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2 Biggest Mistakes When Building a Fire

From time to time, it happens that you do not devote enough time to set up a fire and this lack of focus and effort will result in issues to keep the fire burning.
A fire survives thanks to the fire triangle (oxygen, heat and fuel): when one of these elements is missing, the fire goes out shortly.

If you’ve collected the right amount of tinder, kindling and well dried fuel wood, all you need to do is to obtain the right balance between air and heat. And now i’ll tell you the secret: you can find the right balance by leaving enough space (but not too much) between the logs.

Mistake #1: The Wood is Too Tight

If you’ve packed the wood too tight, it does not have sufficient oxygen to support the heat, therefore the temperature drops and the fire will go out.

Blowing air would keep your fire burning however it is a very inefficient way of managing your fire.

To correct this problem, try to create more space by pushing away the pieces with a green stick. To avoid completely the problem, make your fire over a green wood grid leaving an air space beneath the burning pieces.

Mistake #2: The Wood is Too Far Apart

If you place the logs too far apart, the heat is lost and the temperature is not sufficient to keep a fire burning.

To fix this issue, add kindling between the fire wood. As the kindling gets fire, put more kindling and then add wood fuel.

Sometimes you start with the appropriate distance but just because the wood is burning, the space will increase. Stoke the fire by moving the remaining wood closer or by adding more fuel.


Paying attention to the space between wood fuel before starting a fire and during its lifespan, you’ll avoid to waste your energy to light it again.

Remember: maintaining a fire is lot easier than starting a new one.


survival firecraft vaseline cotton balls

Survival Kit Component: Magnesium Stick & Vaseline Cotton Balls

my fire kit - ferrocerium rod and magnesium bar

Fire isn’t more useful than when you find yourself in a survival situation. Perhaps you believe lightning fire won’t be a problem as you always carry a lighter or matches. Lighters run out of fuel, get wet or perhaps stop working. Matches may become useless by staying in your pocket or if exposed to rain, snow or submerged in water. Never depend on matches as your exclusive method of fire starting.

Bring alternative ways of starting a fire like a magnesium stick with a sparker. The magnesium stick is straightforward to use and is great at starting fires even if the tinder is damp because it generates a flame source of over 2500°C. Believe it or not, magnesium stick is my primary fire starter even if i absolutely love primitive methods such as the bow drill.

In order to start a fire you can even use cotton balls which were soaked with petroleum jelly (vaseline). Collect dry tinder, break up the cotton ball somewhat, and put close to the tinder. Hold the magnesium fire starter stick block in one hand and the knife in the other. Scrape small shavings off along one side over the cotton ball. The scraping puts small particles of magnesium on the cotton ball.

petroleum jelly (vaseline) cotton balls on fireUsing the striker strip and the back of a fixed bladed knife apply pressure and push the knife blade along the striker toward the cotton ball. One or two sparks will ignite the cotton. A 2×2 cm ball will burn 5 to 10 minutes, long enough to ignite even a damp tinder.

Never use the back of a folding knife blade unless it has a locking mechanism. The blade can fold up on your fingers.

Remember: it’s essential to train with the magnesium stick wherever possible so during a real life emergency, you’ll start a fire faster.

curly birch handled fire striker  steel ferocerium rod

Survival Kit Component: Ferrocerium Rod

Many of us go on trips far away from the comfort of civilization without always thinking about how to correctly prepare ourselves should the worst happen. But nobody ever plans to be in a survival situation, so we should always carry a basic survival kit with us on these types of excursions.

A basic survival kit means just that. It’s a basic kit, separate from the normal provisions you would carry, because it’s something you will hopefully never use. You should consider the basic things you would need to keep yourself alive.

You should carry something to transport water (condoms without spermicide work well), something to catch or trap food, something to help keep dry (a tarp will do) and something to start fires with.

One of the hardest, yet most essential skills in survival situations is to start a fire. There are numerous ways to start fires without equipment, yet many of these methods take many years to perfect. They also often rely on you being in an environment which is suitable. For example; you could be in an environment where the ground is sodden, after many days of consecutive rain. Even after many years of practice with fire-starting techniques, you are not guaranteed to be able to start a fire in these conditions.

How to always guarantee a fire in a survival situation with a ferrocerium rod.

Two of the best items you can pack into a survival kit is a ferrocerium rod and some kind of kindling. The ferrocerium rod will give off a number of very hot sparks when struck with an object such as; a knife or a sharp stone. You should ensure that these sparks then land on your kindling. Cotton wool will work well as kindling and packs easily into a small survival kit.

Once the kindling begins to ignite, you should then try and spread the fire to the smallest and driest twigs and fauna you have been able to gather. Eventually you will be able to start burning logs and keep the fire going. Sheltering the fire and surrounding it with stones can help keep it going for many days, in all conditions.


So why is fire so important?

There are several reasons why it ranks so highly on the list of things to consider in a survival situation. The first, is obviously warmth. In a cold environment, the effect of the cold can quickly accumulate, with your core body temperature staying low throughout the day, even with the sun in the sky, from the night before. As night falls this may leave you prone to hypothermia. Which is one of the biggest killers in the great outdoors.

Secondly. It’s important for cooking food. In winter months, it may be that the only food you can find is that which you have trapped, or fished for. You should obviously cook meat before eating.

It’s also important because passing aircraft, or someone a few miles away may be able to see the smoke and come to your aid.

Amongst the other benefits are for hygiene (smoke cleanses the clothes and the body), allowing you to boil water (which can kill some harmful bacteria) and also as a moral booster.

All of this can be achieved by packing a small ferrocerium rod and a bit of kindling. Which is light to carry and only costs a few dollars.

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fire making methods

6 Fire Making Categories

There are numerous ways to light a fire but you can categorize them in 6 classes.

1. Fire By Friction

Friction methods create fire rubbing linearly or rotationally a surface against another surface.

Fire Plow

In this method a stick is rapidly rubbed against the groove of a long piece of wood to produce hot dust. Then the hot dust is transferred to the tinder, and blowed until it ignites.

Fire Saw

The fire saw method produces friction by using a piece of wood as a saw over an other piece.

Fire Thong

A strong piece of wood is kept in position with your foot, and a narrow thong of cane or other appropriate material is looped around it. The friction is generated by pulling the ends of the thong alternately so that it is sawn across the stick or post producing a fine hot dust.

Hand Drill

The hand drill method requires a thin stick to be quickly rotated with the hands against a fire board. The fire board is simply a flat piece of wood with a notch. The prolonged rotation combined with downward pressure generates a black hot dust in the nick of the fire board. The dust is properly transferred on a tinder nest and blown gradually until a flame starts.

Strap Drill

To make the hand drill method easier you can add more pressure by looping cordage between two thumbs and over the top of the fire drill

Bow Drill

The bow drill method uses a bow to rotate a spindle against a fire board. The Bow drill requires less effort because the bow transforms the linear movement of your arm in a powerful rotation, and with the free hand you can apply much more pressure downward.

Fire Pump

A fire pump is enhancement of the bow drill. A rope is coiled around the spindle to create friction on a fire board.


2. Fire By Compression

This methods uses the heat of compression to ignite a tinder. In modern days, the same principle has been used to develop the Diesel engine.

Fire piston

A fire piston is a device composed by a tube with one sealed end and a piston that can run inside the tube. The piston has a small depression where the tinder is placed. When the piston is swiftly pushed into the tube, the air is violently compressed igniting the tinder.


3. Fire By Percussion

Percussion is a kind of friction that happens in an instant.

Flint & Steel

Flint is a family of very hard rocks (8 on the Mohs hardness scale). When a flint is stricken against a piece of steel (5-6.5 hardness), it peels a tiny piece of steel off and ignite it.

Ferrocerium rod fire starters

This method is definitely the modern version of the Flint & Steel method. The flint is replaced by a hard scraper while the steel is replaced by a ferrocerium rod. Ferrocerium consists of an alloy containing Cerium, Lanthanum, Iron, Magnesium, Praseodymium and Neodymium. When it’s scraped it produce very hot (1650 °C) sparks.


4. Fire By Sun

This class of methods employs a condensing reflector to focus sun’s rays to a single point, producing an intense heat. The condensing reflector can be:

  • a lens (solid or liquid filled) such as magnifying lenses, a plastic bag filled with water or a very clear piece of ice.
  • a concave mirror such as a pop can bottom

5. Fire By Electricity

Electric Resistance

This method employs electricity on an object with electric resistance. When the object is red hot it ignites the tinder.


Electricity is used to generate a spark to ignite a gas or a fluid.


6. Fire By Chemical Reaction

There are few ways to produce fire by chemical reaction:

  • potassium permanganate and glycerin (few drops of water can accelerate the reaction)
  • acetone, sulfuric acid and potassium permanganate
  • sodium chlorate, sugar and sulfuric acid
  • ammonium nitrate, zinc and hydrochloric acid

Modern Mixed Methods

Modern fire methods as matches o lighters fall in more than a class (friction/percussion and chemical classes). Matches are small piece of woods coated with chemicals and ignited by friction. Lighters employ ferrocerium or electricity to spark butane or gasoline fuel.




Outdoor Survival: How To Start Fire With A Pop Can And Chocolate

Extreme situations call for extreme solutions. If you happen to find yourself in an outdoor survival emergency and have a pop can and a chocolate bar you’re in luck. You can make fire. That’s right, with a pop can, a chocolate bar, and tinder you can find at your location (and may even have in your pocket) you can start a fire even with no lighter as long as you have some sun. Read on to learn how simple this process is and how it could save your life in an emergency.

Materials You Need For A Pop Can Fire Starter

You can use any pop can. What you want is the bottom of the can, which you are going to turn into a reflective mirror-like surface by polishing it with chocolate. You will also need a chocolate wrapper, or bit of cloth such as a torn piece of denim or an abrasive wrapper. In addition, you need pocket lint or other tinder to catch the reflected heat from your pop can. Then you need to prep the materials and wait for the sun to come out.

How To Polish Your Pop Can Fire Starter

It’s actually easier to polish the pop can if it’s full – so save that precious liquid until later. Unwrap the end of your chocolate bar and smear it liberally over the bottom of the pop can. If it’s too hard, you can warm the chocolate it by placing it in your pocket for about 10 minutes first. You will be using the chocolate as a polish, but the denim, wrapper or piece of torn cloth you will be using to rub in a circular motion is very important. This is creating an abrasive force which will polish your dull aluminum can into a mirror-like reflective finish.

You want a clear finish free of chocolate when you’re done, but you will need to add chocolate and move your cloth around to get more abrasion over time. If there’s sand nearby you can add some in periodically to help with the shining process. In general it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour to get a good reflective surface going but the end result is well worth the effort.

How To Use Your Pop Can Fire Starter To Create Flame

Once your pop can is polished, you will need a source of tinder. However, before your get that first spark igniting you will need to collect dry branches, pine boughs, and items such as thrush, grasses, cat-o-nine tail fluff or birch and oak galls to burn. When you have your wood and grasses stacked to create the fire, it’s time to drink your pop and seek the sun.

Hold the empty, polished bottom of your pop can up to the sunlight tilted at an angle where it will reflect the sun. In front of the “bowl” of the pop can you will need to hold a piece of tinder. Paper from inside the wrapper can catch fire, or you can use a cat-o-nine tail fluff, dried grasses, or your pocket lint if nothing else is available – wind it around a dry stick and it will catch fast. Since your pop can is essentially a mirror now it will catch the sunlight and begin smoldering or get a spark of fire going. Then all you need to do is to transfer the lit tinder to your fire pile and keep it going by adding in your collected kindling and wood.



survival skille: start a fire

Steps to Make a Fire

Knowing how to start a fire is essential for cooking and keeping warm while exploring the great outdoors.

There are basically two types of fires that campers may build:

  • One type, the tepee fire, is used for cooking food.
  • The other type, the crisscross fire, is best for generating warmth and gathering around for merriment and song.

The steps for both types of fire are the same with the exception of how the logs are positioned once the fire is started.

Remember that fire safety is of utmost importance when building a campfire or a fire in the wilderness. Fires may smolder for days and then burst into huge forest fires that destroy land, homes and even entire neighborhoods – not to mention the potential in loss of life. Fire safety is covered in the last section of the article. Ensure to practice fire safety when building as well as extinguishing an outdoor fire.

As the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts teach young campers, you should always “Leave No Trace” of your fire or even that you have been in the area. Practice fire safety and be kind to Mother Earth when camping and using fire outdoors.

Items You Will Need to Build a Fire

To build a fire, you will need an ignition mechanism, such as a lighter or a wooden match, of course. When exploring the wilderness, wooden matches are great because once you have ignited the fire, you can simply throw the wooden match into the flame to dispose of it.

In addition to an ignition mechanism, you will need:

  • Tinder – Dry pine needles, dried leaves, small twigs and dried bark
  • Kindling – Small sticks around 2.5 centimeters in diameter or smaller
  • Firewood – Larger logs that will provide fuel for the fire
  • Shovel or a Digging Stick
  • Bucket with water. Or if you do not have water near your fire, collect dirt and sand.
  • (Optional) Rocks and stones – to create a fire ring

A fire extinguisher is also a good idea. However, in most cases one will not be available while you are in the wilderness. Make sure to have a bucket of water or dirt handy, though.

Do not use green or fresh cut wood. Green and freshly cut wood will smoke excessively and will not burn well. Select firewood that is dry and approximately 7 to 15 centimeters in diameter. Logs should be no longer than 50 centimeters  in length.

Clear an area of land of any debris, leaves and flammable materials. The best place to build a fire is on a spot of dirt or sand. Make sure there are no tree branches over the fire location.

How To Start a Fire In 10 Easy Steps

  1. Dig a shallow pit 10-15 centimeters deep and 1 meter across.
  2. Arrange the rocks and stones in a circle around the pit to create a fire ring. The fire ring will contain the fire and prevent the fire from spreading into the surrounding grass or ground cover.
  3. Gather the tinder, kindling and firewood and stack into three easy to reach piles near the fire ring. Make sure to keep each of the three types of fuel separate for easy access.
  4. Place a small amount of tinder in the center of the fire ring. A couple of handfuls of tinder, loosely placed in the center of the ring, will do.
  5. Light the tinder with the ignition mechanism (a lighter or wooden match). Position your body with your back blocking the wind while lighting the tinder. If using a wooden match, toss the matchstick onto the small fire.
  6. Slowly pile more tinder onto the fire. Blow on the fire, if needed, to get the tinder to catch the flame.
  7. Slowly add the smaller pieces of kindling to the fire once the tinder is burning. Make sure to keep the kindling pieces close together so that they, too, will catch the flame. Leave small spaces for air to pass through. Do not pack kindling on too fast and do not overload the tinder with kindling pieces. This will extinguish the small fire.
  8. Slowly add larger pieces of kindling to the fire. Soon, the fire will be burning with a visible flame. Once the flame is visible, you may begin to add firewood.
  9. For a teepee fire, build a teepee structure around the burning kindling pile. For a crisscross fire, begin to add the firewood in a crisscross pattern over the burning kindling pile. For the crisscross fire, add one log at a time so that the firewood does not smother the kindling fire.
  10. Add firewood as needed to keep the fire fueled.

Extinguishing the Fire

When you are finished with the fire, you need to take measures to extinguish the fire. Never assume the fire will go out on its own and never, ever leave the fire unattended.

  1. Allow the fire to burn down. If you cannot wait for the fire to burn all of the fuel, douse the fire with buckets of water. Soak any logs that have not burned.
  2. Place your hand where the fire used to be. If there is any warmth whatsoever, continue to douse the spot with water. Touch any partially burned logs to ensure that the fire is not still burning.
  3. Rake the ashes inside the fire ring to ensure the fire is completely out. Again, place your hand on the ground where the fire once was to ensure that the fire is completely out.
  4. Disassemble the fire ring and move the rocks back to their original location. Scatter the ashes and make sure the area looks the same as when you first arrived. Remember, Leave No Trace.

Outdoor Fire Safety

There are a few rules to remember when building a campfire or any type of fire out of doors.

  •  Never build a fire too close to shelters, tents, sleeping bags or anything else that may ignite. This includes overhead branches. Build the fire in a clearing with a dirt or sand floor far away from tents, blankets, clothing or other flammable items.
  • Never use flammable liquids, such as gasoline or lighter fluid, to start an outdoor fire.
  • Keep the fire small. Piling on too many logs may allow the fire to quickly get out of control.

Campfires are a wonderful way to enjoy the outdoors. Use good practice and common sense to ensure that you and everyone around you are safe when enjoying an outdoor fire.


firecraft: embers, survival  fire

A Fire Starting Primer for the Backcountry

A fire is a critical element in any backcountry survival situation. Should you find yourself in any such circumstance where your safety and survival is dependant on getting a fire going, are you ready and prepared to get the job done? Before heading out for adventures this question has to be addressed. It is always best to be prepared and trained before you find yourself in the bad situation. Take the time to spark up a few practice fires and pack the needed fire supplies before entering the wilderness.

What to Pack, and Where to Pack It

Any wilderness travel should include:

  • a knife or multi-tool,
  • extra food
  • water,
  • extra layers – including a hat and gloves,
  • navigation device such as map and compass or GPS – ideally both,
  • flashlight,
  • space bag,
  • signally device
  • fire starter with a lighter or waterproofed matches.

One thing many wilderness travelers fail to think of is where they pack all this gear. It is too easy to pack it, but then keep it in a dry bag or off the body. It is critical that many of these essentials be kept on the body in the case that if separated from a raft/canoe or method of transport you have the needed supplies. Obviously, any fire starter like Vaseline soaked cotton balls, or magnesium blocks and shavings should be kept in a baggy, then in a pocket.

Start the Fire

Your fire should adhere to the age-old adage of  location, location, location. Anticipate any condition that could occur that would impede the fire’s burn. Examples include:

  • wind tunnel areas in caves,
  • under snow-covered trees, or
  • in exposed areas where heavy rain fall may occur.

Next, dig a small pit and begin collecting small dry twigs, spruce or pinecones and leaves. Spruce and pinecones are some of the best natural fire starter you can use. If no cones are on the ground, find conifers and scrape off any pitch or gum seeping from the bark. Smear the pitch over small twigs. If you can only find green branches, strip off the bark and cut them in half to expose the inner tissues of the wood.

Stack the twigs into a teepee shape and place the spruce cones or fire starter material into the center. Light the starter and let the flames push upward, lighting the teepee. Be prepared with slightly larger twigs and branches, and place them in the conical teepee shape over the flames. It is important not to add too much to the fire as the flames could get smothered out.

As the fire gains strength, begin adding larger pieces of wood. Let the large pieces burn down so the dug out pit has a consistent pile of glowing coals. These coals emit the maximum amount of heat, necessary for survival.

Keep It Going

The coals provide the heat, and the flames provide the needed signal for any potential aircraft searching for you in a lost/survival situation. During prime search times, gather green conifer boughs and place them onto the fire. These create tremendous amounts of smoke that billows up, providing a good visual indicator of your location.

When you find yourself in any situation like this, keep calm, maintain a positive mental outlook and use your practiced fire starting skills to keep you warm, safe and alive.


modern fire triangle

Firecraft: The Fire Triangle

The Modern Fire Triangle

Three elements are all essential both to start and maintain fires: Oxygen, Heat, and Fuel. The secret is to obtain the right balance between the three.

HEAT is the usual method to start a fire. You can generate it from a spark, a chemical reaction, pressure or by friction.

To be able to create the fire, we add the heat to a FUEL. As soon as the fire begins, the heat coming from flames maintains it, and results in additional fuel to catch fire and burn. As the fire starts, you require more fuel. Begin with tiny, dry pieces that will produce sufficiently heat to then burn increasingly larger pieces.

OXYGEN is necessary to induce combustion. Eliminating oxygen is the normal method in which people extinguish fires, for example with water as well as covering them with dirt or snow. This action reduces the provision of oxygen, smothering the fire . Without having oxygen the fire dies.

If you smother the fire using an excessive amount of wood, oxygen won’t reach the flame. Should the fire dying, fan it with paper or your hands to develop a draught that feeds oxygen to it. The most economical way to provide the proper amount of oxygen to the fire is constructing a fire structure.

The Original Fire Triangle

With primitive fire skills, you will find a different 3 key components that are important as the ones in the “scientific” fire triangle: Competence, Materials, and Power.

Normally, whenever you’re making fire employing a primitive technique, all these 3 factors are well-balanced. On the other hand, if any of these is lessened, then the other factors needs to be amplified.

To provide an example, imagine you are attempting to produce a bow drill fire using poor wood. It’s still possible to achieve it, however your technique and power have to be raised.

Or perhaps, imagine you aren’t feeling particularly full of energy one day and thus have much less power than normal. In case your materials are of higher quality and you’ve got an improved level of skill, you should able to get a fire starting.

An additional situation: let’s suppose you’ve very little technique, having never ever produced fire using a bow drill in the past. Nicely, if your materials are of excellent quality, and you’ve energy, you’ll still be able to generate fire. Or maybe, if you haven’t very much strength either, and yet your materials are actually of extraordinary quality, then you can get fire. And etc ..

And lastly, assuming you have any 2 of the 3 factors, but you are definitely missing the 3rd, it might be next to hopeless ignite a fire.

To provide an example, in case you are highly trained in a specific fire-making technique, and also have plenty of strength power, but you don’t have any resources or incredibly bad resources (perhaps just water-soaked wood is accessible): building a fire is going to be unachievable or almost so.

Connecting To The Modern Fire Triangle

So keep in mind: you’ve to practice to acquire skills and competencies, you’ve to study to discover the most effective materials and finally you need to train to obtain strength. Then you’ll be able to apply strength and skill on the materials to generate heat and start a fire. Mother Earth will aid you by blowing the right amount of oxygen.

This way, you’ll be able to connect the original fire triangle to the modern one.