The fire building process can be quite frustrating. This is especially true if it’s a windy day or your working with wet kindling and fire building materials.
The process is a lot easier if you have a quality fire starting tool and know some basic fire starting techniques (which I’ll cover below).
I’ll also cover all your options as far as types of fire starters and what I think are the best fire starters in each category.
- Quick Answer: Here Are the Best Fire Starters in 2020 (All Types)
- 1. Lightning Strike Ferrocerium Fire Starter System
- 2. EricX Light Ferrocerium Rods
- 3. Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Fire Starter Emergency Kit
- 4. Benchmade Exotac Ferro Rod XL
- 5. Exotac NanoStriker XL
- 6. Bayite 6 inch Survival Ferrocerium Rod Fire Starter
- 7. Swedish Fire Knife
- 8. Uberleben Fire Starter Tool
- 9. Bear Grylls Fire Starter (Ferro Rod)
- 10. KonvoySG Flint and Steel Striker Set
- 11. Fire-Fast Trekker Magnesium Fire Starter Combo
- 12. Storm Proof Matches (These Burn Underwater)
- 13. Fresnel Magnifying Plastic Magnifying Lens
- 14. Piece Primitvie Bow Drill Kit
- 15. InstaFire
- Fire Building Tips
Types of Fire Starting Tools – Know Your Options
Ferro Rod Fire Starter
A ferrocerium rod, or Ferro rod for short, is one of the most effective types of fire starting tools out there. You don’t have to worry about it being damaged by the fire and the good ones are very durable. When struck, a ferrocerium rod will shower your tinder with hot sparks.
The particulars are important when it comes to ferro rods. One, in particular, is the idea of thickness and durability. Many survival kits will include a small piece of ferrocerium, but the piece too small and too brittle to really be effective. These will break and will be hard to use. On the list below I will show you my favorites, many of which double as versatile multi-purpose tools.
A magnifying lens is one of the cheapest fire starting tools. I listed a good product below that is about the size of a credit card, so you can just stick in your wallet and forget about it until you need it. The magnified energy from sun is more than enough to start a fire. It can easily create an ember in a bunch of well processed, dry, tinder.
This method is easiest on clear days when the sun is high in the sky. The major limitation of magnifying lenses is the time of day and weather forecast.
What if you are stuck with merely a knife? Did you know there are ways of making a spark with just your knife and the right kind of rock?
It requires finding a rock that is so hard and so sharp that it can literally scrape fine filaments of high carbon steel from your knife. At which point these filaments ignite and create a spark. This is the concept behind the traditional flint and steel fire starter.
A flint fire starter requires that you have something to spark and something to catch that spark like quality tinder or charcloth.
Magnesium Fire Starter
A magnesium fire starter is often combined with ferrocerium. These two metals do a great job of working together to create fire. Ferrocerium sparks when struck, just as we mentioned in the Ferro rod portion. However, magnesium burns at a higher temperature than those ferrocerium sparks.
To use magnesium, you want to scrape a nice pile onto your tinder and then shower the sparks from your ferrocerium onto the magnesium pile. The fire will be quick but bright and very hot. It will be more than enough to get that tinder going.
One of the oldest methods for building fire is the use of friction and wood. Hardwood on softwood to be exact. The bow drill is a very impressive method for making fire but it is one that takes a tremendous amount of practice both creating and reproducing.
It’s as much a skill in carving as it is in fire making.
Imagine you have never made a bow drill, imagine you have never made a fire with a bow drill, imagine you have not made many fires? How do you think you will do if you go outside and start hacking and carving your own bow drill setup? It’s probably not going to go well, right?
It will benefit you to practice with a premade kit.
Some manmade tinder fire starters will offer you the ability to sustain a fire can be really effective. You will get much more time to play with kindling and fuel while these granular fire starters do their job.
They play an important role in fire starting because they sustain your initial blaze and that can count for a lot.
Quick Answer: Here Are the Best Fire Starters in 2020 (All Types)
1. Lightning Strike Ferrocerium Fire Starter System
Price: Around $70
My Review: One of the challenges with Ferro rods is that when struck the sparks cover a large area. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could direct all of those sparks into a smaller area right on your tinder? That’s exactly what this fire starter does.
The Ferro rod is built into the 7.5” aluminum casing. There is a slot in the side where you insert the striker, and when you run the striker down the rod the sparks shoot out of the end of the tube almost like the barrel of a gun.
Another awesome feature this fire starter has is the on the end there is a compartment where tinder can be stored. The tinder that comes with the product is advertised to be enough to start around 18-20 fires.
Overall, while this is the most expensive products on this list, if you can pony up the money it is one of the best fire starters out there. Buy once, cry once.
- Replacement rods available
- 7.5 inches long
- Smaller size available
- Tinder compartment and tinder included
2. EricX Light Ferrocerium Rods
Price: Around $15
My Review: These are pretty basic ferrocerium rods and I found them to be extremely easy to use. They’re half an inch thick and 6″ in length making striking them super easy and trust me, I hate those super small ones! They claim these create showers of sparks and they’re totally right, you can easily start a fire with just one strike if you do it right.
In the package, you’ll get two of these and each is rated for a minimum of 12,000 strikes. They have a convenient little hole in the end for a lanyard and they’re very easily used when wet or even in rain so long as it isn’t like a hurricane level rainstorm. As far as Ferro rods go, these are easy to use and pretty basic while providing a ton of value and certainly getting the job done!
- A two-pack of EricX ferrocerium rods that are 0.5″ thick and 6″ in length each
- Usable in the rain and create a massive shower of sparks
- Rated for 12,000 strikes each for a total of 24,000 strikes
3. Swiss Safe 5-in-1 Fire Starter Emergency Kit
Price: Around $14
My Review: These things glow in the dark so bright they can nearly blind you. Okay, maybe that’s a little bit of an overstatement but they are pretty cool and you really can get a set that has glowing handles. I never thought I needed glowing handles on my Ferro rods but hey, here they are and they only cost a dollar more than the ones that don’t glow so, why not?
The Swiss Safe 5-in-1 fire starter package comes with a handy dandy compass, a couple of feet of 8core paracord 450lb, a 150db whistle, steel Ferro rod scraper and of course a two-pack of magnesium ferrocerium rods. These 5″ Ferro rods are rated at 16,000 strikes but only weigh less than 2 ounces, making them excellent for those of you shaving off every unneeded gram from your pack.
Aside from the glow in the dark set, you can find these in five other color configurations and they’re all usable in a little bit of rain.
- The entire kite utilizes 5 different tools and includes two 5″ magnesium ferrocerium rods
- The two rods are rated for 16,000 strikes and produce 5500F
- Everything together weighs less than 2 ounces making this package perfect for backpacking and hiking
4. Benchmade Exotac Ferro Rod XL
Price: Around $50
My Review: Before diving into my exploration of the various Ferro rods offered I actually had no idea Benchmade manufactured firestarters but now that I see what they have to offer, it totally makes sense.
Of course, these are pretty expensive compared to most of the options available that are similar in design. With that said, though, they do go above and beyond and these are certainly some of my favorites.
First up, let’s talk about tinder. The end of the Benchmade Exotac actually twists off revealing a small storage space that contains two pieces of quickLIGHT waterproof tinder. You can actually use them a lot if you break them up and are careful with how you light it. These are excellent are easily lit in a strike or two. The end cap keeps them dry with a sealed O-ring but even if they do get wet, they can still work for the most part.
Benchmade set out to design the absolute best ferrocerium rods and I’d say they probably did. I mean, it’s hard to actually test them perfectly to see which one is the best as they all achieve similar results, but these are certainly of exceptional build quality and something I’d want to have in an emergency situation.
The rods are actually compatible with the Ferro loops found on the 162 Bushcrafter and 200 Puukko sheaths so if you already have those Benchmade knives, these Ferro rods would be an excellent addition to your Benchmade setup.
- The dimensions of these rods are 5/16” x 3.10” and are replaceable from the threaded end caps
- The handles are constructed of anodized aircraft-grade aluminum and have O-Ring sealed end caps to house the included QuickLIGHT tinder
- Compatible with select Ferro rod loops found on some Benchmade sheaths
5. Exotac NanoStriker XL
Price: Around $27
My Review: If you’re looking for a super compact EDC firestarter, this one by Exotac is awesome.
Its 3.5” body is made from lightweight aluminum (the fire starter weighs only one ounce total) so this really is a great EDC fire starter. The magnesium fire starter is of high quality and lasts for thousands of strikes.
- 3000 strikes per rod
- Waterproof design
- Multiple colors available
- Multiple colors available
- Key ring for neck carry
- Great for get home and bug out bags
- Replaceable ferrocerium rods that screw right into the body
6. Bayite 6 inch Survival Ferrocerium Rod Fire Starter
Price: Around $10
My Review: This is a 1/2 inch x 6 inch Ferro rod produces a large shower of sparks at up to 3000 degrees Celsius. The 1/2 inch thick rod it lasts a long time (provides around 12,000 strikes). Another nice feature is that it has a 4mm hole you can run a lanyard through. Although there aren’t any fancy features or accessories that come with this rod, it’s still one of the best fire starter tools out there.
7. Swedish Fire Knife
Price: Around $40
My Review: The Light My Fire Knife, also known as the Swedish Fire Knife is a handy little survival knife and fire starter combo. The bottom of the knife handle has a fire steel that clips into the back of the knife.
The sheath of the knife is very quality and the knife actually clips into the sheath. The knife itself is pretty good quality but I certainly would not use it as a primary survival knife. That said, being that it is lightweight and doubles as a fire starter it is a great back up.
The small complaint I do hear about this knife quite a bit is that the fire steel is a little small, although it is usable. You may want to carry another Ferro rod in your pack and only use the one in the base of the handle as a backup.
- Comfortable handle
- Sharpened spine
8. Uberleben Fire Starter Tool
Price: Around $18
My Review: I really like this Ferro rod because of its military grade paracord lanyard and a multi-tool striker. It is a little more expensive than a stand-alone fire starter, but I really think the extra accessories are worth the money.
9. Bear Grylls Fire Starter (Ferro Rod)
Price: Around $12
My Review: One of the most popular from items the Bear Grylls Survival Line and best fire starters out there is the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Fire Starter. Although at first glance it doesn’t seem like anything too special, I think you’ll be impressed by how well designed it is. At first glance, it looks like nothing more than a Ferro rod and striker, which don’t get me wrong is all you really need to start a fire.
What separates this fire starter from a basic Ferro rod is that the design makes it both compact and waterproof. The multi-function handles slide together and form a seal that keeps the striker and the rod dry. There is also paracord that holds the two pieces together and at the end of the lanyard, there is a survival whistle.
Another awesome thing about this fire starter is that on the end of the striker there is a watertight black cap that can hold tinder or cotton balls to help start your fire.
- Comes with a pocket survival guide
- Measures about 4.7 inches end to end when both sides are locked together
- Paracord holds the rod and striker together
- Fits comfortably in hand
- SOS and other signals printed on the striker
- Built-in tinder compartment
Up Next: Flint Fire Starters
10. KonvoySG Flint and Steel Striker Set
Price: Around $40
My Review: The KonvoySG Striker is a gentlemen’s setup. That’s the best way I can describe it. It’s one of the finest looking and feeling setups on the market. You will find everything you need to start a fire in this setup and it will look good doing it!
The most important components in the KonvoySG are the handheld steel, the flint and the charcloth. Now we have discussed the importance of steel and we will discuss the importance of flint, and charcloth but just understand that with these three items, you are set.
Up Next: Magnesium Fire Starters
11. Fire-Fast Trekker Magnesium Fire Starter Combo
Price: Around $30
My Review: This is a great example of the magnesium Ferro combo that creates the perfect environment for lighting tinder and starting a fire. What makes this particular unit so effective is that it has a handle. The handle on the rod gives you better control when you are scraping magnesium or striking for sparks.
It claims it can start 2000 fires with the single rod. If you are proficient in your technique this is going to be true. Now just think about that for a moment. You will likely not burn 2000 fires in your lifetime!
12. Storm Proof Matches (These Burn Underwater)
Price: Around $9
My Review: Due to the fact that these are so inexpensive and do work very well I figured I’d add them to the bottom of the list. Each waterproof container holds 25 matches and spare strikers. There is a dedicated strike located on the outside of the container. The most impressive thing about these matches is they light and stay lit even under adverse conditions, including if they are fully submerged.
- Will light in any condition
- Waterproof container
Up Next: Magnifying Lens Fire Starters
13. Fresnel Magnifying Plastic Magnifying Lens
Price: Around $8
My Review: Fresnel makes an incredible plastic lens that is shaped like a credit card. It is much thinner than a glass lens but it’s just as powerful. These lenses are very easy to carry and you can slide one into your wallet to have on hand at all times.
The reason I bring up the Fresnel is because lens fires require very good tinder. If you want to test your might regarding your tinder, simply try to light your tinder bundle with a Fresnel. If you have enough fibrous material and it is processed enough, it should be no problem. If you struggle, just know that your tinder needs more processing.
This cheap and simple lens is a great tool for your fire starting kit. They sell in four packs and you can throw a few in your car, bag and give a few away!
14. Piece Primitvie Bow Drill Kit
Price: Around $25
My Review: The good news is you can get a set that is ready to make fire the moment you get it. Now, you might think this is too easy but trust me, you are going to be able to learn much faster if you have success. This 7 piece primitive fire starter kit will give you everything you need to make fire. Even 12” of jute or fibrous cordage to make nests with for catching your ember.
The fireboard comes notched and burned out so that you can make a fire right away. In other words, they have already caused enough friction in your fireboard to prep it for fire. This is a big first step that most people don’t really consider.
If you are looking to become proficient with the most primitive of fire, you are going to want help. Either someone professional who can guide you on what wood to use and how to shape it or a kit that is fully functional. Both of these will give you the upper hand in terms of learning and progressing.
Fire Starter Tinder
Price: Around $2 per pouch
My Review: InstaFire is an incredible granulized fire starting starter and sustaining product. This is your fire insurance. When you have something like an InstaFire you have the ability to sustain a fire if things go very wrong. Instead of having to start from scratch if your kindling burns off you can use some of this granulated product to sustain that fire.
This product burns “green” and is good for the environment if that’s important to you. It also burns for 25 minutes! That is a great time to build a nice bed of burning kindling to ignite larger fuel. While you might consider yourself quite the master of fire you should always have something that can sustain the fire if your methods fail.
Fire Building Tips
The Fire Building Process and Where Each Element Fits In
The Triangle of Fire
There are three ingredients that all fires need to survive. You may have learned this in scouts or even in school. The fire triangle is the very base understanding for those who are looking to start a fire and to put out a fire. The very base knowledge that fire requires.
Fuel: Wood or other combustible materials
Heat: Often from a spark, ember or sun’s rays
If you can wrap your head around the needs of your fire you will be better equipped to sustain that fire rather than smother it or make other costly mistakes. The fire triangle is a base understanding of fire. You will not master the art of making fire without understanding these concepts. However, you won’t master fire by understanding these concepts alone. You need to understand the process of finding tinder, creating a spark or ember, having plenty of kindling, maybe even creating a fire lay and you could argue that before all of that you need to understand how to harvest quality firewood and have enough to sustain your fire for the long haul.
Let’s explore fire starting as a process and get in-depth on the various steps you should take as you begin sourcing materials for your survival fire. We will follow this process all the way to the point of leaving camp and carrying embers with you to make the next fire you start even easier!
Starting with Tinder
If there is one aspect of the fire making process that you need to master, its creating bunches of dry, fibrous tinder. This tinder can be used with all of the fire-starting methods we are going to talk about in this article. Good tinder technique equals fire. That’s the end of the story. If you have a quality, dry tinder bundle than you have the ability to start fire with nothing but a magnifying glass.
You see, it’s easy for bushcraft to look like a magic trick because there is a bit of sleight of hand. When you see a bow drill working or someone with a magnifying glass, you tend to think that using that glass or twisting that drill is where the magic happens. In some sense, you would be right but nursing an ember into a fire is only possible if you have a quality bundle of tinder. That’s all there is to it!
You can rub sticks together all day but if you drop that ember into a bunch of wet shredded leaves, you will never get fire. In this section, I want to talk about finding and processing materials for tinder. If you can master this concept you will have a stranglehold on fire making.
The very best natural fire building materials for making tinder:
- Dry Leaves
- Dry Grasses
- Dandelion Head or Clock
- Shaved Tree Bark
- Birch Bark
- Poplar Cotton
- Tinder Fungus
- Dry Pine Needles
- Cattail Leaves
- Cattail Fluff
As you can see nature provides you with plenty of materials to get your fire started. Now, sending you out into the woods with this list will do you no good if you don’t have the concept of processing and building a tinder bundle. Fortunately, this is not very complicated.
Let’s take a few of these materials and walk through the process of creating that tinder bundle. Let’s use our birch bark, cattail fluff and dry grass as these are things that most people will be able to find down by the pond or river. They are also very effective. You want to start with your birch bark and begin to shred plenty of this material into thin strips. Find a dry surface to shred this material on. A good practice is to carry a shemagh and double that up as a tinder processing home base.
Once you have a nice pile of shreds you can gather them all up and rub them into one another. They will start to get broken up and even more fibrous. You might even be able to start to form a nice bed with this material. Now paper birch will turn to confetti if you process it too much so be careful. Then you can add the fluff from your cattails. Either set it into the bed of the bark or integrate it.
Finally, gather all of your grasses and fold the bundle in half. At the bend, you are going to create a depression. Inside that depression, you will add your other two tinder items. As long as these materials were kept dry in this process your tinder bundle will be ready to use.
Note: If you cannot find dry tinder you might look to use the tinder fire starter
Note: The Fresnel lens, and Ferro rod and magnesium fire starter are great methods for lighting tinder straight away.
Building the Fire Lay
While a fire lay may not always be necessary, it’s a great practice to work on when building fires. The purpose of building a fire on the fire lay is to assure that you have a dry surface with plenty of airflow to start your fire on. Using a fire lay will really give your fire wings, if you build it properly.
Building a fire directly on the ground is usually never a good idea. It can work, and many people do it but, its much better to build on a fire lay or even some slate or metal. These materials reflect heat rather than absorb it all. Think back to your fire triangle, it consists of oxygen, fuel and heat. That means where your heat goes, particularly in the early stages of fire, is very important.
To build a fire lay you will simply look for some nice dry wood fuel or sticks. Split wood is best when building a larger fire and burning it over a longer period. The smaller sticks would work well for a smaller fire. In essence, you are creating a Crisscross pattern with your wood. You will set 3-4 sticks down on the ground, all in the same direction. Then you will place the next 3-4 downturned 90 degrees. You can build on this as high as you need or as high as you’d like.
The fire lay offers your fire a number of different things.
- Separation from Moisture
- Separation from the Cold Ground
- Oxygen Flow
- Fuel Beneath the Starting Fire
Using wood fuel, that is split, and building it three layers high can create a fire that burns for a very long time. This would be a great option if you were building a fire and wanted to get some sleep at night, as well. If you choose to use this method, you need to really focus on the fire and get a serious blaze going before you set off to bed. You might start a long-lasting fire lay based fire, like this, a few hours earlier than normal.
The smaller fire lay is a great option for cold weather camping or camping in wet conditions. A fire lay can also increase your chances of success when you are building a fire in the rain. That is about the biggest struggle you are going to face. Getting a fire off the ground in the rain can be a real struggle.
Fortunately, up next, we will give you a trick to make that work for you. It’s not as hard as you think if you have a collection of feather sticks to help you.
In most cases, fire from your tinder bundle is used to light kindling. Kindling is a hefty pile of pencil-sized sticks that are going to be the first thing on your fire. Once the tinder catches most people will a handful of kindling to the flames, being very cautious not to smother the fire.
However, among the ranks of the best survivalist and bushcrafters in the world, the use of feather sticks is another method that can be used in conjunction or in place of kindling. These sticks are simple little carving projects that flare shavings of a stick from its base. This flared, shaved, wood will allow you to create a lot of flammable surface area. This will make for quick and sustained ignition.
Feather sticks can be a tremendous help when you are dealing with adverse weather conditions. You will find that using feather sticks will not only offer an easy to light source of kindling to your early-stage fire but they will also expose the driest wood to the flame, in wet conditions.
To make a feather stick you must first start by taking the bark off your sticks. These sticks should be a little bigger than your kindling. Maybe a number two pencil or a little thicker. Once you have the bark off you can start by pointing the stick down onto a rock and shaving, with your knife, from the top of the stick down to the bottom. The first few swipes will prove ineffective and you will likely just shave wood off but once you get a nice even surface your knife will begin to produce curls.
Use between 15-20 feather sticks at the start of a fire. You will get the most benefit from this quantity of sticks and you will be able to start a fire in the worst conditions. If you build your tinder, feather stick combo over a fire lay you will be able to start a fire on wet ground, mud or even snow.
Making that Spark
By this point, you should have a deep understanding of the early steps in fire building. Notice that we are this far along, and we have yet to discuss anything about a spark. Aside from creating an ember with a magnifying glass we have not discussed starting the fire in any capacity.
There are all sorts of methods to create that spark or that ember and we are going to look at how to do that with some tools that are a little more basic and traditional. You see, things like Ferro rods and other fire starting tools make fire a little too easy. We want that! You always want fire to be too easy. Still, you might also want to know how to start fire when you don’t have any tools.
Note: The flint and steel or flint fire starter is the best way to learn about making a single spark and nurturing it into a fire.
Beyond your high carbon steel, you are also going to need a rock called flint, you can also find chert. Again, we are looking for sharp, hard rocks that have the ability to shave that steel. Quartz can often get it done, too.
Finding flint can be pretty easy but it only occurs in areas where there was once an ocean. Now that may blow your mind, but the Northeast of the nation will not hold flint naturally. However, the southeast and the Midwest are great places to find it. Limestone deposits and river beds are great places to find flint. Most rocks erode and round from the water, but flint will hold its shape well.
If you find a rock that you suspect is flint it should be shiny and grey. It can be tested for hardness by attempting to cut a glass bottle or some piece of glass. There is always plastic and glass around. Once you find your first piece the next one is usually pretty easy for you.
Your hard rock is going to offer you the means you need to make that spark. If you want insurance, you are going to have to make some charcloth ahead of time.
Charcloth is usually cotton based cloth that has been heated in a steel container until it turns black. Charcloth never touches flame directly. It would fall apart if this was the case. You can drop some cotton based cloth, cut into squares, into an Altoids tin or down into a steel bottle to start. This bottle should be placed into a fire and allowed to heat for about 10-15 minutes. This should give you all the heat you need.
You will know when the cloth is done because it will all be completely black. Nothing will hold that spark the way your charcloth will.
Sustaining the Blaze
Just because you have made it from tinder to spark then to feather sticks and kindling doesn’t mean you have a fire, yet. You might want to include some insurance in your fire pack. You see, there are a number of items that you can carry in your fire bag to assure you have a little fire insurance.
Another method for sustaining your blaze when it starts to wain is to raise your bed of kindling using a stick. Sometimes lifting that kindling into the air will allow a rush of oxygen in and you will see that fire increase instantly. If you have trouble with that method, you can also help a struggling fire by adding your own expedited oxygen. In other words, you can blow into the fire.
While many people like to blow into their tinder to bring the fire to life, like many of the tv survivalists do, you shouldn’t stop blowing into the embers of your fire. When things are dying out you can move close to the fire and focus a strong, continuous, blow on the glowing coals of the fire, even if there are just a few. Your breath will increase the fire. Practice this method in your home fireplace and you will see the effect it has.
While we have talked about sourcing things like tinder and sustaining fire. We have only talked briefly about fuel. In fact, we have covered nothing about where and how to source your fires main source of fuel. You might think, ‘we are in a forest,’ but there are tremendous amounts of considerations when it comes to firewood.
If you want to stay in the mindset of making fire fast and easy, you need the right kind of fuel. It’s easy for you to cut down a standing tree and use tons of tinder to get that moist greenwood burning. That is, if you don’t mind finding and processing all that tinder. Much of survival is about conservation of resources, so you want to use as little of your resources as possible. In some cases, you may not know when you are going to get out of a location. If you burn up all that great fuel you may have trouble finding more the next day.
Instead, the goals should be to find yourself a good standing deadwood tree. This is going to be the very best firewood you can find. You want the tree to be standing and dry but undeniably dead. Keep your eyes out for trees like this.
Another thing to consider is circumference. The tree should only be as wide as your cutting tools will allow. Whatever you are using to cut that tree up with has to be able to cut all the way through it or wrap around it to cut it.
While it might seem great to cut down the biggest standing dead tree you can find, be wary that it’s just a waste of your time if you cannot break that tree up into processible chunks of firewood. So be selective and be sure to check the quality of the wood long before you cut it.
To check, you need to peel some bark off and scrape at the inner bark. This will give you clues about the condition of the wood.
- Is it dry?
- Is it rotten?
- Is it covered in fungus?
- Is it infested with bugs?
These are all questions that must be answered before you expend the energy on cutting down a tree. It’s also another reason to use a smaller tree. Larger standing dead trees are much more prone to things like fungus and infestation. It’s just a matter of surface area. However, a smaller tree will be easier to process and easier to handle.
No matter how you look at it standing deadwood is an important part of your fire starting process. Too many Bushcrafters and survivalists fight wood that is freshly cut and full of water. That greenwood is going to cause your fire all sorts of problems.
If you have opted to create fire with the most primitive means possible, by that I mean wood on wood, you may want to consider two things.
Would it be better to practice with a premade bow drill set?
How often do I want to use this bow drill?
Let’s look at issue number one.
If you are going to start from scratch in fire making, you are going to likely want a premade bow drill or have an expert to consult you on one. As you have come to understand, fire is a many-layered process that can fail at any one of its layers.
Note: Start with a bow drill kit to assure you have success and experience long before taking your knife out into the woods to make fire with sticks
Issue number two touches on the fact that even with a Ferro rod you don’t want to start fires more than you have to. The gathering of materials, prepping of a site and all that goes along with a successful fire, can be daunting. What if you could carry your fire with you?
You most certainly can. If you know how. With just a little manipulation of the fire triangle, you are going to be able to take an ember from your fire and carry it to your next location. This means you will arrive with a red hot ember and the need for sparks or bow drills becomes irrelevant. You will merely need tinder, kindling and fuel to sustain the fire you start with that ember or that coal that you carry.
So, how in the world do you carry a hot ember without it going out and without it catching you on fire?
It will require other materials.
Let’s look at a method called the “Apache Match” this method is going to require that you find lots of dry grasses and other tinder like materials that can be wrapped. The Apache Match looks just like a big cigar. Its dry grasses and leaves or even barks that are shredded and wrapped tightly together in a long cigar-like shape. An outer layer of thin bark should wrap the whole thing. Tie the whole pack tightly.
When your fire has burnt down to its last embers and you are ready to move, you will stuff a small ember into the open end of your Apache “cigar” push it down in there and watch the heat start to eat away at the tinder inside. It should resemble a burning cigar at this point. This will carry fire for a few hours until it eats through your fire.
The best part is, when you are ready for fire, you simply unravel it carefully and blow it back into a fire.
Another more modern method is creating a fire can. The fire can is a tin that you fill halfway with tinder. Place your ember on the tinder and then cover it with more of the same finely processed tinder. Cover the top of the can with a lid that will slow the flow of oxygen. Inside, your ember will eat up all that tinder and you will have a mobile fire for hours.
There are other ways of carrying fire as well, but it all comes down to the same principle, feed it with fuel, keep the heat and limit the oxygen.
The Importance of Fire in Survival
Fire is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated assets in a survival situation.
Along with the uses below, it has such power and such command over the human psyche because it’s built into us. We have been depending on fire for so long! Humans have been blazing fires for all sorts or things for thousands of years.
Fire and its warmth will give you a sense of calm. In a survival situation that sense of calm goes a long way. Suddenly you have solved one big problem. You aren’t cold anymore! As long as you have wood and protect that fire, you are going to remain warm.
Aside from warming the body, what else does fire do for us? To what extent can you utilize fire in a survival situation?
These questions are important to ask because you want to be able to maximize your resources. Here is just a shortlist of how fire can help you.
- Water Sensitization
- Pest Control
- Signaling for Rescue
- Creating a Torch
- Bending and Hardening Wood
- Drying Boots and Clothes
To start a fire you’ll have to put in some work and have some basic knowledge, but when you consider all the things a fire offers that’s not a bad deal.
Now that we covered the types of fire starting tools and the basic uses of fire, let’s cover the best products in each category. Then, I’ll give you some tips on fire building techniques, how to sustain the blaze, and how to use of fire in different situations.
Q: Where does fire fall in terms of importance in a survival situation?
A: My answer to this question is quite long, but the best way to look at fire is how it fall in the survival triangle. I’ll cover this in detail below.
The Triangle of Survival
Why does the shape of the triangle lend itself to so many things in survival? Well, it could be that three is just enough. If you find yourself lost or in some sort of wilderness survival situation you are going to look to address three things immediately. Do you know which three they are?
You might be suprised food is not one of them. Here are the big 3 in terms of importance.
If you have an answer for these three issues you are going to be able to survive most things.
It’s going to keep you out of the elements. This means the rain, wind, snow and what have you. The elements can be incredibly efficient at ending your life. Most people underestimate a little rain and a cold night. This can bring on hypothermia if you are not careful.
Water gives you life. It means that you can work and build and hike your way out of a situation without being lost to dehydration. You only have three days without water before you become disoriented and die. That is terrifying.
You also need sanitized water. If the water you drink is not sanitized you could be worse off than you were without the water.
Fire is going to give you options that carry on long beyond any survival gear you might have packed. You are simply not going to be able to make a difference the way a fire can. It works for you on so many levels and it must be something you can activate quickly and sustain in most situations.
These three elements are the key to survival. If you can find yourself in a decent shelter, with access to clean drinking water and get yourself warmed by a fire, you can weather most storms. Of course, not everything comes so easy. You could be dealing with things like panic, injury or just a lack of the right tools and skills.
The reason food was left out of the survival triangle we can go a long time without eating. We just don’t like to. Also, digesting food uses up precious water, as well. We have three days without water and that is not taking into account the environment you are in. It could be less.
Fire is the standout in this survival triangle. You might picture fire at the top of the triangle while water and shelter are beneath it. The reason being, fire is a multiuse resource.
Q: What type of fire starting do you recommend?
A: In general, for most uses, I think a Ferro rod is the best tool on this list to get a fire started. Like I outline below though, the best fire starter is the one you have on you. So, it may be a good idea to get one like the magnifying lens on this list that you can put in your wallet and forget about.
Sinatra said that love is a many splendored thing, well, you can say the same about fire. Once you start to take ownership of all the parts and pieces that go along with fire making, its hard not to get passionate about the process. It’s also hard not to get infected by the many methods that can be used to start fire and carry fire or even make fire autonomous.
Just remember, it all starts with practice. If you have a fire pit outside, you should light it. You should stop buying fire logs from the department store and start using your own wood, using tinder and practicing with as many different fire starting methods as you can.
In time you will find a comfort zone within fire making where you have grown very comfortable with the aspects of starting and sustaining fire. It is at this point that you begin to retain a skill.
Oh yeah, don’t forget, all skills are perishable.
A Ferro rod is one of the most effective ways of starting a fire that you can use. It cannot be ruined by fire and if you have the right one they are really hard to break. It’s durable and, when struck, will shower your tinder with hot sparks.
The particulars are important when it comes to Ferro rods. One, in particular, is the idea of thickness and durability. Many survival kits will throw a piece of ferrocerium into a pack that is too small and too brittle. These will break and will be hard to use.
I can’t say exactly what is the best fire starter for you because it depends on your preferences and how you’re looking to use and store it. For example, something like the small magnifying tool isn’t the most practical, but if it is the one you actually have on you then it is the best.
Let me know if this page helped you or if there is anything you think should be changed below.
Corporal Wabo is a former Infantry Squad Leader with 3rd Bn 4th Marines that specialized in Mortars. In his free time, he enjoys hunting, hiking, running, shooting guns, and reviewing gear. He started this website while transitioning out of the Marines, and since has recruited several other Marines to help him work on the Marine Approved website. We are currently looking for former Marines to join the team who are interested in writing about tactical gear, survival gear, hiking supplies, etc. For more information about us or joining the team, check out the “About Us” tab.