Why have a Fire Kit?
Fire is one of the most basic survival elements. Yes, I know fire is not technically an element, but I think you know what I mean. A Fire Kit should be a cornerstone item to have in your go-bag, bug-out-bag, survival kit, E&E kit, or whatever you may call it.
NOTE: This post is not intended to cover general preparedness. If you are interested in those topics, go check out this post.
The ability to make fire can be a huge asset in a survival scenario, as fire can be used for cooking, purifying water, lighting, warmth, defense, etc. If you have never been in a survival situation where you needed to make a fire, it is hard to comprehend just how useful fire starting gear can be.
I won't ever need a Fire Kit
You might be skeptical that you would ever be in a survival context under which the ability to make fire would be useful. And if you are reading this post, chances are you live in a society with sufficient infrastructure to support the power grid and probably just as much infrastructure to replicate anything a fire could provide. Statistically, you are probably also correct that the likelihood of you ever needing to make a fire for survival is small. If you subscribe to this belief, then you likely don’t carry a bag packed with emergency survival supplies either.
However, as well designed and prolific as our power grid might be, it is very fragile and a serious natural or man-made event could disrupt the grid for days, weeks, months, or maybe even years. Furthermore, if you are traveling during certain seasons of the year across rural stretches of the country and your mode of transportation fails you, the ability to make fire could be the difference between life and death.
It should go without saying, but fire can be dangerous. It is your responsibility to know and understand the laws and regulations pertaining to making a using fire. It is also your responsibility to ensure that you maintain control of your fire by keeping it contained.
The following list contains items that my wife and I keep inside our individual Fire Kits. These Fire Kits are packed and staged inside another 72-hour bag that we keep in our vehicles. I like to have redundancy and alternative fire starting tools because some methods work better than others depending on the context.
1. Magnesium Ferro Rod
A Ferro Rod is probably the main item you think of when imagining a survival fire. A Ferro Rod is not flint, but it is used for the same purpose with more sparks. It is a machined alloy rod of rare-earth metals for the purpose of creating sparks to start a fire. To generate the sparks, you will need a steel scraper to strike along the rod in a quick motion while applying pressure. You probably have seen this done before, but if not here’s a demonstration.
Though it is not shown in the video, the idea is to place tinder (definition below) at the base of the rod as your initial fuel source.
Magnesium Ferro Rods are basically a ferro rod attached to a small block of magnesium. The magnesium can be filed off with a knife or file and can provide an enhanced ignition source. However, there have been very few occasions when I found the magnesium to be useful and it usually just becomes a frustrating process of keeping the shavings consolidated.
If you choose to use a magnesium Ferro Rod, I have found a great method for creating a pile of consolidated shavings. Simply take the tip of your knife and place it in the lanyard hole of the magnesium block with the hole over your tinder. Then twist the knife so that the blade shaves off piece of magnesium that will fall into the lanyard hole and collect into a pile.
Since most magnesium blocks only come with a single lanyard hole, I use a drill to add a few extra holes.
I keep an extra knife in my Fire Kit as an additional scraper for the Ferro Rod, as well as a means for splitting and shaving pieces of kindling. You want a relatively durable knife for this purpose, but I wouldn’t use a $300 Benchmade. Scraping a knife blade along a Ferro Rod is rough on the blade.
Tinder is any material that can be lit easily with a spark or friction heat and that can hold a flame long enough to ignite your kindling. Up until recently, I had either used charred cloth, petroleum jelly soaked cotton balls, or small pieces of foliage as my primary tinder.
However, I recently purchased a Tinder Wick + Bellow from Überleben. It seems pretty gimmicky at first but after using it multiple times, I can honestly say that it is the easiest method for starting a fire with a Ferro Rod. I don’t usually use the Bellow of this device since I also have a collapsible metal straw that gives me more standoff. However, this small one would certainly work.
I’m not going to insult your common sense by describing what matches are or how they are used. But there are a few things to consider when packing matches.
It is important to consider using weather resistant matches and/or packing them inside of a weather-resistant container.
In my experience, used pill bottles work well for this. I like to pack some matches, a few cotton balls or pieces of charred cloth, and a match striker inside the bottle. Then use tape to seal the lid.
If you don’t feel like making your own, there are products that include weather resistant matches in a weather resistant case.
Once again, I’m not going to explain what a lighter is. Why waste your time making a fire by primitive means when you can just use a lighter. Just be sure to pack it in a weather-resistant container.
6. Magnifying Glass
Magnifying the sun’s rays not only works for satisfying your childhood curiosity, it’s also a great method for starting a survival fire. Especially considering how compact a magnifying glass can be and that it is weather resistant. Eye glasses could serve this purpose too, but I have noticed that an actual magnifying glass seems to direct the sun’s light more uniformly and concentrated.
It was a while before I realized how useful a straw could be when starting a fire. A straw serves the same purpose as a fire bellows, by providing focused airflow.
I used to use plastic straws for this, but as you can imagine, the end of the straw will melt if you get too close. Therefore, I recommend using a metal straw for this.
There are many collapsible metal straws that are great for this. However, I believe these are only rebranded straws that were intended for those who believe plastic straws are bad for the environment. Kind of ironic how they are instead being used to start fires.
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