When I was at knivesplus my friend a this topic discussion came up and he said from his experience that he's spent the money to buy a firesteel and he's spent the time trying to start a fire. Eric says that even though its cool to start a fire with a firesteel we all need to realize that we are in the 21rst in the age of technology. Why spent all that time trying to make a fire when you can use a lighter to start a fire like that. He also said that the firesteel is about $8 and he can buy a ten pack of lighters for a dollar at the dollar store. Therefore buying 80 lighters for the price of one firesteel. While he does have a point, I would have to disagree. I think that the reason we all use a firesteel is because we all enjoy tapping into our primitive instincts and a firesteel is the closest way to primitive bushcraft fire making other than rubbing two sticks together. I get more enjoyment out of building a fire instead of just starting a fire.
As I will demonstrate in my upcoming YouTube video (not yet posted!), I bring virtually ALL my methods with me. My preferred method is to use a Coleman Strike-A-Fire at the top of a well made upside-down fire.
For those who are unfamiliar with that term, your tinder is at the top of the fire, supported by the kindling, with the thickest fuel wood placed at the bottom. Since the oxygen is drawn from below, I find this style of firemaking to be the most efficient to light completely - it burns hot very quickly, so it's great for cold weather. Once the fuel wood is burning you feed and stoke the fire normally. Believe it or not, despite it being relatively popular, I did not learn this method through camping or discussing it with other trippers. I figured it out on my own based on a cigar-smoking technique (for details, ask).
I bring with me: fire ribbon, Bic lighter (2), magnesium bar with striker, firesteel, and of course the Strike-A-Fire fat matches. I am proud to say I can start a fire with no tools. Still, I say bring as much equipment as you can comfortably carry - take more than you need - but be prepared for it to fail.
If you want a more detailed explanation of the upside-down fire, let me know.
I'm with icyhap. I carry as much as my weight budget will allow. Depending on where I'm going...and how long I'm staying, I pick and choose among the following:
- Fire Ribbon
- LMF firesteel
- Homemade petroleum-soaked cotton balls (stored in waterproof container)
- Mini BIC lighter (has failed me in winter camping before...hence the other options)
- BlastMatch (by Ultimate Survival Technologies -- w/o a doubt, the finest firesteel I've used thus far)
- Magnesium bar/flint with homemade striker attached
- Waterproofed matches w/ striker (waterproof container)
- Small container filled with dry coconut fibers (from the husks)
- WetFire tinder (another fantastic Ult. Survival Tech. product!)
- Potassium permanganate [KMnO4] and small vial of glycerine (I keep these in my survival kit...KMnO4 has many uses.)
- Small magnifying glass (also stowed away in survival kit...not easy [for me, at least] but I have made a fire with one before. Patience is absolutely necessary--something I'm short of, lol)
In my car, if my wife and I ever get stranded, I want to make sure that I can take care of us...so I pack in a car survival kit:
- Everything listed above
- Extra potassium permanganate (car's antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which, along with the KMnO4, makes an instant firestarter)
- Steel wool & more than a few 9-volt batteries (electrical tape covering terminals)
- bag of tealight candles
- waxed paper
- full-sized BIC lighters (can never have too many--I store as much as I can)
- Esbit mini-folding stove with Esbit fuel tablets (smells God-awful [try not to breathe in fumes], but when you finally get them lit, they stay lit for c. 10-15 mins.)
- ziploc bag full of charred cloth & dryer lint (hey, the lint's free...why not use it?)
- 3 small containers of petroleum jelly and generic brand cottonballs
- small bag of dried pine needles and pine cones.
- lots of mini alchol pads (obviously, a multi-use item)
- I always carry a gun on me so, whipping out the Leatherman and prying the bullet out, the gunpowder propellant takes a spark very easily.
- You can always improvize with the car battery and jumper cables (Thanks Les Stroud! LOL!!)
It's also worth it to practice natural firemaking techniques...using only what nature provides [each presupposes a knowledge of how to collect decent tinder in a given region and making an ample tinder bundle]:
- fire bow (It has taken me A LOT of practice but I feel more confident with this method than any of the others below)
- Hand drill
- Fire plough (Some guys are pretty good at this. To be honest, I suck at it.)
It is interesting to watch some of the other methods employed by the survival gurus on YouTube and other websites...definitely worth researching.
Oh, by the way William...I followed suit with the modifications on my Kabar Dozier folders (#4062CB and #4062FG) after watching your YouTube video. Simple idea. Feels much better in the hand now and opens much more efficiently. Thanks!!
I use an upside down fire as well. Its easier to set up and burns the wood more efficiently, to me.
If its just me and some friends hanging out then we go with lighter fluid and a match. If Im doing it the more survivaly way, I use either my big fat firesteel rod or my blast match and some cotton balls w/ petroleum jelly.
Blastmatch plus thier fuel tabs rock. How can you argue with the wisdom of others ,when they say bring more than one type of fire starter. It's so easy to lose things and/or have one type fail. Having more than one way and the knowledge and skill to use it, could save your life. Practice when you don't "have to" have a fire.
The easiest way and still natural is flint with pitchwood (greasewood, or more commonly known as fatwood). It's works wet as well.
Make little fuzzies and spark it up!
You can also clump it and put it on a stick.
Spark it and place it in your structure.
I've had small 1 cm x 1 cm x 1 cm cubes that burn for around 3-4 minutes with flames up to 6 cm high. The resin really helps the wood burn hot.
You can pretty much find it any where with a coniferous stump. To the people that don't know, when a tree dies it loses the ability of its phloem to transport the nutrients up the tree, the sap (which contains sugars, etc). The sap then slowly get's sucked down by gravity and solidifies in the roots. Or it can just solidify and you'll get tree branch cross section with the phloem part highlighted by the color of the sap (the center).
The greasewood is usually easily spotted from the heavy scent and the amber color.
My favorite method is a PJ soaked cotton ball lit with a firesteel. If I am in a hurry though I will use a PJ soaked cotton ball and a match. Somethimes if Im having trouble I will feather a Greasewood stick and light that, that works great.
Here is a vid that I made
I see firestarting as a continuum. It goes like this
Dependable and labor-intensive-----------------------------------Iffy and quick
Sure a bow drill is a pain, but it has its place because I know that even if I have nothing besides a knife and a bootlace, I can make fire (thats assuming you have the skill to do it, and I don't claim to be an expert) I personally don't like lighters, its it not because I'm an anti-technology primitive. They're a b#$%& to use in the wind and they can run out of gas. A fire steel and a bit of tinder, on the other hand, cannot easily break and works easily in the wind.
For tinder, I generally use fatwood for non-emergency fires. If I REALLY needed to get fire NOW, I keep a supply of cotton, birchbark, and fatwood nuggets. The cotton and bark is in a waterproof container, and the fatwood works wet/dry. With those three things, a knife, and firesteel (which I always have when outdoors), I'm quite confidence that I can start a fire. I too prefer an Army model LMF firesteel. In my opinion, magnesium is worthless. Get a rod that has plenty of ferrocium, because the magnesium goes everywhere as you shave it and burns much to quickly.
In my wilderness EDC set-up, I always have
3. Mag. Glass
5. Cordage for bowdrill
6. Knife (therefore also a hand-drill, fire plow)
7. Tinder for all of the above\
8. Most importantly, the knowledge to use all of the above
Lighting the spark is really only 10% of firecraft, the other 90% is finding dry wood, correctly laying your fire, kindling your flame, and ultimately setting up camp to maximize your fire's heat. Using a primitive techniques forces you to practice that other 90%, so I think they have a lot of value