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#26509 - 04/03/04 01:07 AM Fire-Starting Problem!!
Rusty Offline

Registered: 02/15/03
Posts: 204
Loc: College Station, Texas
I just got back from trying out my fire starting gear. The entire ground and trees were soaked and it was still drizzling. 1st I tried my zippo on some partially dried grass.- the flint was out! useless! But that was ok because i had many other methods.
-Next i tried regular matches (1st 3 broke) useless, didn't work on the grass.
-next i added some quick tab firestarters, they didn't spark up!
-Now i tried my Magnessium bar w/ flint, didn't work

Nevertheless.... my blastmatch would do the job..
Wrong... the steel stiker broke on the 5th stike!!!!!!!


How could all of my methods not work?
My Solo storm is a piece of junk and never works also!!

This experience really scared me because i couldn't even start a FIRE <img src="images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> I think i need to rework my firestarting plans because they never work when everything is wet!
Yes, i know very pathetic.
Any suggestions for WET WET firestarting??? (i can easily start one in dry grass obviously)
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." - Frankin

#26510 - 04/03/04 04:05 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
Chris Kavanaugh Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/09/01
Posts: 3824
Don't feel bad Rusty, I've read many accounts involving indigenous peoples and seasoned outdoorsmen that failed too. Wet is wet, and combined with your catastrophic gear failures wasn't exactly a confidence building experience. My personal strategy is to carry a small bundle of fatwood along with my petrolatum soaked cotton balls. This is ( so far) enough to dry out additional gathered materials. Remember that a fire is only one method of keeping warm. Food and exercise will provide a measure of heat. Insulation and shelter in the form of clothing, survival or sleeping bag, tarp or small tent more so. A fire is always nice, but I think Jack London's protagonist in TO BUILD A FIRE should have dug a snow cave <img src="images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />

#26511 - 04/03/04 04:55 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
Rusty Offline

Registered: 02/15/03
Posts: 204
Loc: College Station, Texas
I will try too get some fatwood for my pack.

Furthermore,lighters, my SOLO Storm NEVER EVER works! i don't understand how a supported lighter can be such a piece of junk. But this just shows how unreliable some things can be! <img src="images/graemlins/shocked.gif" alt="" />
"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail." - Frankin

#26512 - 04/03/04 05:29 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
Hutch66 Offline
new member

Registered: 10/12/02
Posts: 148
Loc: Virginia, USA
For what it's worth, here's a tip for a fellow Zippo user: Slip a couple extra flints under the batting where you put the fluid and you'll always have a spark source at least.


#26513 - 04/03/04 03:28 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
AyersTG Offline

Registered: 12/10/01
Posts: 1272
Loc: Upper Mississippi River Valley...
Well, it was a good thing that you went out and tried things. Is there someone you know who is extremely skilled at fire building? Sometimes an apparently difficult task can be much less difficult to master if a skilled person shows you how and then coaches you from here to sucess.

Some thoughts:

Wet grass is just one step above wet leaves, which are just one step above a wet sponge in my experience. Survey your surroundings and find better materials to work with - even prairies have woody brush and trees along aquifers and watercourses. Sometimes you have to get outside your first hand experiences; my paradigm in the upper Miss. Valley is trees trees trees - here's a trivial example of what I mean (with all the interesting bits amputated):

My Dad and I were in an extremely remote and rugged moutainous area of interior Alaska. We were several miles from camp, alongside the upper reaches of a glacier at the head of a steep erosion canyon just outside the lateral moraine. Dark was upon us and it was imprudent to return to camp for several hours (the moon would not be up until 6 hours later). An early snowfall had dumped a foot of wet stuff on everything the day before, and "everything" included the tiny little scrubby bushes that struggled out of the stony debris to the amazing height of... 8 to 10 inches. No trees - this was raw alpine terrain in the far north.

However, just before it got dark, I spied a seam of weathered out coal and lugged a cobble of it to where we were settling in. Raw, weathered out coal is not especially easy to light. I repeatedly bashed the cobble of coal on the stony ground until I had a double handful of small chips and flakes about the size and thickness of pistachio shells.

Dad and I gathered a hatful of woody stems from around us - as long as a pencil but much thinner. We stripped the bark from a handful, broke them, and pulled them apart. Laid a tiny fire and lit it, then quickly fed the rest of the twigs and the smallest chips of coal to it. Kept adding coal chips and in less time than it took me to type this, we had a nice small enduring fire of coal. (And we braised and ate one of our most memorable meals ever over that little fire)

That cobble lasted for the 6 hours it took to finish our business, wait out a drizzle, sky to clear, and moon to rise. Who thought of that? I don't remember - my Dad and I are a good team, so it was probably both of us. That was about 18 years ago and the only time since then that I have burned coal was a couple of years ago when my boys found a seam exposed in our backyard after a heavy rain (Rock Island Coal seam 2, I believe). So we made a small fire from it just so I could show them how Grampa and I did it. If we had relied on our upper MidWest growing up, Dad and I would have said, "Well, there aren't even any shrubs here, let alone trees - no fire for us."

The other thought (sorry for the windy post) is you said:

<< next i added some quick tab firestarters, they didn't spark up! >>

IME those light even after immersion. Did you fluff them up by pulling and teasing the fibers apart? Those are almost as good a starter as our homemade vasoline cotton balls (and a lot less messy). If I split the wood to matchstick thickness first, a quick tab will start completely wet and frozen wood on a cold January day.

But I can't teach anyone how to start a fire in good conditions in a BBS post, let alone in tough conditions. Hope this gives you a couple of mental tips and that you find someone nearby who can coach you. No telling who that might be - my wife shouldn't have any clue, but it would not surprise me if she could start a fire underwater. Unconventional approaches, but she never fails to get a fire going when the chips are down. Ask around.

Good luck and don't give up!



#26514 - 04/03/04 08:49 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
aardwolfe Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 923
Loc: St. John's, Newfoundland
Well, this is an armchair quarterback speaking (i.e. I've never tried starting a fire in such conditions) but it seems to me that trying to start a fire with wet kindling is doomed to failure.

Even in the wettest of conditions, you should not just assume that "everything is soaked". Look up, not down, as one regular here says in his tagline <img src="images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> I would not look for wet grass, but for thin branches off a dead tree. I would go first for the branches that were sticking straight up - less surface area exposed to the rain = drier branches. Anything on the ground is bound to be damp; branches off the ground, if they're dead (i.e. snap easily) should be dry on at least one side (I'll let you guess whether the top of bottom would be drier in a rainstorm <img src="images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> )

It's also my understanding that the primary reason for splitting firewood is to expose the dry inner wood which will burn more readily. This is why it drives me kind of nuts to see people splitting a month's worth of firewood and then leaving it stacked outdoors, thinking they're doing a favour for future campers.

It should be relatively easy to ignite a handful of long, thin twigs with an open flame. If you hold them vertically, with the flame at the bottom, then the fire will travel upward and dry out any residual moisture as it burns.

If you have a good knife (say, a Mora with a 3.5 inch blade) you can easily slice long, thin pieces off the side of a log by using it as a wedge, I've done it with dry pine and dry birch logs. The first time I did this, with a pine log, I used a rock to pound the back of the knife, but a friend told me this was a bad idea as either the rock or the knife could splinter. When I did it to the birch log, I used a smaller log as a hammer (sorry about the terminology, I believe the correct term is a "mull" but I'm not sure and I'm too lazy to go find my dictionary) <img src="images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

I think I may grab a couple of birch logs and toss them in the shower with me for a few days (you can tell I'm a bachelor, can't you? <img src="images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" /> ) and then see if I can get a fire going with them.
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."

#26515 - 04/04/04 01:39 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
indoorsman Offline

Registered: 05/10/03
Posts: 88
Loc: Ohio
That was pretty much my experience with the SOLO Storm too...junk. I'll take a 99 cent BIC over a SOLO anytime!
It's later than you think...

#26516 - 04/04/04 11:26 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
benjammin Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
A ferro cerium rod or a flint, the back of my knife, some fatwood shavings or a quick tab and I can get a flame under all but the absolute worst conditions (like low oxygen, submerged, zero gravity etc.).

Recognizing and collecting the right kind of tinder for the situation, such as it is, is another key factor in your firemaking success. If grass won't work, find and try other items that look promising. Flexibility, ingenuity, and tenacity (never give up, never surrender!!!). These are the keys to survival.
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

#26517 - 04/05/04 01:55 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
Glock-A-Roo Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 04/16/03
Posts: 1076
1. I second aardwolf's advice: "look up, not down for fire supplies". Here in the Appalachians, even on a warm dry day the forest floor is usually damp. Picking up most any fuel from the ground is often useless. Look for small twigs and such that are caught in tree/bush branches up off the ground.

2. This is 20-20 hindsight, but it's hard to see how your quick-tabs wouldn't even light, let alone get your fire going...?

Regardless, kudos to you for trying your gear & skills out ahead of time, in a controlled situation. Don't give up, and you will gain confidence that cannot be had by those who never try.

#26518 - 04/05/04 04:16 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
paramedicpete Offline

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 1920
Loc: Frederick, Maryland
Some of you may remember my daughter’s science fair project last year was “Can You Make Fire From Ice” based upon the idea of turning a chuck of ice into a convex lens. We had problems with bubble formation, despite boiling the water and with inadequate sun.

This year her science fair project was “Can You Make Fire From Air” based upon the fire piston. At first I was going to have her construct one and test it out, but time grew short, so we switched to comparing tinder sources using the fire piston to act as the ignition/spark source.

In the fire piston itself, we used Tinder Fungus, since I have always been able to generate a spark with a few “hits” of the piston.

We tested cotton balls w/ petroleum jelly, a commercial fire starter, shavings from fat wood, tow and homemade linen char cloth.

We set the upper number of tries to six. If we started a fire with less than six tries, we considered it a success and did not proceed any further. The creation of an actual fire was considered a success, if we only could generate smoke or a smoldering mass we considered it a failure.

We were unable to start even a potential smoldering mass with the following items indiviulally: cotton balls w/ petroleum jelly, a commercial fire starter, shavings from fat wood and tow.

We were successful the very first time using the char cloth and tow, which we then added to the fat wood shavings. We had a nice fire going within minutes. Pete

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