It’s important to maintain redundancy with fire. After air and water the next in the rule of threes is shelter, and the whole point is keeping your body at 98.6. If your core temp drops below 98.6 you will risk hypothermia and the clock begins to tick till your demise. People don’t think it gets cold in Southern California but if you’ve been trekking all day and its 90 degrees let me tell you that at night when the sun drops and temps dip into the 40’s it’s fucking cold. I don’t care who you are a 40-50 degree drop in air temp will make anyone shiver. It is possible to maintain 98.6 without fire but a fire makes your life much more comfortable and can lift a persons spirit when they get to watch “Channel 13”.
Perhaps one of the lightest tools you can keep in your 72 Hour Bag is a way to create fire and the redundancy here is of vital importance. With that in mind you should have at least 3 ways of making fire in your kit. There have been times in the field when I have had to go to a back up plan for making fire either because the winds were too high or the environment was too wet and one method of making fire wasn’t the right tool for the job.
There are thousands of ways to build a fire but we’re going to stick to several I find to work best.
One of the best buys you’ll make for your 72 Hour Bag is a Bic Lighter. I buy them by the pack and slip them in every bag I possibly can. There’s a couple tricks I learned when it comes to Bic Lighters. First rip off the child safety. If it’s one thing I’ve found is that the first thing to fail is the safety and it usually screws everything else up. You don’t need a piece of sand getting stuck under the safety preventing you from getting a flame. The last thing you want is to have your hands numb and you’re trying to pry this thing off and have your blade go through your hand. Second, wrap either duct tape, gorilla tape or electrical tape around the lighter. I’m always looking for places to wrap tape and I’m always fixing stuff so if you have tape, you’ll end up using it. But if you don’t then you’re SOL. Lastly, take a pop top and secure it to the side of the lighter with the tape, that way you have a place to clip it to your keychain or a lanyard. Here’s a good video on these tricks:
I also carry a zippo lighter in my 72 Hour bag. I’m kind of experimenting with it right now, but here’s my thesis. The zippo lighter is windproof, stays lit and strikes easily allowing you to light a fire and hold your hand away from the object you’re trying to light versus the way you have to keep your finger on the trigger with a Bic lighter. Anyone who’s owned a zippo knows the fuel dries up after a week or two of not using it so here’s what I did. I filled the lighter with fuel and took electrical tape and wrapped it around the seam where the inside fits into the outer shell. I then took the whole thing and vacuum sealed it with the vacuum sealer I borrowed from one of my Prepper buddies. I know it’s over due Clean and I promise to get it back to you! I’m going to let it sit in my pack for a couple of months and then open it up and see how it performs. I’ll report back how it worked out.Zippo 162 Windproof Armor Brushed Chrome Lighter (Google Affiliate Ad)
A second tier of protection is keeping a small wad of steel wool in your kit. The steel is soaked in oil to prevent it from rusting and when hit with a spark it will ignite easily. Another good way of making a fire if you don’t have anything that will create a spark (HINT: even when your lighter is out of fuel it’s a potential fire starter) is to take a 9 volt battery and rub the terminals on the steel wool. The battery will short out but the steel wool will begin to catch fire. The finer the steel wool you use the better it will catch on fire.
I like the Swedish Fire Tool. It works in any weather condition, creates a spark at 5500F, lasts 12,000 strikes, works even when wet, and the spark is so bright it can even be used as an emergency signal. All you have to do is swipe the metal piece down the rod towards the material you’re using for tinder.
A magnesium fire starter is another good fire tool all you do to get this one to work is to scrape off some magnesium shavings then use the striker on the other side to create the spark. The magnesium will burn at an incredible temperature making it possible to get a fire started even with damp tinder.
This little guy works a little like a lighter. You put the ip into the tinder and press the striker. It emits a shower of sparks and ignites the tinder. If it gets wet you just wipe it off and you’re good to go.
The old school tried and true method of lighting a fire is the match. If you have a book of matches store them someplace they won’t get wet. If they do get wet dry the sriker strip as best you can and run the wet match through your hair. Usually about 100 strokes through your dry hair will bring a match back to life. If you only have one paper match start at the base and gently tear it in half by bisecting the paper layers. When you pull them apart you’ll get two matches with sulphur on one side only.
There are a variety of match types, strike anywhere, windproof, paper. Any will do in your 72 Hour Bag. Just make sure you employ three different techniques for making fire. There’s nothing worse than being outside cold and wet and have no way of getting warm and knowing that three o’clock in the morning is going to roll around and just get colder. The ones shown below are a pretty good because they come in a watertight crushproof container and have a striker on the outside. But you can pretty much achieve the same result by taking a box of wooden matched and use an old pill bottle. Just make sure you put the striker on the outside of the pill bottle in a secure fashion. You don’t want it on the inside where an accidental ignition may occur and you also don’t want it to come loose and end up with out a striker.
Tinder is another topic all together and I’ll cover that in another post. Thanks for reading!