While a primary source of fire starting should be included in your backcountry kit, having a backup plan could be essential to survival.
Whether you aim for a Fire Drill or carry a handy multi-tool containing flint and steel for creating a spark in the wild, it is in your best interest to practice any one of these seven wilderness fire building techniques before relying on it out in the field.
Choosing the Right Kindling
In any wilderness situation where you would like to have a fire, a little dry kindling goes a long way. While there may seem to be an abundance of flammable materials in certain parts of forests and vegetative lands, if you are heading out into an area that’s a little more arid or sparse, or perhaps known for damp conditions, then packing in your own kindling can be a good idea. Dried bark and pine needles work well if you can find them, and from home you can bring along an assortment of items including dryer lint, crayons and cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly.
Flint and Steel
The use of striking steel with flint rock predates the modern matchbook, and for a long era in the history of fire making, flint and steel was the best way to get a spark. What’s nice about flint and steel is that it’s more reliable than matches or a lighter, and it’s a fairly compact tool you can place in your backpack just for emergencies. While there are many artificial flint and steel set-ups on the marketplace, one of the most utilitarian can be found in the Leatherman multi-tool the Signal, which, alongside a retractable ferrocerium rod for spark creation, also houses 18 other tools that can aid you in and out of the backcountry.
Much like the pistons that power your car, a wilderness fire piston relies on the same concept of air pressure colliding in a sealed chamber to create combustion. Or if you are out in the woods trying to start a fire, a hot ember to get things started. You might be hard pressed to assemble one of these compact tools just foraging through the wild, but you can easily create your own fire piston at home from materials found at the local hardware store or maybe even your garage.
Sunlight Responsive Objects
If you ever witnessed the neighbor’s kids out in the driveway attempting to vanquish an ant hill with a magnifying glass, you’ve witnessed the power that can be harnessed from that bright shining star above us. If you don’t feel like bringing a magnifying glass out into the wilderness, there are other objects that will have dual uses, like reading glasses, aluminum cans and even a sandwich bag full of water that can also wield the mighty force of the sun to help you start some fires.
When someone references rubbing two sticks together to create a fire, what they are most likely referring to is either the fire drill or fire plough, and with any variation of these age-old techniques, the name of the game is friction. The fire drill is pretty easy to understand on paper, but the force actually needed to create enough rubbing between your two pieces of wood is something worth practicing. While the basic technique involves a lot of patience and some sweat equity, there are variations to the drill which can make life a lot easier, including the bow drill, that will get your embers smoking faster.
Like the Fire Drill, the Fire Plough uses friction between two pieces of wood to create an ember, but unlike the Fire Drill which uses a rotating motion, the Fire Plough is more back and forth until you get your fire burning. With either of the two methods, it’s well worth your time practicing and understanding what materials work best for the quickest spark.
The ultimate Fire Drill variation, the Pump Drill involves an entire contraption that, if constructed correctly, should do most the work for you. It would be a slight struggle to assemble this complicated machine in the wild, but with the right resources you can build this impressive fire starter at home, which if anything will further impress upon you the dynamics of a Fire Drill that creates the spark you’re looking for.