Fire is one of the greatest discoveries of man. For centuries it has kept him alive and still used daily in our modern civilization. Fire can provide warmth, make food edible, disinfect water, signal for rescue, illuminate the darkness, and make other tools, the list is endless. The vast majority of your survival will depend on your ability to create fire.
Being able to make fire on demand is invaluable in a survival situation. But first we must understand what is needed to make fire.
Fire cannot exist without these three elements known as the Fire Triangle:
- Heat (ignition source)
- Fuel (something to consume)
These elements must be in the proper proportions for a sustainable fire. Heat can be provided by a flame from a lighter or match. It can also be created from a spark from a flint or a modern man-made mixture known as a ferrocerium rod. Oxygen is all around us and can be applied by blowing a small flame to make it larger. An over abundance of oxygen can blow out a flame; too little will choke a flame out.
For our application, fuel will be broken down into three components:
- Tinder- natural or man made highly combustible material
- Kindling- twigs that are pencil lead to pencil width size
- Fuel- wood that is thumb width to log size
THE FIRE KIT
A fire kit is a small kit designed to ensure fire no matter the situation your faced. In the military we have a saying “two is one and one is none”. In my experience having three separate ways to make a fire is the most reliable approach should the others fail.
To begin you will need a way to carry this kit and to protect it. The number one enemy of fire is water. A waterproof bag or container is recommended to keep your fire starting materials dry. Something like an ALOKSAK waterproof bag or small Pelican hard case is a good place to start.
Probably the most convenient and popular method in modern times of starting fires is a cigarette lighter. The BIC Lighter typically will make 3000 flames. They are effective as long as they are kept from freezing or getting wet.
Magnesium Fire Starter
This is a combination fire starter issued to the Military. It includes a sparking insert (ferrocerium) inlayed into a magnesium block. The ferrocerium rod will produce extremely hot sparks when scraped. It can be used when wet, making it an advantageous tool to carry in a survival kit. The magnesium block can be scraped into a pile and used as tinder when there is no natural tinder or when tinder is wet.
Waterproof matches are available at most outdoor stores. They will produce a flame even after being submerged under water. However you can also make your own by coating strike anywhere matches with clear finger nail polish. The polish will act as a waterproof coating.
Not just for reading the fine print- this is a small plastic magnification card that can be used to direct the Sun into solar ignition. As long as the Sun is in the sky you have an eternal fire making device.
Cotton Balls and Petroleum Jelly
This is an easy DIY fire tinder using items commonly found in your medicine cabinet. Cotton balls are a very fine combustible material that will produce a quick burning flame from the sparks of the Magnesium Fire Starter. You can prolong this flame to an upwards of 8-10 minutes by applying a small dab of petroleum jelly. The petroleum jelly will also make the tinder relatively water resistant. A old film canister or medicine bottle is a great place to store them.
Here are a few unconventional techniques for survival fire starting:
9volt and Steel Wool
By touching the positive and negative post of a 9volt battery to a piece of steel wool the current will ignite it causing the wool to smolder.
When cleaning the lint trap, collect all that fine fire tinder and place into a bag. It works as a great tinder material that takes a spark very well.
Also known as pine pitch can be found in the in the resin impregnated pieces of downed Pine trees. It is highly flammable and will take flame even after getting wet. The benefit is that it can be easily found in the wild.
Building fire is one of those crucial skills that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Always be sure to have a fire making kit with you on your next adventure!