and provides more learning opportunities.
I always have a mini sparker, matches in a waterproof case, and a lighter in my fire kit. Each of these offers their own set of challenges when making fire. I will often create scenarios while camping. For example, I sometimes pretend that I only have 1 match left and this forces me to really make that 1 match count. Always challenge yourself when making fire because you never know if a time will come when it WILL BE a challenge.
In addition to the above, I also keep a Fire Steel in my kit. Many times I will use this tool with tinder that I’ve gathered in the bush such as cattail down, birch bark, dried grass and the list goes on and on. I’ve even tried starting a fire using a shed snake skin. It was actually very flammable! A fire steel can generate sparks in the worst of conditions and I’ve started fires in miserable environments using this tool. If you haven’t already – become a MASTER OF THE FIRE STEEL. I keep the store-bought compressed wax wood fire tinder in my kit just as a back up if I’m ever in really wet and rainy conditions and I have to get a fire going. I’ve never had to use it yet but it’s there if I ever need to.
I also pack petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls in my kit. You can also use dryer lint to make a very similar tinder. This is quite possibly the best fire tinder I have ever used. It works with a very tiny spark and will burn even when damp. You can make it by simply mixing cotton balls and dryer lint with petroleum jelly. I keep mine in a little container.
CARMEX lip balm is petroleum jelly based and works as an excellent FUEL EXTENDER. You can mix it with any natural tinder such as cattail down or milk weed down to increase the burn time. Read my post about using CARMEX as a Fire Extender. Natural fiber twine such as the JUTE TWINE shown below also makes an excellent tinder bundle. I’ve started countless bow drill fires using a jute twine tinder bundle. Again, it’s about challenging yourself with different materials. Experience is the key!
So to sum up the lesson in this post I would say it is this:
Never start any 2 fires the same way! Do something different each time.
Building a fire kit and keeping it in your pack can help you become a better fire crafter. It’s really about having the tools to experiment. Speaking of tools, 1 tool that I have not mentioned that I use almost every time I build a fire is my knife – typically a Mora Knife. I don’t keep it in my fire kit, but I NEVER go into the woods or on any trip without it.
Hopefully this is useful information for you. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Remember… it’s not IF but WHEN,