Feb 20, 2014 at 5:00 pm #1313570
Last year on a remote, non-resupply, 10 day trip, my mini bic falled to work on the 2nd night out. I do carry 8 backup matches and a match box cardboard striker as my fire starter back-up, yet seeing we had wind and rain almost every day and evening, I wonder if the matches would even have lit my Esbit tabs. I was fortunate to borrow my buddy's lighter for the remainder of the trip.
I have been using a bic for almost 20 years and never had a malfunction before, however, I am now rethinking my ability to light a esbit and eat my meals if this happens again. I understand this could be a one time occurance, however it would have been a rougher trip if I was hiking alone. Since I only cook my dinners, I would still eat everyday, yet, I'm sure I would have missed the extra calories and energy my dinners provide.
I have been looking at some other fire starters, yet, rarely see these on too many SUL gear lists. This has me wondering……
Do you carry a backup fire starter on a longer than a weekend trip? If so, what do you bring and what is your resoning for bringing it or for leaving it at home?
Thanks in advance.Feb 20, 2014 at 5:12 pm #2075565
I also use a mini-Bic as my primary fire source. For a backup, I carry a book of paper matches that is covered by a scrap of plastic wrap, and it weighs two-tenths of an ounce.
You see, if David Thomas and some others of us were there, we would have a full-blown engineering lab analysis of what failed.
I've never had any relatively new mini-Bic fail. I've had an old one run out of fuel.
–B.G.–Feb 20, 2014 at 5:25 pm #2075571
@drewsmithLocale: Colorado Rockies
I have had a mini-Bic fail spectacularly, with the wheel, flint and spring flying out of the top as I was trying to light a fire to boil water my coffee. Not to worry, I thought, I have my REI storm matches as backup. But they failed to light – I went through about 20 before I got one to actually flame up, rather than just smolder. This was at the beginning of a 5-day trip in the Indian Peaks, and not an auspicious start at all. Fortunately I was able to beg a spare lighter from some other hikers. Since then I have always carried a flint and steel striker – no moving parts, and it's waterproof. That has been the theme of my evolution as a backpacker – to eliminate gear with moving parts.
The REI matches worked just fine back in Boulder. I can only think that the elevation (close to 11,000 ft) resulted in oxygen starvation, causing them to fail.Feb 20, 2014 at 5:38 pm #2075578
carry two lighters, they're very lightFeb 20, 2014 at 5:39 pm #2075579
a pun there, trying to get outFeb 20, 2014 at 7:03 pm #2075603
@amrowincLocale: Southern California
I carry a mini bic and 5 strike anywhere matches, probably due to early boy scout training and reading too many Jack London stories. My primary fire source is a newer mini electronic bic. I gave one to a friend and asked her how she liked later. She said she had forgotten about it in her pocket and ran it through the wash. Thinking it ruined she tried it and it lit up the first time. I don't get too paranoid about getting my lighter wet anymore.Feb 20, 2014 at 7:06 pm #2075605
I don't like the flint bics – when they get damp they don't work, when my thumb gets damp it makes a hole in my thumb
Electronic ones much better
But I hear they don't work above 10,000', but I seldom go thereFeb 20, 2014 at 7:07 pm #2075606
@pitsyLocale: Central Texas
Shoelaces. Maybe I'll find a likely piece of bark and a nice dowel-like stick if I'm leaving the trees for more than a few hours. Otherwise, I can find what I need to string a bow with my shoelace and drill me up a fire in less than a half-hour.
But that's backup-backup. Backup is either a second lighter or regular paper matches. Shelter gets erected first in inclement weather, then we make fire.Feb 20, 2014 at 7:09 pm #2075608
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I carry two mini Bics in different places. Not so much because one might malfunction, but a really wet one needs to dry out first, and I am certainly capable of misplacing one and it sucks to leave my only lighter behind a rock at the last campsite.
Additionally, I usually have a small square of waxed paper, waxed cardboard, or single-egg-portion of an egg carton filled with wax. Something I could leave at the bottom of a pile of twigs if I really need to get a fire going in poor conditions.Feb 20, 2014 at 7:24 pm #2075613
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
a bic lighter and a firesteel
and enough firestarting tinder that i cant blaze through the wettest wood no matter what.Feb 20, 2014 at 7:43 pm #2075621
One common cause for a butane lighter to fail is that the fuel is too cold. This is especially true if you store the lighter in your cook gear and not in your pants pocket. Now, it isn't too hard to warm it up, but it may take a while.
–B.G.–Feb 20, 2014 at 7:46 pm #2075623
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
I carry a mini bic and some storm proof matches. Really, what is the worst that could happen without hot water? Most dehydrated or freeze-dried meals can rehydrate with normal water, although it will take longer and won't be as appetizing.Feb 20, 2014 at 8:19 pm #2075632
Mini-bic, storm proof matches w/cotton Vaseline balls.Feb 20, 2014 at 8:26 pm #2075634
I carry an assortment of on person survival gear attached to loops in my pockets and on a lanyard around my neck. this way I can always start a fire,cut something and signal – even if I get separated from my pack.
DaveFeb 20, 2014 at 9:07 pm #2075640
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
Always, but then, I live and hike in the often soggy Pacific NW.
I carry 2 BIC lighters plus a waterproof match case with a mix of strike anywhere and REI storm matches.
I've found it is easy to buy BIC lighters at my destination before I get on trail. Some cities and states have outlawed strike anywhere matches, so they can be harder to find.
"Common Lighters – Lighters without fuel are permitted in checked baggage. Lighters with fuel are prohibited in checked baggage, unless they adhere to the Department of Transportation (DOT) exemption, which allows up to two fueled lighters if properly enclosed in a DOT approved case. If you are uncertain as to whether your lighter is prohibited, please leave it at home."
"Torch Lighters – Torch lighters create a thin, needle-like flame that is hotter (reaching 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit) and more intense than those from common lighters. Torch lighters are often used for pipes and cigars, and maintain a consistent stream of air-propelled fire regardless of the angle at which it is held. Torch lighters continue to be banned."
"Strike-anywhere Matches – One book of safety (non-strike anywhere) matches are permitted as carry-on items, but all matches are prohibited in checked baggage."Feb 20, 2014 at 9:20 pm #2075643
Two mini Bics in different places, plus a misch metal "flint" and striker, and a couple of vaseline & cotton balls sealed in plastic straw sections.
Why? Because even though I now live in dry SoCal, I used to live in Oregon and then the Northwest Territories, and it scarred me for life regarding always being able to start a fire.Feb 20, 2014 at 9:59 pm #2075650
@dwambaughLocale: Pacific Northwest
Do you carry a backup fire starter? Yes
I select from the following as I feel the need:
Exotac PolySTRIKER firesteel
K&M match case/compass with UCO storm matches
Mini Bic lighter
Bison Designs spy capsule filled with Tinder Quick tabs
Folding pocket knife
Light My Fire Swedish Fire Knife
Orion Fire Starter 5 minute flare
Gerber Sportsman's Saw
Why? Because I hike in a cold, wet, dark corner of the world and often solo.Feb 21, 2014 at 10:06 am #2075727
@jraiderguyLocale: Puget Sound
When I first started backpacking with my dad in the Sierras, we'd go out for 4 day trips and bring only bread, peanut butter, honey bunches of oats, and jerky. We'd cover the taste of iodine with Tang. He later told me he liked the sparse diet so that the burger tasted better back in town. We had a tube of strike-anywhere matches in the first aid kid that didn't get opened for 15 years. The point is that for all my dad taugth me about backpacking, I knew absolutely nothing about starting fires when I moved to the PNW.
I tried and failed to start a fire my first night on the beach on the Olympic Peninsula. My matches and 7-11 lighter were no match for wet driftwood. I'd need lighters, matches, kindling, and fuel. So now I often carry two mini-bics, a backup matchbook, vaselined-cotton balls, and sometimes even a squirt bottle of sterno gel to smear on a few twigs if I'm expecting particularly bad weather.
Last time I was out there, the boy scout troop camped down the beach had carried in a few of those new Duraflame "campfire" style logs as their tinder (http://www.duraflame.com/products/roasting-logs). It definitely worked. :)Feb 21, 2014 at 10:53 am #2075741
I carry a mini Bic as primary and a mini ziploc with a few storm matches and a chunk of dryer lint. I cook with esbit, so that is also a firestarter.Feb 21, 2014 at 12:29 pm #2075756
@eagleriverdeeLocale: Eagle River, Alaska
I do carry a backup firestarter, and not just when I hike. My Jeep has lighters, matches and flares stashed in it. My snowmobile does. My ATV does. And of course, my backpacking kit and dayhiking kit does. I like in Alaska- fire could be the difference between living and dying in a worst case scenario. I'm definitely a glass-half-empty type of person and plan for the worst while hoping for the best.
I generally carry two mini-bics (on different parts of my body) plus some waterproof matches plus some sort of assistance such as Wetfire tinder (incredible stuff, really) or vaseline cotton ball or Coghlans Fire Lighters which also work rather well. I also usually have a candle with me, either a Tea Light or one of the larger Emergency Candles. Whatever I have, it all fits easily into the palm of my hand and adds negligible weight to my kit but a lot of peace of mind.Feb 21, 2014 at 1:05 pm #2075763
I usually carry a sparker. Nothing to go wrong there … but also carry a mini bic lighter for back up
For my emergency fire starting "kit" I have several homemade Self-Igniting Fire Starter … well under an ounce.
Why? I just don't want to be in a situation where i needed a fire, but couldn't be able to make it … you pack your fears.Feb 21, 2014 at 1:11 pm #2075764
@johnnyh88Locale: The SouthWest
I see comments such as "fire can be the difference between life and death".
Do people actually rely this heavily on fire? When I go out, I would NEVER rely on fire as my savior in an emergency and I think people's expectations of fire saving them are too high.
Edit: I suppose I view fire as something that is "nice to have" but not 100% necessary.Feb 21, 2014 at 1:38 pm #2075770
"For my emergency fire starting "kit" I have several homemade Self-Igniting Fire Starter … well under an ounce."
Tony, I viewed the video. I saw the barbecue lighter, and I saw the match. I want to know where the self-igniting fire starter was.
–B.G.–Feb 21, 2014 at 1:53 pm #2075774
If everything goes right, then fire is a luxury, but when shit hits the fan it's one of the top priorities for saving your life.
Say you have a down bag, it gets wet, and you're stuck in a rainstorm with no insulation. A fire could be the only thing standing between you and hypothermia. This is even more of a risk on a day hike when you're not carrying adequate overnight insulation in the first place.
Its use for cooking isn't quite as critical, but in a survival situation having a fire and cooked food can provide a much-needed psychological boost.Feb 21, 2014 at 2:08 pm #2075779
John, I'd say yes, I do rely quite heavily on fire. Where I hike I tend to use fire for cooking and for additional warmth. Where the ability to create fire seems particularly important to me is anytime you are travelling on moving water, large lakes, or river crossings. Where I live the water is cold enough to have you hypothermic in 10-15 minutes. Yes, having additional dry clothes and your sleeping bag on hand is a great way to get warm, but I've seen situations where people are separated from their backpacks AND situations where people's gear gets wet after a swim. Both situations happened to experienced hikers who never thought it could happen to them. Not to mention, by it's nature lightweight backpacking means few people are going to have enough spare clothes available to get their core temperature back up quickly in cooler weather when the clothes they are wearing are wet.
For the negligible weight of a mini-bic, a few spare matches, a fire steel, and a few vasoline cotton balls, all kept on my person at all times, I can have 'nearly' guaranteed access to heat, the ability to dry gear, cook food, boil water, signal for help and yes, the psychological comfort of having a fire.
I know fire is not always as necessary in other parts of the world, but the benefits certainly outweigh the extra few ounces in my opinion.
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