Knowing how to successfully craft a fire sets you apart from not only every other animal, but the vast majority of modern humans. Most people take things like lighter fluid and “easy flame” logs for granted and not many people have tried to start a fire from scratch in the wilderness. After the apocalypse, you better know how to start one because it is life or death.
Fire is one of the best tools for post apocalyptic survival because it will not only keep your ass warm, it will cook your food, kill bacteria and other harmful agents in your water and have a tremendous effect on your morale. Mankind is comforted by fire. It kept dangerous animals away from us for millenia. The mastery of fire is what allowed mankind to survive in all environments and was the single largest leap for early man.
Don’t think just because some missing link, knuckle dragging ape could start fire, you can automatically do it. Fire starting is not such a simple skill, even with tools. It requires an understanding of creating sparks and which types of material are needed for each stage of the fire, as well as an understanding of how oxygen effects a fire. In other words, you may have seen 1000 fires in your life and never tried to start one primitively assuming you could do it. You will certainly fail unless you are lucky if this is the case.
- A tool to create sparks – Firesteel, Magnesium Bar, Lighter, Water Proof Matches
- Tinder – Light fluffy material that will catch fire easily. Cotton Balls, Dryer Lint, Light Wood Scrapings
- Kindling – Small pieces of wood, sticks.
- Medium Branches – Thicker sticks.
- Wood for fuel – Logs
- Oxygen – Air, dummy. The key to oxygen is how you set up the wood to create a draft increasing the flames.
As a tool for spark creation, I say get a Swedish Firesteel, they kick ass and throw 5500 degree sparks (Fahrenheit). I also recommend that you have multiple ways to create sparks or flame because you can’t rely on any one single method. Buy a bunch of Bic lighters or a few Zippos, get a magnesium bar because they are cheap as dirt and of course water proof matches (even though I hate matches).
Firesteel works by scraping your knife, or the attached striker, against the steel to create a bunch of super hot sparks. A firesteel will work soaking wet, but even with the extremely hot sparks you are going to need dry tinder if you want any prayer of actually starting a fire in the wilderness. You might watch a video where some asshole scraps his firesteel and catches a living tree on fire, but this is not reality. It still takes practice and you still need tinder.
Whatever method of spark creation you decide on, the next step is to collect dry tinder, and more importantly always keep a stash of some because wet conditions can literally rain on your parade. You can scrape your knife on birch bark or any light flaky wood to create thin shavings of wood (if it looks stringy it is best) and the key is to create a large surface area of extremely thin material.
Since you may not be able to find perfect tinder, or wet conditions may prevent you from acquiring it, you should get some regular household cotton balls and rip them up a bit. Now roll them around in Vaseline and form them back into balls. These light awesome and even in crappy conditions can get a fire started because they burn for quite some time. Store them in a Ziploc bag for when you really need them.
Another awesome household tinder is dryer lint. Yea that crap that you pick out of your belly button and always gets stuck in your lighter making you think you are out of fluid. Dryer lint burns like a son of a bitch and you can get loads of it from your dryer when you clean the filter. This is my favorite tinder because Vaseline is so sticky and annoying, plus everyone in the post apocalyptic world will think that you were just jerking your gherkin.
Don’t buy ready made tinder, that is so god damn lazy. If you buy pre-made tinder you are probably one of those people who bought a pet rock.
Now that you have your tinder under control, your next step is kindling. Kindling are sticks and small pieces of wood that are thin enough to light easily. The lightweight tinder with its surface area catches fire very quickly but burns up very quickly too. This is where kindling comes in. Place your tinder on the ground where you are going to start your fire and then add your kindling around the tinder in the shape of a teepee. You want to leave one side open so you can throw sparks onto your kindling, and the shape will block the wind you don’t want and allow a flow of oxygen to get to the tiny fire you are about to create.
Keep your medium branches near by to quickly add them after you start the fire on your tinder and it has spread to the kindling. You also want your larger pieces of wood for fuel to be accessible and remember that once you start the fire, you should apply wood in a teepee shape as well because this shape will keep a good oxygen flow to the base of your fire.
|Medium Sized Branches|
Now you are ready to light the fire. Stick your Swedish Firesteel into the open side of your “teepee” and drag your Firesteel up the striker. I know you will see on videos that people tend to drag the striker down the Firesteel, and that’s fine too, whatever works, but in my experience you will throw way more sparks and control where they go if you pull the Firesteel up the striker. As soon as the tinder catches the kindling, add the medium branches around the teepee as well. Once the fire is really burning hot, you can add your logs.
Understanding fire craft is key to post apocalyptic survival. I will be adding a video shortly on the whole process, as well as adding primitive firecraft with no tools and some example videos.
Good luck, keep your powder dry.
Post apocalyptic survival fans found this searching for: