How to use a FirestarterI have spent considerable time out in the woods. There is nothing like a good week or so backPacking trip to get you back in the right frame of mind. Being away from civilization gives one a greater perspective of the world around us as a whole.
Being able to build a fire is a survival tool that anyone who spends anytime out in the wilderness should know. I will bring a lighter but lighters fail and if that happens you are SOL unless you know how to use a fire starter.
To start a fire in the woods you will need two things: tinder and the fire starter. There are many different types of fire starters.
Most people are familiar with the hand bow drill and have seen survivalist use this method for years. Since I have the one arm thing going on the drill method is not for me. Besides it takes a lot of time and effort.
The type of fire starter we are looking at produces a spark. There are usually two pieces, the sparking medium and the striker. You create a spark by striking the striker across the sparking medium. The two most popular fire stikers are made from magnesium and flint. A fire piston is a great new design of fire starter. A fire piston is a cylinder that heats up air and starts the tinder in the cylinder.
All these fire starters serve the same purpose of creating a spark that will start the tinder fire.
Tinder is the medium that starts the fire. The spark hits the tinder and hopefully the tinder will start to smolder. With a little breath the tinder starts to flame and then larger tinder (sticks etc…)is put on the small flame and a fire is born. That is the plan anyway. It does not always work that way. In perfect conditions fire is not that hard to make but when you are in the wild conditions are rarely perfect.
Tinder can be anything that can ignite. I bring tinder with me when I am out. I usually keep it in a plastic baggie to ensure that it won't get wet. When it rains you don't want your tinder getting wet. And I hate to admit it but I have fallen in streams and when you are cold and you need to dry you don't want to struggle with wet tinder. Cotton balls, pocket lint or dryer lint make great tinder from home. I will collect lint from our dryer to take out with me when pack out.
If you are out and you don't have tinder, tinder can be found. While you are hiking keep your eye out for tinder supplies. Cattails make good tinder. The large bulb at he top of the plant makes great fluff to start fires.
The bark of trees makes good tinder. Birch bark works well. Cedar and pine tree bark works well. Harvest some pine bark and take shavings from the inside of the bark. Here in Alabama we have what is called rich pine. Rich pine is the part of the tree that has large amounts of creosote in it. The creosote is a natural occurrences in the tree. Pine knots usually are full of rich pine. Scraping the rich pine into shavings a small pile will make a good source of tinder. With a little practice you will be able to spot many types of tinder on the trail.
If it is raining if you look you will find dry tinder. Look under fallen logs, on the dry sides of trees and rocks. You will find tinder. Put the tinder somewhere dry and you will have fire when you are ready to camp.
When getting ready to make a fire, first gather your fire materials. Start with small amounts of sticks and easy burning materials (kindling) that you will put on your flame once it is struck. If I can I usually will start with some dried leaves and then build on that with small sticks. I'll keep building the fire until it is ready to take larger deadfall. The point is that you what your fire building materials ready to go before you strike your flame.
The next step is to prepare your tinder. If you are using bark or wood you want to scrape enough to have a small pile about the size of a quarter. Be careful so you keep the shavings in one spot. It helps to have a platform that will catch what you scrape. You can use a piece of wood, a piece or cardboard, or anything else that will help you keep everything together. In high winds, a depression may be necessary.
When using a magnesium fire starter you use the magnesium to start the tinder by scraping the magnesium with your knife. Strike the flint to the magnesium and the magnesium starts the tinder.
Now it is time to take your flint and striker (you can use a knife) and a scrape the flint with the strike. When you do this sparks will fly. Direct the sparks towards your tinder. I have a striker and flint in a 0one piece contraption that allows me to do this with one hand, but usually this takes to hands to strike sparks.
Strike your flint and create a bunch of hot sparks. These hot sparks will ignite your magnesium if using magnesium. Once this happens put your tinder on the magnesium flame and then your kindling. If you are not using magnesium it takes a little long but not much. Keep striking until you see a spark start to smolder in your tinder. This is when you bend down and breath on the tinder. Blow through puckered lips a stream of air until the spark burst into flames.
My suggestion would be to practice this process and get proficient at it before going out in the woods. At first it will seem difficult and maybe even impossible but with practice you will make fire. Don't give up. After all if a one arm old man can do it I am sure you can learn this survival technique.