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#26539 - 04/09/04 03:06 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!

Tore the pocket out of an old pair of pants and took three alcohol swabs out.
Put them in the pocket and squeezed them to get the excess alcohol into the fabric of the pocket.
Took a wooden match (sorry, I use the easy stuff when I can) and lit the soaked portion of the pocket, holding it upright to let the flame climb the fabric.
Seems like it would work quite well, as the flame moved quickly through the fabric and most likely would start a decent pile of kindling.
The garage was not a total loss and the doctor said the bandages would be off in a week or so.
Now, about that First Aid class!

Edited by Skater (04/09/04 03:08 AM)

#26540 - 05/10/04 10:33 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
aardwolfe Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 923
Loc: St. John's, Newfoundland
Man, I really suck at this survival stuff <img src="images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" />

Took a drive out to Banff National Park yesterday and drove out to one of the picnic sites by the lake. Figured I'd get some hands-on experience in lighting a fire, so I brought along my P-60 MFB, my new backpacking camp stove, my Volcano/Kelly Kettle, a couple of Birch logs, and an Ericsson sheath knife to split the wood. Oh, and some newspaper. What else? A metal biscuit tin, with holes punched around the outside, that I thought would make a kind of portable mini-firepit, a couple of dry cotton balls in a watertight compartment on my key chain, and (as it happened) a book of paper matches.

Weather was blowing snow - wind wasn’t gusting too much but the snow was more horizontal than vertical. There are no open fires permitted at picnic sites (and you need a $3.00 “fire permit” to have an open fire at the campsites) but I figured a Kelly Kettle didn’t count as “open fire”. Just to be safe, I chose a picnic table by the lake, away from the trees. With snow 4 inches thick blanketing the top of the table, and more coming down, I didn’t figure there was much of a fire hazard, but you never can tell.

I started off by using the isopropane/butane stove to melt some snow. Was able to light it no problem with the ferrocerium rod on the MFB, melted some snow to put in the Kelly Kettle. Then I scrunched up some newspaper, split some slivers off one of the birch logs (from toothpick size to maybe finger-sized) and dropped them down the “crater” of the Volcano.

Now for a flame. Well, I figured I’d try the cotton balls in my key-chain. The first attempt, the cotton ball just fizzled and turned black. Second attempt, same thing. Didn’t stay lit long enough for me to set fire to a thin twig. Okay, third time lucky? I put some newspaper in the biscuit tin, put the remaining cotton ball next to it, and struck a spark from the MFB. The edge of the newspaper did catch fire, but the wind quickly blew it out.

I tried making a “Napoleon hat” out of newspaper and scraping some magnesium shavings inside it, but that wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped, so I gave up on it. That’s when I found the book of matches in my pocket, so I figured I’d just take “the easy way out”.

Well, lemme tell you - those suckers don’t stay lit in a high wind. I thought I knew how to light a match in the wind - cup it in your hand to shelter it - but the only way I could get one to stay lit was to hold it right up close to my chest, and if I tried to move it anywhere - pooft! I went through half a book of matches and finally quit.

I did manage to light the Kelly eventually - by firing up the campstove and holding a stick of birch log in the flame until it caught fire. Even that wasn’t easy - the wind was so stiff that the stick blew out every time I took it away from the stove. Eventually, by shielding it with my hand, I was able to keep it going long enough to drop it down the mouth of the Volcano. Pretty soon, there was a roaring blaze inside, flames licking out the top - but the wood burned down to coals before the water even thought about boiling. I cut some more wood sticks and dropped them into the kettle, and pretty soon the fire was going full bore again; but again it died down. I cut some more sticks and dropped them in, but this time the fire was out for good.

Some useful lessons learned:

1. Practice, practice, practice. I’ve lit fires using the MFB and a sheet of newsprint in much colder conditions, but not nearly as windy. It’s much more important to be able to use one technique in many different weather conditions, than to be able to use a dozen techniques in one specific environment.

2. Shelter from the wind is really important. I might have had much more success if I’d moved the KK into the trees, for example - or even put it on the ground beside the picnic table, rather than on top.

3. Paradoxically, being warm and comfortable helps you think straight. For example, I was standing downwind of the picnic table when I tried lighting the stove. This meant that to light the match, I had to turn my back to the stove; then when the match was lit, I had to turn around into the wind. It never occurred to me to move the stove to the other end of the table, so that I could use my body to shelter it AND the match. As I sit here in front of my computer, this seems blindingly obvious; was I being stupid, or was the cold starting to get to me? (fwiw, I wasn’t hypothermic, or even close to it.)

4. You always need more firewood than you thought you would.

5. In a real survival situation, I would most certainly have used a propane stove to light a campfire. Use whatever you’ve got and don’t be embarrassed about it; your buddies would much rather poke fun at you in the mess than say nice things about you at your funeral. :-)

I’m going to head back out there this weekend for three days. (I get Friday off every second week.) I’m going to get a fire permit for all three days, hike out to a backcountry campsite, and (see rule no. 1 above) <img src="images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."

#26541 - 05/11/04 03:38 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
Trusbx Offline

Registered: 01/16/02
Posts: 397
Loc: Ed's Country
good luck and keep up the good feedback!
I too am a novice at fire starting and hope to learn from the more experienced members of our forum.
Of course, being in the tropics, starting a fire to stave off hypothermia is not one of the priorities, but important none the less for cooking, purifying water, signals etc.


#26542 - 05/11/04 01:39 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
billvann Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 05/10/01
Posts: 780
Loc: NE Illinois, USA (42:19:08N 08...
My first attemp with cotton balls gave me erratic results. That's when I noticed they were synthetic "cotton." It still burns, but not nearly as well.

re: wind. Tip the table on edge to serve as a wind break and shelter from the wind. I actually started to feel a bit cold and miserable myself just by reading your post. And you had the safety of your car nearby in case of failure, something that would not be the case in a true emergency.
Willie Vannerson
McHenry, IL

#26543 - 05/11/04 10:40 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
aardwolfe Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 923
Loc: St. John's, Newfoundland
A friend of mine blames it on my misspent youth. She says I should have started smoking when I was sixteen like a normal teenager; then I'd know how to strike a match in a high wind. <img src="images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."

#26544 - 05/12/04 04:35 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
bountyhunter Offline

Registered: 11/14/03
Posts: 1224
Loc: Milwaukee, WI USA

I tried smoking once when I was very young.

I quit because being the perfectionist that I was back then (I've since learned you can always put off perfection.), I was afraid I wouldn't be able to distribute all those shiny, black, sticky, lung stifling, tar spots in an even pattern on my lungs.

It would have been so embarassing to me to have some doctor I don't know removing my lungs and criticising the uneveness of the pattern of the tar spots. I was so sensitive about that back then.

Bountyhunter <img src="images/graemlins/smirk.gif" alt="" /> <img src="images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> <img src="images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />

Edited by bountyhunter (05/12/04 04:37 AM)

#26545 - 05/17/04 07:29 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!

For wet wet firestarting, the best thing I have is an adjustable bic lighter or a jet lighter that works well (but they don't last very long)...

With the bic, you can hold the flame for 30+ seconds and dry out your tinder with it. Then it ignites. For high winds, jet lighters are a plus.

Of course, if they're cold, they won't work... So what. Just put them in your chest pocket and they're always warm and ready to go. If they're wet, soaked in water or whatever, just dry them off. As soon as the flint is dry, they work again.

I don't like matches, and I don't like fanc firestarting devices. I carry this:

- adjustable, brightly colored bic (not a piezo-electric one, just a regular flint, non-childproof, and if possible the clear model so you see if there's any fuel left).
- Swedish army fire steel with cotton balls soaked with some vaseline on the outside
- Jet lighter (in very high winds only)
- fresnel lens (great for sunny days when you don't really need a fire <img src="images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />)

I play with the fire steel and fresnel often, but never really needed them (yet). The adjustable bic is what the monolith in 2001 space odyssey was representing... The adjustable bic should have streets named after it. The adjustable bic has saved more lives than penicillin and anti-sismic constructions together...



#26546 - 10/07/04 07:46 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
goon Offline

Registered: 09/10/04
Posts: 37
A tinder that I have found to be plentiful in my area and usually dry enough to work with is the outer bark from a grape vine. It dries up and just sort of hangs on them in a fibery mass until it falls off. The best way to light it is to fluff it up by rolling a mass of it in your hands, then make sort of a birds nest out of it. I usually use charcloth or a match to light it. Once you get that stuff burning, you end up with a determined, smoldering, hot mass of fire really quick. It will even smolder long enough for you to go get some fuel if you have to. I usually light it, build the "framework" for my fire, then blow on it a few times. It lights the whole thing up every time.
Only mention it because it is a good alternative to dry grass and even better IMO.

#26547 - 10/07/04 12:18 PM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
dBu24 Offline
new member

Registered: 09/26/02
Posts: 81
Loc: IL
I AM NOT an expert in polar conditions survival techniques but from the little I do know, I can tell that in a severe snow storm or similar thing, it is rather useless to attempt lighting a fire. Under these conditions you'd better spend your efforts in building a proper shelter like an igloo. To warm yourself up inside the igloo, dress up with dry clothes, get into that thermal sleeping bag, consume a few chocolate bars and "do the bycicle". In no time you'd be sweating.

In sub polar conditions, you may still light a fire with the bark of birch trees- They ignite readily even if wet. In sub tropic places, there are some thorny bushes that will also ignite if green.

In places like Patagonia, for example, there is very little chance to light a fire out in the woods: there rains 360 days a year and everything is soaked like a sponge. Better get a Primus stove. easier to find fuel than "tinder'.

The best advice is that if you plan a serious adventure, do your homework. Less than that, and if you go out just for your amusement, stay within reasonable range from the nearest Holiday Inn and Pizza Hut and away from life threatening situations.
<img src="/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

#26548 - 10/11/04 05:51 AM Re: Fire-Starting Problem!!
aardwolfe Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 08/22/01
Posts: 923
Loc: St. John's, Newfoundland
Well, fwiw, this wasn't a real blizzard and there wasn't enough snow on the ground to build a snow shelter. What snow there was, was too wet to be of any use in building a snow cave or any other form of shelter.

I've never been to Patagonia but I find it hard to believe it would be significantly harder starting a fire there than on, say, the Pacific Coast Trail.
"The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled."

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