Having the knowledge, skill and redundancy in your pack’s fire-making systems is absolutely crucial, especially if you plan on spending any length of time in the wild. Not only does fire have the ability to keep that eerie nighttime psychological sasquatch at bay, but it will also provide life-sustaining access to heat for staving off the chills when temps take a dive.
And of course, in a survival-type scenario, a fire is always a great way to make sure that your presence is known to anyone flying above, who just so happens to be looking for you.
With that said, it’s important to possess several fire-making options at your disposal. The four mentioned in this post have one primary trait in common: They do not require a prepared kit of cotton balls or commercial/military developed tinder. All you’ll need is what’s mentioned in the four kits below, including your own tinder bundle that you make when you get there — after compiling two handfuls of dried fibrous goodness that only nature can provide. The rest is up to you (and the quality of your firelay).
No. 4 – Focused Lens
The reason why this particular fire kit option is fourth on this list (but is still important under proper conditions) is because you can only use it when the weather and time of day are ideal. However, if those ideal conditions are present, then this is almost the easiest method, and it doesn’t use any resources from your pack whatsoever.
By the way, it can even fit in your wallet: I’m referring to a Fresnel lens.
Once your tinder bundle is ready to rock, then all you’ve got to do is focus the sun’s beam through the lens to get an ember going. Then, add a little oxygen … and presto … you’ve got a fire.
No. 3 – Fire Striker and Char Cloth
This is easily one of the oldest methods of fire making in human history (that is, aside from the bow drill, perhaps). Passed down through the ages, my number three is the method which uses the trusty flint and steel kit.
It’s also been referred to as the flint striker and ye olde tinderbox. Categorically, it’s known as a percussion fire-making method, the likes of which date as far back as the Iron Age.
Using the fire striker does require a rather refined level of skill, which does necessitate the same amount of precision as the bow drill, for instance. However, at least this way you won’t kill your arms. Here’s how it’s done:
- Have a piece of flint or chert in one hand, and your steel striker in the other, with your char cloth and your tinder bundle readily nearby.
- Next, strike the steel against the rock, sending the falling sparks to land on the piece of char cloth below. After a few strikes, you should begin to notice embers beginning to form.
- Place the smoldering char cloth on your tinder bundle, and give it a little loving breeze.
No. 2 – Fire Piston … and Char Cloth
If you’re not familiar with how to make char cloth, it’s basically just a small sheet of cotton that has been “charred” by placing it in a vented tin or steel container and heating it in a fire. You should allow it to “burn,” but not become consumed in the process. This can actually be done with a small swath of, say, a cotton T-shirt or bandana and an Altoids tin. The resulting creation is your char cloth, which has a ridiculously low combustion temperature, and is basically how mere sparks from a steel striker can render embers in the material.
The reason why char cloth is so important is because this material is also needed in order for the fire piston method to work. Basically, the fire piston method uses physics to take care of the hard part, since the 25:1 compression ratio will cause your char cloth to flash (much like a diesel engine, in fact). Here’s a great video tutorial on how to make a fire piston and how to use it.
Fire pistons have been around for roughly 200 years, and much like the steel striker, you can also find classy-looking fire pistons that could add a nice touch to your primitive fire kit.
No. 1 – Flick the Bic
Many might groan at the top method on this list, but quite frankly, I believe this is the most no-brainer part of any fire-making kit — ESPECIALLY if we’re talking about needing it for survival purposes. No, it’s not glamourous, ancient or crafty … but let’s face it … you’ll get the job done with little-to-no effort and costing you less than two bucks at the local Quickie-Mart.
Bic lighters are in just about every convenience and grocery store from Little Rock to Bangkok, and if you’re stuck because your steel striker isn’t working, your fire piston is low on lube, and you’re stranded by the moonlight with a perfectly good Fresnel lens, then you’ll feel like kicking yourself for not grabbing a Bic lighter before leaving for your camping trip.
Ok, That Last One Was Obvious (But Simplicity Is Beauty)
Overall, my preferred fire-making method will always be a ferro rod and the cotton ball-petroleum jelly combo; however, it’s always important to have a variety of methods at your disposal. Simply put, it’s just not conceivable that you’ll find those pharmacy items while stranded in the stick.
And if you do, well then you’re probably just incredibly lucky. In which case, you might as well just sit tight, because some altruistically caring sasquatch spotted you from the other ridge, and is currently on the way to show you how to get back home.
For everyone else, who’s NOT THAT fortunate, those four fire-making methods should get you by in a pinch. And who knows, perhaps our Bigfoot friend might have dropped his Bic somewhere nearby.
What fire-starting method would you have added? Share your tips in the section below: