Thought I would take a little brake from the boots and talk about another very important issue that every hardcore outdoorsman needs to address. Fire. More specifically, how to build a good one in adverse conditions.
Fire is a big deal. It keeps us warm. It cooks our food and heats water. It is a good signaling device. Keeping it alive and under control gives us something to do. It keeps the boogey man and other scary things away. In short, it can be a life saver. Remember the classic short story “To Build A Fire” by Jack London?
I have spent a lot of time over the past thirty years working on my kit. The fire making piece of it has been especially challenging. I have heard just about every method imaginable including chemical mixes and batteries and steel wool. When I was a SAR Tech-EMT on the Sheriff’s Mountain Rescue Team my favorite fire starting method was a road flare. We had boxes of them and they were always handy to throw in your pack. You can start a fire in a hurricane with a road flare but it suffers from two flaws. One. They are heavy. Even if you cut them down to a more practical size. Two. A flare is a single use item. Once you start it, that’s it. You can’t use it again.
After a great deal of research, a lot of questions to the old salts and my own trial and error in the field, here is what I am currently carrying in my pack to get a good fire going.
Waterproof Stormproof Matches
Flint and steel
Jumbo size cotton balls-tinder for sparks from the flint and steel
Esbit Solid Fuel Tabs-individually wrapped and burn for 12 to 15 minutes each
Petroleum jelly-work it into the cotton balls to make them burn longer
Butane Lighter-I have tried them all and I am back to carrying a Bic
Tinder Quik fire tabs-waterproof tinder bundles burn for a few minutes
Leakproof and airtight plastic bag-to keep it all dry
Knife-making wood shavings and preparing the tinder pile
Hand saw-cutting fire wood into manageable pieces
I know there are other good methods but I have chosen these items because they achieve a balance between capability, shelf life, weight and dependability. I mean, a can of gasoline is a great fire starter but it is impractical for obvious reasons. I believe that with these items, a modicum of skill, and some practice, you can start a fire in most conditions. Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can’t or won’t turn back.
I have come full circle on my fire starter kit. This is everything I need to start a fire and nothing more. It measures 6×9 inches, weighs 5.4 ounces and fits in a BDU leg pocket. The AA battery is for scale.
The right fire making materials are one thing. Your skill in using them is something else entirely. Practice makes perfect or at least proficient. Your ability to successfully build a good fire in a reasonable amount of time under adverse conditions might save your life or the life of someone you care about. So practice. Oh, and try not to burn down anything important like a house or a forest. I spent a little time on the Rodeo-Chediski fire in 2002, a 467,000 acre conflagration that was started by an arsonist and an idiot that got lost and tried to signal a helicopter with a fire. During the day. In high wind conditions. In the summer. That was her story anyway.
One last thing to consider. Despite your best efforts, you might not be able to start a fire so you had better be prepared to survive your predicament without one. Like always use your brain before, during and after your trip.
Sorting through the fads and fashion of the outdoor equipment industry to identify and promote the very best wilderness gear for high end recreational users, backcountry professionals and government agencies.
Hardcore Outdoor is dedicated to those who can’t or won’t turn back.