We can all imagine a situation where building a fire quickly could be a matter of life or death. The wolf pack is creeping closer and only fire will keep them at bay. Your buddy just fell in an ice cold creek and you don’t want to spoon him for warmth. The list goes on and on. But would your fire skills be good enough to perform under this kind of pressure? When you’re on a bad luck streak in the backcountry, there’s only one way I know to level the playing field – redundancy. By carrying three ignition sources, you now have one to lose, one to break and one to use. But which ignition sources should you choose?
These modern marvels are great fire starters. They can handle getting wet, and each one can make more fires that a huge box of matches. You’ll need to keep them someplace warm when temperatures are below freezing, so the butane doesn’t thicken so much that it won’t vaporize. And you’ll need to store it in some way that doesn’t press the button, which would cause all the butane to escape. Finally, choose brightly colored lighters, since they’re easier to find when dropped. But other than those simple issues, the lighter could be your top pick, and your three ignition sources could just be three lighters (stored in different places so you always have one handy).
The match is an oldie but a goodie. They may be as much as 1500 years old, and each one acts like a little piece of kindling, helping the baby fire to burn. They also provide an open flame like the lighter, though most matches aren’t as reliable as lighters when moisture is an issue. To help your cause, matches should always be stored in a brightly colored waterproof container. Even if you know the trick of splitting matches, they are still a very finite resource. But they do make a nice back-up to the lighter,
Ferrocerium rods have been around for about 100 years, and they represent your best backup fire starter for wet conditions. Ferro rods can be underwater for weeks, and still strike sparks after being dried off and scraped. But that’s their problem. They only make sparks – not flame. Not every type of tinder is able to light from sparks, some require an open flame. But despite that fact, they are still great tools and worthy of carrying in your survival kit.
These tips, and many more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s books: Prepare For Anything – the Hunting & Gathering Survival Manual – How To Survive Anything – the Ultimate Winter Survival Handbook – and How To Survive Off The Grid
Follow him on Twitter @timmacwelch
And check out more of MacWelch’s outdoor skills and survival articles in Outdoor Life Magazine.
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