- Jun 11, 2018 at 3:01 pm #3541431
Pitch from most conifers makes a great fire starter and since it burns for a relatively long time it can work with some wet material. I bring a real knife .Jun 11, 2018 at 4:03 pm #3541438
^ Alpine Fir here has a lot of pitch “bubbles” on it, pierce the bottom and it oozes out- combined with some “witches hair” that is often hanging on the branches, you have a formidable fire starter :)Jun 11, 2018 at 7:04 pm #3541468
^^. If my 15-20 miles was just leading to a “Basecamp”, for a few days of R&R, I will actually find the nearby fir trees, score them and tie some reflective tape around them, once my camp is set. Then as needed I go to the marked trees and collect my resin. When I leave I naturally take the tape with.
Also another good natural fire starter is “fat wood”. You can get this from where the branches join a tree like that, or the roots from a fallen tree. The wood is so permeated with the resin that it will light with only a lighter, even if it’s an inch thick, bit again you need a real knife to get at it most of the time.Jul 12, 2018 at 2:15 am #3546491
Terry SparksBPL Member
@firebugLocale: Santa Barbara County Coast
Pull some bark off a tree, smash it with a rock if you need to. Unless you are stoveles, use your stove to get it going. No stove, just start with very small pieces.Jul 12, 2018 at 3:28 am #3546499
I see this response a lot. What if your stove is a Firebox Nano and you have prepared to use wood for most of your trip? What if a spirit burner is your bag. Forget those, you need a fire fast because you slipped into a creek, it’s late fall and hypothermia is a “thing”. Even your isopropane stove will not get that real fire going with wet wood (unless you risk a canister explosion, good luck with that). You need to get to dry wood and that requires a tool.
If that time of year, involving that kind of terrain, isn’t your bag cool. Some people however like going out at all times of year. Even if it isn’t your bag, with the advances in metallurgy, skeletonized handles, polymer handles with rat tail spines etc. You are talking about the difference of weight between a wet cotton ball much of the time. One thing being away from real civilization (meaning middle if no where in places people only know thanks to a map teaches you) is that “sh&+ happens” and when it does the most simple tool humanity created, before we could maybe speak it, a light weight fixed blade knife is the difference between life and death. That hasn’t change for how many thousands of year of evolution?Jul 12, 2018 at 3:48 am #3546502
That’s where I like the small road flare. It takes minimal dexterity and not much tinder preparation. It’s a sledgehammer for firestarting. Let me tell you, if you are getting hypothermia, you are butt stupid and your hands don’t work well.Jul 12, 2018 at 12:27 pm #3546516
Dale- which small flares?Jul 12, 2018 at 12:53 pm #3546517
Ethan A.BPL Member
@mountainwalkerLocale: SF Bay Area & New England
I believe Dale uses the Orion Fire Starters: https://www.westmarine.com/<wbr />buy/orion–fire-pit-pro-<wbr />outdoor-fire-starter–17348459 They run 4 oz each and $6.99/two pack for inexpensive deep wet winter firestarting insurance.
I also carry a very light but sturdy fixed blade knife 1.8 oz with a few fire starters and thin cord. More than capable of shelter- and fire-building, though never had to use for that. Not necessary to carry anything heavier for those purposes.
+1 previous comments about careful packing and care to keep insulation dry.Jul 12, 2018 at 12:57 pm #3546519
thanks- I’ve seen some “smaller” flares, but they weren’t really small (or light), @ 4 oz and 7 minutes of intense heat looks worth havingJul 12, 2018 at 1:44 pm #3546522
Yes, the Orion flares are the ones I was thinking of. They are basically half of a road flare. I put mine in a seal a meal bag for better shelf life.
Flares burn so incredibly hot that they will get anything burning. The whole fire starting scenario is being able to get one going if you are wet, cold, stupid and limited motor skills due to hypothermia.
It’s all about Jack London’s “To Build a Fire”. (https://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/to-build-a-fire.pdf). Falling into cold water is a real thing, or just getting rain or sweat soaked. All those things we learned about fire making in Scouts are great if you are on good shape and it’s not pouring rain. Add a soaking and maybe a dislocated shoulder and inagine what you would do then. Disasters come in sets!
The flares also make a signal that aircraft can see for miles.Jul 12, 2018 at 2:23 pm #3546524
I just ordered a 12 pack from etrailer.com, $17 and $5 shipping
a lot of places wanted double or triple that
I can put a three pack in my and wife’s vehicle and then stash a single in a few packs :)Jul 12, 2018 at 2:40 pm #3546528
Do the seal a meal thing, Mike. It really keeps them neat and clean.Great buy.Jul 12, 2018 at 5:45 pm #3546558
The thing is 7 minutes of intense heat can be not enough to get a SUSTAINABLE fire when the fuel is very wet. Which can happen in the Mid-Atlantic quite easily because the “green tunnel” can allow stuff to stay wet for long periods of time do to a lack of “solar” drying. Getting to the dry inner part of the wood is necessary not just to get a fire going but to keep it going over the long term. If it was just a matter of starting the fire you could likely get away with just using small kindling a paraffin wax coated cotton pads, as they burn hot for 5-6 minutes.
Once that’s extinguished however that existing fire either needs to be hot enough to cause wet and/or frozen wood to burn (yep have had to deal with frozen wood) or you need a way to get past the wet/frozen wood so it will burn at more “typical” fire temps.Jul 12, 2018 at 6:34 pm #3546566
Katherine .BPL Member
there’s stuff and there’s skills.
I add more to my FAK when I know what I could do with it.
I’ll add a fixed-blade knife if I learn how to baton wood. But w/out that skill, maybe there’s no point of bringing the lighter or the tinder?
Though I bring both, because maybe under pressure I’d be resourceful. But more because I once bought that big thing of Vaseline and now there’s nothing else to do with it and we’ve got cottonballs and wax paper gathering dust. And “emergency” tinder sometimes comes in handy when you’re getting frustrated building that non-emergency fire.
The practice part is tough, depending, because a lot of the time building a fire is not a good idea or flat-out banned.
I have learning how to build a fire in conditions where I’d really need it on my list of skills to acquire (along with Wilderness first aid refresh, learning self-arrest, and learning basic auto stuff for remote trail heads)
Jul 12, 2018 at 7:04 pm #3546568
- This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by Katherine ..
If you gather dead branches from trees, you can step on them or bend them until they start to crack and then peel them down the split. It doesn’t need to be neat and pretty. All you are doing is to expose the dry wood fibers inside
Having prepared tinder is a step you don’t need to fiddle with. I have a little spy capsule packed right with Tinder Quick tabs. Someone mentioned bashing bark with a rock. That is the sort of improvising you need when you’re in trouble. Don’t forget your gel hand cleaner and alcohol swabs. You can pull lint off your socks or fleece too
My point is that you don’t need to baton. Getting into perceptual mind sets is a trap.Jul 12, 2018 at 7:53 pm #3546573
W I S N E R !BPL Member
Just to throw it out there, it’s always struck me that the search for the Holy Grail of knives, firestarters, and firerstarting techniques consumes an inordinate amount of discussion space when it’s all obviously very dependent on season, location, personal preference, etc.
If we’re talking in the context of backpacking in inclement weather, I’d rather focus my efforts on a quality synthetic puffy, fleece top and bottoms, synthetic sleeping bag, and a solid, lightweight shelter/bivy. This combo has been tried and proven to keep mountaineers and soldiers alive in locations where conditions are utterly fierce and fire is impossible.
In the context of staying alive while soaked and freezing this is worth a read:
Yes, a knife and firestarting kit is worth it’s weight for the insurance and I’m not advocating against it, but for reasons I don’t fully understand (beyond the sexiness of knives and the fun of doing bushcraft), I think it occupies too much mental space at the expense of gear, insulation, and fabric choices.Jul 14, 2018 at 12:21 am #3546686
Craig is right – an inordinate amount of thoughts, feelings, hurt feelings, and digital ink go into debating the perfect knife, ideal fire starter, most manly back-up fire starter, etc. It’s like convincing someone else of your religious dogma. All for something that rarely arises, is by nature individual, and for which a synthetic puffy is a more versatile answer (when I get in a bad situation, there’s rarely a tree around ).
And if we stop with this topic, we’ll have more time to debate the best bear protection and whether it’s immoral to take extra condiment packets from McDonald’s.Jul 14, 2018 at 12:24 am #3546687
It is freeing, though, packing for the upcoming GGG-AK because fire starting is moot as lava, wet grass, and caribou don’t burn very well. And the perfect knife was decided long ago by EVERY DAMN HUNTER trying to steal my Little Vicky paring knife.Jul 14, 2018 at 12:46 am #3546696
everyone should watch the rewarming video- it’s very good information and makes you think hard on what is appropriate dress for less than ideal conditions
I think Craig is spot on in the importance of clothing/shelter for a day hike (hopefully on a multi-day trip you’re carrying an appropriate shelter/sleep system!), especially in shoulder/winter seasons and remote country
but it still behooves one to be proficient with and have an easy way to start a fireJul 14, 2018 at 3:47 am #3546713
Dan YBPL Member
Years ago I had an experience in a wooded ravine during a thunder storm that made me think twice about preparedness.
I modified an Orion flare to a pack size as fire insurance if needed.
This is a photo of the National Forest on Adak Island where David is going. A total of 33 trees in the entire forest.Jul 14, 2018 at 5:04 am #3546719
And if I’m hypothermic right there, in the Adak NF, I could just as easily gather wooden headstones from the graveyard next to it. It’s the rest of the island that’s treeless.
Some recent research found that while trees can GROW there (obviously), it hasn’t been warm enough for them to germinate. So there are two classes of trees: the 200-year-old ones that the Russians planted and the 75 year old ones planted by GIs. But now some trees are producing seeds in the Aleutians.Jul 14, 2018 at 5:22 am #3546721
No driftwood?Jul 15, 2018 at 3:00 am #3546813
Dale: mostly we’ll be inland (it’s a big island) and the coasts are rough, but, yes, there is potentially driftwood from other parts of the world. An hour ago, I was just walking my own beach, which is pretty far (100 miles) up Cook Inlet and found a Minute Maid orange juice bottle. From Japan. Now if I could score some reactor-core bits from Fuchushima, that could keep you warm, like it did for Matt Damon in The Martian. Or those Russian hunters who found that oddly hot chunk of a remote weather station (and later got radiation sickness).
I was working in Aleutians on Dutch Harbor one time and tossed aside a wooden pallet that felt weirdly light. It had regular wood on the decking but the 3″x4″ stringers were balsa wood. I scavenged those, tossed them in my big duffle and gifted them to a guy who builds his RC model planes. He reported that when he cut it down to the sizes he wanted, the sawdust stayed in the air for a really long time.Jul 20, 2018 at 4:17 am #3547589
Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
- from my Boy Scout days we had a challenge to start a fire with a single match and a small pocket knife. We often were given this challenge after a rain. When below timberline I have never had a problem collecting / creating enough kindling that I couldn’t start with a decent blue-tip match. It’s even easier with a lighter, but that’s cheating… I cheat these days.
- Remember that you are allows to use use your existing gear if you haven’t been separated from it. So hold on to your stuff and keep it functioning. esbits and alcohol make fine firestarting aids and work even if your stuff has been in the drink.
- Not always possible but get the fire started before you hands becomes useless. It’s possible to train your body to keep the hands functioning in cold if you have sufficient discipline and motivation. I have friends who have done this for shooting, but I haven’t done it. I am lazy
- Personally, I typically bring a tiny Victorinox Rambler Pocket Knife because I have found that functional fires (rather than big ones that are recreational) don’t require big pieces off wood…batonning isn’t required, just learning how to find combustible material. I have yet to find myself in a situation where the rambler (or the victorinox Classic) wasn’t *sufficient* for my survival, though bigger knives certainly make things easier.
- Doing a serious campfire to entertain the kids/troop really benefits from having a knife you can baton with. 45+ years ago I found batonning an easy skill to learn. Doesn’t require a huge knife. On “campfire” trips I typically bring a Fallkniven F1… there are lighter options and fancier options, I am just fond of this knife. I have battoned with a benchmade lock-blade: cringe / worried when I did this, but didn’t break the knife or destroy the blade. If I was regularly doing big fires I would be tempted to pick up a Morakniv Eldris to save some weight. I am pretty sure I could make it work. BTW: You can baton wood that wasn’t cross cut with a saw.
- I had a wire saw which was less than 5oz which was usable, That said, doing the sawing warmed me up almost as much as the fire I made and typically body weight + batonning was quicker than a saw in all but the thickest pieces of wood.
MarkJul 20, 2018 at 11:32 am #3547618
Dan YBPL Member
I have seen on occasion some people say something like “even if I don’t intend to cook I always bring a lighter in case I get into a situation and need a fire to stay warm.”
If you get yourself into that type of situation, you should build a lean-to shelter first and then collect wood for the fire, then build your fire in front of it.
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