March 8th, 2012
– – – Part 2 in the Survival Gear Series – – –
Referring to our safety and survival gear list:
– first aid kit
– extra band-aids
– first aid book
– signaling mirror
– matches in waterproof container
– fire starter sticks
– survival rations or protein bars
– extra water purification tablets
– reflective emergency blanket
– packet of salt
– cutting wire, pocket chainsaw, or folding survival saw
– small bug spray bottle
Let’s look at the fifth and sixth items on that list: “matches in a waterproof container” and “fire starter sticks.” Basically, what you need to bring is some reliable method for starting a fire — creating a spark or flame — in a variety of conditions. Although starting a fire is not the first priority in survival situations — first is making or finding shelter — it is very high on the list of priorities. (You need to determine where your shelter will be before making a fire near it.) Fire can bring needed warmth, help you dry out wet clothing, help to signal search-and-rescue aircraft, keep wildlife away, and provide mental comfort as well.
Matches are one standard way of making fire, but there are other options:
– a lighter in a waterproof container (make sure it is full)
– strike-anywhere matches in a waterproof container
– flint and knife
– magnesium bar, flint and knife
Whatever method you use, make sure you are familiar with its function. Many waterproof matches will only work when struck against a special material that is on the side of the box — if you take the matches out to put them in a waterproof container, make sure you put a few pieces of the box material in as well. A bar of magnesium may seem like a good idea, since magnesium burns hot and bright, but if it takes half an hour to shave enough of it to start a fire, you could get awfully cold in that time if you are wet.
Once you have a spark or small flame, the next crucial step is getting the flame to keep burning. Obviously, you are going to look for tinder — anything fine and dry in the environment around you — but if tinder is hard to find, it is ideal to bring some with you. Dryer lint burns very easily, and if soaked in petroleum jelly, it will burn for longer. Some people swear by steel wool. Birch bark is nature’s tinder, so gather small pieces in areas where it is abundant — ALWAYS from the ground, not from living trees. In an area with evergreens, the small, dry twigs that grow on the trunk will stay dry in even the heaviest rain. This is also a great place to make a shelter — just prop up some additional wood, boughs or a tarp on the windy side.
Rather than reinvent the wheel, we refer you to another of “Cryptic Cricket’s” videos, this one on magnesium fire starters.
Using a Magnesium Fire Starter and Steel
The next survival article will be on food and water, so stay tuned.
Download our free Comprehensive Trip Packing List.