Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fire and Fire Kit Mentality

When I think about Fire and Fire Kits, I look at it from a few different angles as a Survival Instructor as well as a Woodsman. First what is needed for an Emergency as Preparedness is half the battle, and then what makes the most sense for use every day, and then what is the most versatile for carry all the time that will work in any situation best.
It comes down to direct comparisons of ignition sources at that point and you must compare things apples to apples in that sense. To compare a Ferro Rod to a Match is comparing open flame to spark and they are not the same, but compare a match to lighter and things are much different, so lets look at things from a proper perspective to see what we should and should not carry. Now I must throw in a statement that there is legitimate reason for anything if you are trying to practice with a primitive or period correct ignition source.

Lets look at a table and then walk through it together-
Table of Common Ignition Sources

So looking at this table we can see that if we are looking to carry something within our daily kit for Ignition the Friction Fire should be the last considered as we will need advanced skill, fair weather, and specifics for bird nest materials. A Magnifying Glass however will create an ember using the sun and is a renewable resource that is a basic skill level and can be used to extend or conserve the life of more effective or easier sources of ignition. Flint and Steel a technique used from the Iron age through the 18th Century is very viable in many ways but when compared to a modern source of Spark based ignition like the Ferrocerium rod, is not near as versatile in that the Ferro rod works when wet, is very easy to use, throws a much hotter spark, and can be used with any tinders that are used with Flint and Steel as well as many that cannot be ignited with a lower temperature spark.  Matches while giving the huge advantage of open flame are a one time use and very susceptible to wet or windy conditions. While the BIC Lighter gives the same advantage without the restriction of one use and can be easily made to operate again within seconds even if submerged in water. The BIC lighter also has the distinct advantage of being a self contained flint and steel kit that can still be utilized with char or even the lighter body to start more fires after the fuel is spent.
In reality we should always have 3 sources for ignition within our kit and to me it makes the ,most sense to get the most versatility I can from these 3 items. My choice is always the Bic Lighter (quick Emergency Fire), The Ferros Rod, extends the life of the lighter in a normal situation and works well with many tinder sources, and the Magnification Lens (Renewable and conserves all other ignition sources). Too me this is simple logic. Combine this with a HC Steel Knife that is strapped to my hip and I have a 4th Emergency source if I can find a hard Rock and make char as discussed in my teaching for the next fire in an extreme emergency.

Next Fire Mentality

Ferro Rod Tips
Making Fire with a Spent Lighter


  1. I have found that in extreme cold a bic lighter can freeze. When out on the ice I tend to go to my flint and steel or my ferro rod. I have found they excel in these type of conditions. However the bic lighter is king for most other conditions.

  2. I would also add "Weather" to the Lighter for the same reason that the match gets it despite the fact that it's not a one-shot deal.

    In high winds, even with a wind block, a person is going to go through more fuel to keep that flame going longer and that's going to decrease it's life compared to ideal conditions where a flic of The Bic does the trick. Marginal tinder is also going to eat up more fuel as one holds the open flame longer to burn off moisture in the tinder.

    Just one other observation, it seems that the two best options, IMHO the Lighter and The Ferro Rod, are also the two that have lifespans as opposed to the Magnifying Glass and the Flint & Steel method. Matches? I wouldn't even bother comparing them. Apples to oranges in this observation because they are not reusable.

    Knowing what I know today, if I could only have one source of ignition forever theoretically speaking, provided that I already had a high carbon steel knife that would provide me with spark from a rock, it would have to be the Magnifying Glass or Fresnel Lens. That is the only truly "forever" combo right there outside of crafting primitive fire kits in the field.

    Of course, my favorite is the Ferro Rod. What's not to love about them? Sure they wear out with time for me, but that's because I'm poppin' out an average of one fire per day with mine and working with marginal tinder and experimental tinders on purpose meaning that I have to scrape mine a whole lot more than the average user. If I wasn't going through my learning & experimenting phase with firecrafting right now, I'm sure that a 1/2" rod would last me or anybody for that matter who takes the time to harvest and process their tinder for optimal combustibility and who has the forethought to stow away a supply of prepared tinder for their consumption in a dry area or to carry it properly at least a couple of years.

    Good stuff Dave.

  3. Thank you so much Dave,

    I really appreciate your effort in sharing this knowlege with who wants to listen...
    You are an inspiration for all of us and I learned lot of useful stuff from your vids and your book,
    and that is unvaluable!

    Again, thank you!

    1. Dave. What do you think of the Carbon Steel version of this knife?

      Most internet reviews I find hate it but they seem to be from people who have never tried it. Seems small, lightweight, and with the carbon steel, may be able to start a fire. Would love to hear what you think or ways that you think it can be improved. I have no affiliation with this company. It’s US made. I live in Canada but am thinking of trying it myself. I’m willing to purchase it and have it sent to you for testing if need be.

  4. My favorite instructore - from Italy - Big Dave ;)

  5. Fire piston is a great fire starter and can last longer then any of them at least i think so. But anything that works fast is good too don't really matter as long as they can start a fire

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