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#240797 - 02/09/12 09:24 AM Starting FIRST fire?
bigreddog Offline

Registered: 07/02/06
Posts: 253
Been thinking about fire, and it's importance in some of my scenarios. As you may know I'm not always convinced that fire is practical in some circumstances' but I did think about how I'd get a fire started in the worst of conditions - wet, cold etc.

What struck me was how many kits seem to equip us to light dozens of fires, but perhaps not one in crappy circumstances - what I mean is that I don't expect to have to live off the land for weeks, but I can imagine spending a night stranded in a storm, when I would need a lot to help get damp materials going. And of course if you can't survive the first night, the rest becomes moot anyway

So what is your 'never-fail' firestarter - Zippo and an esbit tab? Blastmatch and wet-fire? Roadflare? What do you turn to if you really have to get a fire going under pressure?

#240798 - 02/09/12 10:18 AM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
Phaedrus Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2917
Loc: Big Sky Country
Potassium permanganate & glycerine will not fail you. Have tinder and stand back! It would be nice to have an Esbit/Hex/fatwood fuel to put on that bad boy...
“I'd rather have questions that cannot be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” —Richard Feynman

#240799 - 02/09/12 10:37 AM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7531
Loc: southern Cal
What has always worked for me are plain old kitchen matches, in situation where it was really necessary. That was because a lot of these situations occurred years ago, when matches was all I had. I now carry redundant items - usually a Bic lighter or equivalent, matches, and some kind of metal match/sparker, along with tinder, Esbit, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer, which lights quite readily(65% alcohol). I also tend to sprinkle mini-Bics throughout my packs and bags. Nowadays if I am planning for an overnight, I almost always carry some sort of a stove, usually a MSR Pocket Rocket and canister, along with a small cook kit, which usually has its own lighter.

The ability to start a fire has been absolutely critical for me on about ten occasions. I have been able to make or find shelter when necessary, but having guaranteed fire makers on my person has guaranteed a survivable night.

There are, however, times, at least here in the Southwest, when under no circumstances should one even think about starting a fire, not even a stove. Those, conveniently, are conditions when it is so hot and dry that a fire isn't vital. When conditions are that extreme, it is also a good idea to defer your trip until it rains.

It goes without saying that you need to perfect the skill of making fire before it gets critical. I am definitely rusty, compared to the past, partly because I usually have something in the way of fire starter or stove which makes it easy.
Geezer in Chief

#240802 - 02/09/12 11:27 AM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
Byrd_Huntr Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 01/28/10
Posts: 1174
Loc: MN, Land O' Lakes & Rivers ...

Mini Bic kept warm and a ferro rod, with a multi tool to make tinder and strike a spark
The man got the powr but the byrd got the wyng

#240804 - 02/09/12 12:58 PM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
adam2 Offline

Registered: 05/23/08
Posts: 458
Loc: Somerset UK
Lifeboat matches or a windproof lighter and some dry flammable tinder are fairly reliable in bad conditions.

A flame from a match or lighter is more effective than a spark, especialy in cold wet conditions.

Means of producing a spark such as a ferro rod and striker have the merit that hundreds, maybe thousands of fires may be started without re-supply. That could be a lifesaver in a long term emergency, but is of less importance if caught outdoors for a night or two of bad weather.

#240805 - 02/09/12 01:08 PM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
bacpacjac Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 05/05/07
Posts: 3601
Loc: Ontario, Canada
Ferro rod, vaseline soaked cotton balls in a tin can stove for a base and wind protection.
Mom & Adventurer

You can find me on YouTube here:

#240811 - 02/09/12 02:20 PM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
LesSnyder Offline

Registered: 07/11/10
Posts: 1656
Loc: New Port Richey, Fla
for EDC, I'm with Jackie on this one...a vaseline cottonball will fit in about 4" of large diameter plastic straw, and makes a pretty small package... coupled with a small diameter ferro rod and section of hacksaw blade... fits in the multi tool pouch along with the Leatherman Squirt and Streamlight TacPro 1L....on the other hand, I think I would stash a couple Bic lighters and pack of road flares if I lived up in really cold country...

#240814 - 02/09/12 02:31 PM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
ILBob Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 02/05/10
Posts: 776
Loc: Northern IL
I am inclined to agree that the only fire that matters to me is the one I might need right now in an emergency. I think a butane lighter and cotton balls soaked in PJ will work fine. In my case I keep the cotton balls soaked in PJ inside a small zip lock bag. My plan is to light the whole thing. Plastic bag and all. I have a fire steel type tool as a backup in case the butane lighter does not work. But the lighter is the first choice.

Never had to actually use it for emergencies though. I am kind of amazed that anyone would have had 10 emergency situations where they needed a fire in their life.

Warning - I am not an expert on anything having to do with this forum, but that won't stop me from saying what I think. smile


#240817 - 02/09/12 03:14 PM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
unimogbert Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/10/06
Posts: 877
Loc: Colorado
It's an important point that the first fire is really important so one had best carry what will really, really work.

I find it difficult to practice. My winter hiking area prohibits fires so the idea of hiking out a ways and taking a break by kindling a practice fire is not possible.
In that case the most important fire is the one that happens when I turn the key to start the car to go home.

I've not yet had reason to start an emergency fire (and hope I never do!)

#240818 - 02/09/12 03:52 PM Re: Starting FIRST fire? [Re: bigreddog]
Glock-A-Roo Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 04/16/03
Posts: 1076
With what is currently available either on the market or in the kitchen, I don't think LIGHTING a fire is the hard part. The hard part is keeping a fire GOING when it is pouring rain and 35 degF. Everything in the forest is soaked. There are no convenient conifers offering sheltered twigs and pitchwood. How do you do crack that nut?

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