Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Equipment and Techniques to start a Fire

Fire is one of the most important things for wilderness survival. It can be used for a number of tasks like signaling for help, preparing food, heat, drying wet clothing, the smoke keeps bugs away, scare off animals, sterilize water by boiling it and comfort. Having a fire during night while hiking and camping is a natural thing for most and a natural meeting point to talk about the day and socialize.

Before you get started you need to collect some kind of fuel for the fire, fire wood is the most common source but in an emergency other things can be used like pieces for furniture. If you use alternative sources for fuel remember that the fire can generate smoke than can be poisonous. Start with selecting a safe place where you can start the fire; make sure that there isn’t any flammable materials close that to the fire that it can spread. If the wind is blowing choose a place that’s as shielded as possible.

Matches are one the most effective way to start a fire. The only major disadvantage is that they must remain dry in order to work properly. In order to keep them fry there is specific container that can be used. There are special water-resistant long burning matches that come in a water proof container from companies like BCB and ProForce. Another simple technique too keep a regular box of matches inside a waterproof plastic bag.

Lighters are also a very effective way to start a fire. It’s a compact solution that easy to carry with you. A lighter can however be hard to operate if it’s subject to water and especially dirt. The lighters from BIC are among the cheapest and operate very well. More high quality storm lighters have the advantage that the flame is stronger and isn’t affected easily by strong wind. The model Helios from Silva is one example; there are also more expensive ones from Wenger and Zippo. There are also lighters that use gasoline like the famous Zippo lighter. Most lighters use an electric spark to ignite the gas in the lighter but some models also use a flint. During an emergency the flint striker from lighters can be used to start a fire even if the gas runs out.

Fire Steel
Modern Fire Steels use different metal alloys that generate very high temperature sparks by using another metal item to produce friction. The spark can be up to 3000 degress Celsius and can be used to start a camp fire. One of the major advantages with a fire steel is that it can be used even if it’s wet, however they require some training and good tinder in order to be effective. There are many models of fire steels on the market some of the best comes from Light My Fire. Light my Fire make three major models the large size Army model that can be used over 10.000 times, the normal size that can be used for around 3.000 times and the mini size that can be used 1.500 times. They also sell a special folding knife with a integrated fire steel, The SL-3. The refill fire steel that can be bought to this knife has no handles and are therefore very compact and perfect for a Pocket Survival Kit.

Tool Logic makes a credit card size tool kit that has small fire steel on the side that easily can be carried in a wallet. Coghlan´s makes a fire steel that has a solid magnesium block under the fire steel, small pieces of magnesium can be carved from the block and used to start a fire.

Ultimate Survival Technologies sell some very good fire steels that can be operated with one hand; The Blastmatch, The Sparkie and The StrikeForce. The main disadvantages with these are that they are not as compact as the Fire Steels from Light My Fire and have a quite high price. also sells a number of different models that’s often recommended. Other companies like Primus and BCB also sell fire steels.

Magnifying glass
A Magnifying glass can be used to concentrate the rays of the sun and start a fire; this can be quite easy to accomplice during a sunny day with dry tinder. However this is only a method I would recommend as a last resort since it can only be used during day time and when the weather is good. Binoculars or a piece of glass from a broken bottle can also be used in the same way.

Tinder is different forms of materials that can be used when one first starts a fire. This can be particularly useful when trying to start a fire in hard conditions when there is wind, rain, snow or wet wood. There are some types of tinder that can be bought in stores like the Wet Fire from Ultimate Survival Technologies and the MayaDust and Maya Sticks from Light my Fire. Tinder can be created by doping cotton balls into Vaseline. Other improvised sources of tinder can be lid from pockets in your cloths, paper, dry grass, a tampon, down from birds and birch-bark. Birch-bark is excellent tinder that can be collected and used later. Lighter fluid can be a good solution for starting a fire when camping, but the high weight of a bottle of lighter fluid is not an ideal solution when hiking or for a Bug Out Bag. 

When starting a fire it’s good to use smaller pieces of wood and twigs to start the fire with and then use larger and larger piece of wood. For splitting and collecting fire wood a folding saw and axe are excellent tools. Try finding as dry wood as possible especially for getting the fire going. If you’re staying at the same location for a long time try to collect fire wood and put it under cover so that it can dry up and become easier to use.

Improvised Techniques
There are also a number of different improvised techniques that can be used to start a fire, one is taking some steel wool, stretching it out and then use 9 volt battery to ignite the steel wool. Other methods are using very dry wood and friction, usually by creating a bow and spinning a pin against another piece of wood very fast.

Fire Safety
If you are making a fire at your home in a fire place a fire extinguisher and fire proof blanket should be accessible to put out the fire in case of an accident. A bucket of water can be used in the wild. Fire can be a major danger as well as a useful tool for survival; every year there is almost 400.000 structural fires in the US, claiming over 2.500 lives and injuring over 12.000. Having fire alarms and emergency escape routes can mean the difference between life and death. Many fire start either in the kitchen, because of smoking indoors or candles.


  1. I'm a firm believer in being prepared for anything, and that's why I think having fire fighting equipment in your home at all times is so important. You never know when things will go bad, and will need the equipment to save your stuff. I'm grateful we have things like this to help us have better lives.

  2. Nyttig informasjon shared..I er veldig glad for å lese denne artikkelen. Takk for å gi oss fin info.
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