It takes three components to make a fire, oxygen, heat & fuel. Below is what’s known as the fire triangle. If you take one side of the triangle away, the fire will go out. What I want to tell you about today is the bottom of the triangle; fuel. Getting a fire going in adverse conditions can be a daunting task. You need to feed a fire like a baby. You have to give it small bits at first, then as it grows you can add larger pieces of fuel to the fire.
If you were to take a match and try to light a log 8″ in diameter the match would burn out and it probably wouldn’t even make a black mark on the log. Reason being there isn’t enough surface area for ignition. The key is to get the most combustible material with the most amount of surface area which can catch on fire. By this I mean an example like the picture below, which is what is called a feather stick:
Natural found objects:
When you’re out in the wilderness you need to be aware of what is around you and begin to think about making a fire ahead of time. If you know it’s getting near sunset and you walk past object which will be able to be used as tinder gather them up. The 30 seconds it takes to pick up some fuel could be hours saved shivering later on. Remember, the most important part of getting home is maintaining 98.6 and your fire will do that.
Home Made stuff:
Sometimes it’s good to pre make some tinder and stow it away in your 72 Hour Bag. Cotton balls are a good one because they have many uses other than just tinder. You can use a lip balm like gasoline then you have two items which have alternate uses, but when put together make a good tinder. Just make sure your lip balm is petroleum based, this is why vaseline works, because at its root it’s just oil. I love the lint in a toilet paper roll trick. You make tons of this stuff just by existing, the lint takes the spark really well and you can hold the toilet paper roll to gently blow on the lint inside. It makes a great little wind tunnel, then when it catches enough the holder becomes your next larger object to be fuel. Just make one of these, cut it in half so you have two and keep it in a ziplock baggie.
Lint in a toilet paper roll
Objects soaked in Vaseline (Cotton Balls, cloth, etc.)
Cardboard or Paper
Rope or Twine
Tobacco (Smoking not chewing)
Shaved pieces of tire or rubber
I have bought tinder from stores and here are a few types. The first one is the most amazing stuff. It burns at 1300 degrees for 10-12 minutes (enough time to boil 2 cups of water), has a flash point of 140 degrees, is smokeless and odorless, it’s wind resistant, burns wet and is exothermic… WTF? What that means is that it burns from the outside in, so you can literally pick it up and put it out using your hand. Why would you want to do this? Well it was designed for military pilots who may be shot down behind enemy lines. If they felt their position is compromised they can grab the cube put it out, stuff it in their pocket without it being hot and start a fire later when it’s safe. It’s available at fast-fire.com