Tips for the Road #7 – Starting a Fire

This is the Seventh installment of my ongoing series of Random Survival Information.

Making a fire is about as primal and satisfying as it gets.

There are many different ways to make a fire. There are a number of primitive techniques including; the Fire plough, Hand drill, Bow drill, and Hand Pump drill. You and me are NOT THAT GUY. I could explain them, but without practice, it is not going to happen.

What will work? How About Flint and Steel. Hopefully you already have them.

  1. The friction formed by striking the steel against the flint will form sparks.
  2. You want to strike the steel against the flint with a loose wrist. It may take a bit of practice to get the technique down.
  3. Have tinder ready to ignite as the sparks start to fly from the flint.
  4. Gently blow on the sparks that land in the tinder or char cloth until it ignites.
  5. Make sure you have your kindling nearby and ready to add to the tinder once it catches.

A Magnifying Glass will also work, watch this lady do it in less than a minute.

It helps to have the right fire helpers too.

I use old dryer lint, collect it and put it with your camping gear. Lights up great.

So do Doritos and other corn chips, believe or not;

Touching a nine volt battery to steel wool will light up the steel wool and make it easy to start a fire.

If you notice on many camping sites, they refer to something called Char Cloth. Basically, take some cotton cloth, put it into a metal container, like say an Altoids tin, and put it in the fire. After about 15 minutes, the cloth will turn black, but not disappear. This ‘Char Cloth‘ you can now use in the future because it will catch fire very easily.

Here are some various fire layouts that are tried and true.

The Swedish Fire looks strange, so I used this next image to better explain.

Remember that dry is better than wet wood. Don’t try to light logs, that will not work, all fires must start small. Tinder, then kindling, then fuel.  Some good ideas for tinder; bark, pine cones, pine resin, dry pine needles and leaves, human hair, cattails, wood shavings.

If you need to start and maintain a smokeless fire (do not want to attract attention). It is possible, smoke comes from things not burning completely, not enough oxygen for total combustion. So do this;

Find a large rock with a flat face and position the face at the back of where your fire will be.  Place smaller rocks on either side of the big rock to create a fire circle but, crucially, leave the front of the fire open to allow oxygen in.

Choose your fuel carefully, dry grasses, twigs and sticks. (Not Bark or anything wet or alive). This guy will show you how to extinguish the fire without smoke.

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