Fire is an essential skill ALL Preppers should know. Fire provides warmth, light, the ability to cook food, purify water, and all around comfort. We as humans have been fascinated by fire since our early days.
Fire involves three different types of wood and three ingredients to make them successful. Fire must have tinder (the smallest stuff), kindling (medium size sticks), and fuel wood (larger logs) to burn effectively. Fire must also have oxygen, heat, and fuel (something to burn see above). For the purposes of this article, we will assume you have all of these in place.
Lets talk about some ways to start a fire. We will start with the basics, get into some fire starting gadgets, and then go primitive to wrap up.
A good prepper should have multiple ways to start a fire on him or her at all times. I usually carry a BIC lighter on me, because you never know when it might come in handy. It’s a good idea to pick up a waterproof match container and put some matches in it. Both of these are a very cheap ways to start a fire and keep on you. I like the BIC lighters for a number of reasons: cheap, almost always light, you can get them wet and will still work after drying out. If you want to one up the BIC lighters go for a Zippo as they are windproof and more weather resistant. I also carry some dryer lint, which by itself is highly flammable, rolled in petroleum jelly and stored in an Altoids tin for easy tinder that can start almost any fire. I keep these “fire starting balls” in my EDC/Get Home Bag, and Bug Out Bags as well.
When you go beyond the basic lighter and matches, you start getting into interesting fire starting devices. Going way back to my scouting days, I remember a number of ways we learned how to start a fire without using matches. One of the coolest ways I thought was to use a Magnesium Fire starter. If you have never used or seen one of these before, they remind me of the block of Carbonite Han Solo was trapped in Empire Strikes back. That’s another story for another day. This fire starter consists of a small metal block a few inches long with a striker rod on the other side and usually a key chain for attaching to a pack on one end. To start a fire with it, simply use a knife blade to scrape off flakes of Magnesium onto your tinder then turn the block over and use the knife blade to make a spark to catch the metal shavings on fire. If that doesn’t work or fully start your fire just repeat the process until you get the fire going. Remember it doesn’t take a lot of magnesium to make a nice fire.
Also during my scouting days, I used Steel Wool and a battery to start a fire. Take some fine steel wool and rub the battery terminal across the wire. Any battery should work, but 9V batteries tend to do the best. Once it catches on fire, place it on/under your tinder to start your fire up. Just watch your fingers! If you carry this in your kit or bag make sure and carry them in separate bags or compartments so you don’t start an accidental fire.
Another cool tool I have researched, but not actually used is the Sparkie Mini. I have read several reviews of this and it seems compact yet capable of producing a very hot spark from a spring-loaded design you just squeeze. It’s also inexpensive enough to pick up a few for any bag you keep around for emergencies and the unexpected.
Additionally, we used some more primitive methods of fire starting like flint and steel and a Bowdrill. The flint and steel method involves a flint rock and small piece of steel that is struck onto the rock over tinder until a spark is produced. It requires A LOT of practice and luck to get it just right, but it can be done in short periods of time if you get enough practice time in and really hone your skills. Now the process is simpler and both are combined into one striking rod you can hit with a sharp edge such as a knife blade. The bow drill I have also tried, it has been quite a while but I have seen it work. It tends to work well, but it can also take a long time to perfect your skills on. Using the bow drill you spin it enough times on a wooden board and a small bit of tinder to make a spark. When I practiced it many years ago it would take several minutes of hard spinning of the bow to get enough friction to make a spark and start a fire. However, I got it done!
All in all, the ability to start a fire can mean all the difference between life and death, to cook food, purify water, create warmth, etc. It’s important to practice your fire starting and building skills to make sure you and your loved ones can survive no matter what happens.