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#209331 - 10/08/10 03:43 PM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: ireckon]
JerryFountain Offline

Registered: 12/06/07
Posts: 418
Loc: St. Petersburg, Florida
Like Doug_SE_MI I have relied on strike anywhere matches in a good matchbox in wild places all over the world for 50 years. Although many consider them unreliable, Even in real emergencies I have never NEEDED anything else (I have used lots of other methods). I have upgraded my emergency match case (the everyday one still carries strike anywhere) to REI StormProof matches with a striker. I back these up with the stuff in my AMK/Ritter pocket kit and some extra tinder quick (PJ cotton balls are slightly better, but often a mess). Usually a cerro rod somewhere. The key addition, for all these lighting methods I carry some kindling - 4 inch squares of t-shirt dipped in paraffin. Can be lit with a match when wet in pretty wild weather and several minutes of hot flame. Like a candle on steroids, but LOTS easier to carry. A couple of them in a plastic bag fit flat in a pocket or pack.

The best,


PS the flare is often there for other reasons but is a GREAT starter. Don't put it back, use it all up (or shorten it as described above). The metal cased survival flares are much better than the railroad (automotive) type.

#209351 - 10/08/10 10:23 PM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: ireckon]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6709
Loc: southern Cal
The best fire starter I ever carried was a carbide lamp - heat and illumination on one handy package. Unfortunately, they are now realistically obsolete. In critical situations, strike anywhere matches have worked fine for me over decades. The secret is to have, or collect, adequate tender and small stuff.

A small piece of surgical tubing is a huge benefit in coaxing flames. The tubing is also multi-use. We used the tubing in our bolt kit (rock climbing) to start fires and also collect water from inaccessible crevices.
Geezer in Chief

#209382 - 10/09/10 06:33 PM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: Phaedrus]
Brangdon Offline

Registered: 12/12/04
Posts: 1201
Loc: Nottingham, UK
Originally Posted By: Phaedrus
On the topic of unconventional fire starters you could also carry two vials, one with glycerine and one with potassiam permangantate. Mix the two, then stand back and wait for the fireworks.
I wouldn't rely on that in cold weather.

It's worth considering cotton balls impregnated with candle wax rather than petroleum jelly. Use wax from good quality candles, not cheap tea-lights. Wax is less messy than jelly.

Whatever you carry, make sure you can make it work when wearing gloves. It's good to have a one-handed solution, too. If you are snowboarding of piste and get into difficulties, it's quite likely to be because you got injured. Hopefully you won't be alone, so it's worth having something that whoever is with you can use. I'm not a fan of Zippo usually, but it seems to fit the bill here.
Quality is addictive.

#209477 - 10/11/10 06:09 AM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: Brangdon]
EMPnotImplyNuclear Offline

Registered: 09/10/08
Posts: 327
Originally Posted By: Brangdon
Use wax from good quality candles, not cheap tea-lights.

What do you consider a good quality candle?
I don't think it will make a difference.

Originally Posted By: Brangdon
Wax is less messy than jelly.
I'd say that wax is more solid than jelly, and jelly is more sticky than wax, but the messiness is entirely dependent upon storage/handling. If you keep the jelly/cotton balls contained (bag, vial), and you fish them out using your kindling (twig, paper), your hands will remain jelly free.

#209480 - 10/11/10 06:54 AM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: EMPnotImplyNuclear]
MostlyHarmless Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/03/09
Posts: 982
Loc: Norway
My solution to the sticky petroleum jelly cotton balls is cling film or whatever the rolls of plastic film you use on leftover food in the fridge is called (the thin plastic will stick ("cling") to most dry surfaces, included itself). Just roll the PJ cotton balls in cling film, then stick the roll into whatever container you're using.

In really high temperatures I would expect some petroleum jelly to become liquid and make its way out of the cling film roll, but really high temperatures is not a problem where I live.

#209483 - 10/11/10 11:35 AM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: MostlyHarmless]
Paul810 Offline

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1428
Loc: NJ, USA
If your cotton ball/vaseline combo is messy, you are using too much vaseline.

In fact, I've found too much vaseline is actually quite a bad thing, as it can make it difficult to for the cotton to catch a spark.

#209503 - 10/11/10 08:26 PM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: ireckon]
atoz Offline

Registered: 01/25/06
Posts: 144
Loc: Nevada
Originally Posted By: ireckon
I need fire starters for when I go off piste snowboarding. Currently, my system includes the following:

1. Peanut Lighter packed with waterproof tinder.
2. Ferro rod packed with waterproof tinder.
3. Sparker or another ferro rod packed with waterproof tinder. (I'm leaning toward another ferro rod for this third position.)

I yet have to practice fire starting in freezing conditions up on the mountain. Do any of you have experience that will help me?

I would suggest a road flare. Okay it is one shout but when you need fire you need fire.

#209535 - 10/12/10 07:55 AM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: Paul810]
xbanker Offline

Registered: 04/21/05
Posts: 484
Loc: Anthem, AZ USA
Originally Posted By: Paul810
If your cotton ball/vaseline combo is messy, you are using too much vaseline.

In fact, I've found too much vaseline is actually quite a bad thing, as it can make it difficult to for the cotton to catch a spark.

My experience too with first attempts, years ago ... massaged unheated PJ into cotton balls but found difficult to remove excess PJ.

Current method: heat golf ball-size chunk of PJ in microwave at half-power 30 seconds or so until liquid; submerge cotton balls, then squeeze one-at-a-time in garlic press to remove excess PJ. Good saturation; not messy; finished cotton balls nicely compressed; easy ignition with ferro rod (after 'fluffing' to expose fibers); good burn time.

And my third-level firestarting method/gear: windproof/waterproof matches. But only REI and UCO Stormproof. For their size, I've found nothing that has the same "explosive ignition" sometimes required for less-than-optimum tinder/conditions. They're like mini-road flares. I know the arguments against: once they're used/gone, they're gone; and they require a special striker. I don't sweat the striker-issue ... carry plenty of "waterproofed" spares not only with other gear, but on my person. Consider the dozen or so matches I carry to be adequate third-tier back-up.

"Things that have never happened before happen all the time." Scott Sagan, The Limits of Safety

#209603 - 10/13/10 04:58 PM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: ireckon]
raptor Offline

Registered: 04/05/08
Posts: 284
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: ireckon
So, you know how it is. I suffer from the condition known as "Hands-Get-Cold-Easily". Starting a fire when it's -10F is a skill I will be improving this winter.

I don't suffer from this but once on a night winter trip I wore insufficient gloves. Already during the wood gathering phase my hands became pretty cold so I lit a candle and warmed them every now and then until I got the fire going. It helped a lot.

I also agree with others about the fatwood. It is a great option. I did some tests with "Maya sticks" including water resistence test and they worked very well.
I recommend preparing the various forms and sizes of fatwood in advance. 1. No preparation and no wasted time when you need the fire ASAP 2.Having a big piece of wood in your pocket could hurt more than ziplock bag full of kindling chips when you fall during snowboarding.

Just for illustration - some of my pre-made tinder/kindling:

#209606 - 10/13/10 05:40 PM Re: Fire Starters in FREEZING CONDITIONS [Re: raptor]
Paul810 Offline

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1428
Loc: NJ, USA
I used to carry a lot of pre-prepared tinder and stuff around, then I learned a trick that made a lot of sense to me.

When going for a walk/hike, I'll stop and grab whatever tinder and occasionally potential food items I might come across as I'm going on my way. From there I'll stuff them in one of the pockets of my jacket (or occasionally the back pocket of my pants). After a while, I end up with a ready made birds nest of stuff in my pocket, perfect for getting a fire going.

It's a lot easier than searching for the stuff when it comes time to build a fire and, after doing it for a few years, you get in the habit of grabbing the stuff without thinking. Plus it means I'm not filling up my bag with as much extra dead weight. Nature actually tends to do a nice job of providing for us, if we know what to look for.

The other good thing about it is that you essentially train your eye to pick up on certain materials out in the wilderness. You start to notice things that others may miss. You start to keep a mental log of what's around you and what you can make use of.

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