Building the Ultimate Survival Kit, Part 4
The next subject we will discuss in this series is fire making. There are many different ways to start a fire, some easier then others. You can’t count on having a stack of newspaper and a full can of gas (or a flammenwerfer that werfs flammen) handy when things go sideways. Ever since humans first discovered that fire is something that can be a tool we have been improving ways to create it on demand. There are plenty of ways to create fire out of raw materials, such as friction bows, saws and fire pistons. Native peoples around the world have used these techniques for thousands of years, and still do to this day. It wasn’t until the 1800s that matches came common and began to provide a cheap, reliable and almost effortless way of creating fire. Prior to this, people relied on magnifying lenses or flint and steel for a dependable, quick way of starting a fire.
Assuming that you find yourself in a life or death situation, its doubtful that you will be able to Google “how to start a fire” on your smart phone. If you have this ability, then just call for help! Fire building is one of those seemingly simple tasks, and it is if you have the right tools as well as knowledge. But odds are if you are building a fire for survival, either to warm yourself, signal or heat food then fate is already acting against you. Keep your kit stocked with redundant forms of fire making, and practice often with these items before disaster strikes and your unprepared ass dies to death in the elements.
There are many common items that can be sourced cheaply and locally to where you live. Some things, such as fire starters, can even be made yourself. The following are items you might want to consider for your kit:
Water-proof, storm and “survival” type matches. These sort of wood matches will burn hotter then standard matches, but not for very long. They are often offered in waterproof cases, and are great for getting a blaze going quick. They are still sensitive to wind, so be sure you don’t waste them.
Strike anywhere and “barn” matches. These are commonly found at big box stores and grocery stores. They can be had in one, large box or smaller, easier to carry boxes. You can cut off a section of the box which has the striker, to allow repackaging into waterproof bags or containers. Another tip is to tip the heads into molten wax to waterproof. The wax coating also aids with a hotter, brighter flame when struck.
Paper Matches. These cheap matches are often given away for free at gas stations and bars. Even if you don’t smoke, they should be scattered through out your outdoor gear as a cheap, easy way to start a fire. the down side? They are extremely sensitive to moisture and humidity. We advise against carrying these as your only source of fire.
Mini Bic lighters. Small, brightly colored Mini Bics will provide hundreds of short lights, while remaining somewhat water resistant and easy to pack or carry. We prefer the bright colored ones, as they are harder to lose.
The Classic Zippo. Zippos have been insanely popular since the 1930’s and are widely known throughout the world. We have bartered with them, refilled them with gasoline, charcoal fluid, and kerosine. They will burn damn near anything, and even when empty you have a spark thrower. Pulling out some cotton in that holds the fuel, will make a handy fire starter even if the lighter is dead. Downside? They are heavy, large for a kit and suffer fuel loss through heat and evaporation.
Magnifying lenses. These can be found in wide range of styles and shapes, including business card size. The more magnified the better, but remember they need the sun to be out to work. The plus size is they can last forever, and light thousands of fires for barely any weight or bulk.
Ferrocerium rod fire starters. A modern, man-made version of the classic “flint and steel”,
Ferrocerium is waterproof and easy to use if you know what you are doing. There are dozens of choices on the market, ranging from G.I. Style magnesium bar combo strikers, to expensive but well built. The high end units like the Exotac Nanostriker or the Aurora feature strikers built in, but are a little big for most kits. Shop around, and try a couple to see which works best for you.
Traditional flint and steel. This age old combo is a pain to use quickly in comparison to pre made modern equivalents. We suggest giving it a try so you know what to do when finding flint in the wild, but use the modern gear to stock your kits.
Flares. Roadside type flares are cheap, and burn bright as hell when ignited. The ultimate “ I need a fire NOW” tool, they are bulky and best saved for signal purposes. We recommend having some in your gear, if not in your kit.
Obviously these are not all the options out there for fire making, but they are the easiest and most proven. Learning primitive survival skills will go further then just having a kit, so learn to make a fire bow and as with all vital skills, practice your technique as often as possible.
Lastly, we will look at fire starters. You can buy cheap wax or petroleum based single use units, or you can do what we do and make your own. Vaseline soaked cotton balls are cheap and easy, and just one will burn impressively hot for around 10 minutes. The Vaseline is worked into the cotton fibers, reentering the whole wad waterproof. When fire is wanted, simply fluff the fibers of the ball, and shower it in sparks or a lit match. Once you have your fire going, smother the fire starter to be reused over and over. We make these all the time for general camping, and carry them in our kits. The cotton balls also are good for chapped lips and small cuts do to the Vaseline, so its multipurpose.
Chapstick is a good thing to carry, and will keep you from getting wind burnt lips in the desert or snow. Since its also petroleum based, you can cut off a small section of T-shirt, rub the piece down with the chapstick, and use as an ad hoc fire-starter!
The important thing we want to stress is practice with what you carry, and have a redundant plan for making fire. EMBRACE REDUNDANCY.
Continued here in Part 5.