Survival Skills: Build A Fire-Starting Kit

Fire building is one of those skills that can make or break you in a survival situation. With so much riding on your ability to produce flame, it makes a lot of sense to plan for your own success by building a dedicated fire-starting kit. It’s easy and fun to do, and you probably already have all the stuff lying around the house.

The three basic parts of this kit are the container, the heat/ignition sources, and the fuels. Note that the last two are plural—you’re going to want some extra insurance in the form of multiple fire-starting implements and several fuels.

Fire building is one of those skills that can make or break you in a survival situation.
Fire building is one of those skills that can make or break you in a survival situation.

The container can be anything that’s watertight and easily transported. This can range from a small Pelican case, or similar waterproof box, to a small, widemouth plastic bottle or even a zip-top freezer bag.

At a minimum, your kit should include a lighter, a box of matches and a spark rod. The lighter is the best of the bunch for most fire-building situations. The open flame can be used to dry out damp tinder and kindling, catching it ablaze without much trouble. There really isn’t a situation in which matches are a better ignition source than a lighter, but I like the matchbox for redundancy and for the fact that those matchsticks can double as small kindling. Lastly, the spark rod will serve as an indestructible backup ignition source. It won’t light the variety of materials that matches and lighters will, but it will work when the lighter and matches have failed.

Dry cotton balls, dryer lint, or gauze can take the role of tinder (your primary fuel for fire starting). I also like a candle nub and a tube of petroleum jelly. The candle can be lit and used as a fire starter by itself, or the wax can be dripped onto the tinder or kindling for a wet-weather fire boost. The petroleum jelly can be smeared into the cotton balls to make long-burning fire starters, plus the jelly is helpful for a number of first-aid and survival chores. You could pre-assemble the petroleum jelly cotton balls, but the summertime heat can cause the jelly to melt and seep through all but the most watertight containers. Melted jelly has ruined enough boxes of matches for me that I now carry the tightly sealed tube of petroleum jelly and the cotton balls separately.

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of First-Aid Kits!

Shop Sportsman’s Guide for a fine selection of Emergency Gear!

This tip, and 337 more survival tips, are in MacWelch’s new book Prepare For Anything. This latest Outdoor Life survival manual is available at Amazon.

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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