Putting together a good emergency supply kit means being able to address your immediate needs without relying on any other infrastructure such as grocery stores, pharmacies, department stores, and the like.
It is our belief that the most important gear you can have on hand, involves different ways to start a fire.
Think about this, you can use a fire for all of the following:
And we are sure that you can come up with even more uses. In the rest of this post, we will be looking at the different ways to start a fire.
IMPORTANT NOTE: You should always have more than one way to start a fire.
There are five basic ways of starting a fire. They are:
Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail. We will provide examples, too.
A good emergency fire starter will reliably produce sparks or flame which you can use to ignite your tinder, and thereby build a good fire. The following survival fire starters are essential for any disaster kit.
Matches – windproof and waterproof matches are best, as they give you more time to get tinder going,but any will do as long as you keep them in a waterproof container. Wooden matchsticks are better than cardboard ones.
Lighters – a gas lighter (such as a Bic) won’t need to be refilled, but can accidentally be discharged. A refillable lighter (such as a Zippo) can be refilled, but they can leak, and space needs to be made for extra fluid and flints.
Many companies provide smaller refillable models, known as “bullet” or “capsule” lighters, which can be attached to a keychain or belt loop. These often have rubber gaskets that prevent leaks.
Firesteel/Flint and steel – Run the steel striker along the flint rod to produce a shower of sparks to empty lighters can be used for this purpose, too). We offer “metal matches” that combine a flint and steel with a fuel reservoir.
Powdered magnesium – sold in compressed blocks (some have a flint rod built in). Scrape off a dime-sized pile of powder, then throw sparks at it. It burns around 5000 degrees Fahrenheit, so even wet wood will catch.
If you’ve ever wondered how to start a fire with sticks, this is how. Take a narrow, relatively flat piece of wood and cut a small notch in it from the edge to about the middle.
Whittle out a bowl shape at that point (the notch should intersect the bowl). Shape the end of a thick stick into a blunt point. Place the blunt point into the bowl shape and start turning the stick back and forth rapidly (bow drills make this much easier).
Eventually, a tiny coal will form. Drop the coal through the notch onto a pile of tinder and blow on it to encourage a flame.
Focusing the sun’s rays will produce a point of intense heat that will ignite tinder. Obviously, this method only works in the daytime. It’s not quite “how to start a fire with nothing,” but it’s pretty close. All of the following items can achieve this.
Magnifying glass – plastic ones can work just as well as glass ones, and they are lighter and less fragile.
Eyeglasses – they may take some adjusting, but the lenses can act as a magnifying glass.
Convex mirror – focuses incoming light to a hot spot. The one we sell has a mount at the focus to precisely align your tinder.
Aluminum can - Use toothpaste or chocolate to polish the bottom of the can to a bright finish. It is now a convex mirror.
NOTE: Don’t use the toothpaste or eat the chocolate afterwards (it’ll be poisonous).
Glass bottle filled with water – if the shape of the bottle is just right, it can act as a lens.
Ball of ice – this takes lots of practice to get right, as it’s dependent on getting the precise shape.
This isn’t the same as what you use to fix a flat tire or clean your computer keyboard.
A fire piston works on the principle that rapidly compressed air increases in temperature. It is similar to the way a diesel engine works.
A small piece of tinder is placed into the chamber, then the piston is driven down fast. When the tinder ignites, the piston is withdrawn quickly before the available oxygen is burned away, and the burning coal transferred to a larger pile of tinder, which can then be used to kindle a fire. It takes a bit of practice to be able to use it efficiently.
Given a wire of sufficient resistance and a power source of sufficient strength, a fire may be kindled from the resulting heat. Think of the filament in light bulbs and how the eyes on electric stove-tops change color as they heat up.
Rubbing a 9-volt battery along a pad of steel wool will set the steel wool on fire.
A cell phone (or other battery operated device) may be disassembled to get at the battery and smaller wires.
Assuming the battery is charged, and of sufficient power, you can use the smaller wires to make a circuit between the positive and negative battery terminals, which will cause the wires to heat up.
NOTE: the wires will burn and break quickly, so have your tinder close at hand.
We have mentioned tinder several times, but haven’t really defined it. Tinder is any small, light material that catches sparks easily and spreads flames quickly.
The usual order of fire building is tinder at the bottom, followed by small twigs, larger twigs, thin limbs, thicker limbs, and then logs. Dried grass, leaves, or straw make excellent tinder, but you can make your own by soaking cotton balls in petroleum jelly, making char cloth, or using dryer lint.
You can also purchase commercially available fire starter sticks, which are compressed sawdust soaked in some sort of accelerant.
Now that you know how to start a fire with different materials, we hope you will join us again tomorrow, when we will be discussing the different types of fires and how to construct them, depending on your needs and objectives. We will see you then!
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