An excerpt from the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual
You’re crazy if you’re running around in the backcountry with multiple fire starting implements. Matches and lighters should be your primary fire makers, but it’s also smart to have some redundancies built into your survival gear. Add these backup methods to your kit, and you’ll always have a way to build a fire.
Magnesium fire starters are common, inexpensive, and long lasting. The main section of the bar is magnesium, a soft metal that is meant to be scraped into shavings with a sharp tool. Some products include a tool for this job and for making sparks. As you scrape the attached ferrocerium rod to produce sparks, aim them at your pile of metal shavings sitting in a nest of dry tinder. When the sparks hit the shavings, the little pile will burn “white hot,” thus igniting the tinder.
Steel wool can be incredibly effective when combined with a small-voltage electrical source. A 3-volt (or higher) battery and some fine-grade steel wool will quickly produce a burning ball of steel fibers—just touch a tuft of steel wool to the positive and negative battery posts at the same time. Then place the burning steel in tinder. Use steel wool with grades from 0 to 0000, and batteries with the “+” and “-” terminals close together.
With a simple magnifying lens, you can concentrate a point of sunlight on tinder to create fire. The larger the lens, the better this will work. Find a sunny area, flatten a spot in some fluffy tinder, and focus the light in a white-hot pinpoint. Once you have the perfect, blinding dot of light and the tinder is smoking, blow gently across the tinder to help it burn. Keep blowing steadily until the tinder flames up.
These tips and many more survival tips are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For Anything – the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual – and How To Survive Anything
Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch
And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.