Basic Survival – Starting a Fire in the Wild
There are many different methods of Starting a Fire in the wild – all are possible if you have enough time and the materials, but you must have the basic survival knowledge and learn these skills before going out in the wilderness.
However, if you do ever find yourself in a situation where you are miles from home and need a fire urgently, your fire starting material must be readily available and your methods uncomplicated.
There have been cases where hikers, hunters, and others have been stranded out in the cold because the matches they had with them in their pockets were useless and would not light.
If you carry matches in pockets next to your body, they will absorb any moisture and perspiration, making them damp.
Any matches that are left in your backpack and exposed to humidity will also be useless as well.
As with everything, survival – preparation is the key to success – and starting a fire in the wild definitely needs preparation.
There are lots of ‘modern’ ways to fire starting, and, if you apply survival rule number two, you will never have any problems. That is, Keep It Simple.
It is essential that your basic survival skills include knowing how to start a fire in the wild by ensuring you actually carry a means to create a high-temperature spark, and have the tinder available to turn that spark into a good, workable flame.
There are many excellent survival knives that have a built-in fire starter, like the Survivor HK Fixed Blade with fire starter, that is perfect and work really well – (shown here on the right)
But, as with all survival, always carry a spare. A simple Ferro Rod Fire Starter will slip into any small space and be a perfect emergency backup.
In fact, you can also get yourself some very nice outdoor fire starting kits like the Spark-Lite Military Edition Fire Starter kit – shown here on the left –
These kits have a Ferro rod and combustible tinder in a waterproof container.
Perfect as a backup fire starter.
But, starting a fire without an ignition source is a whole different ballgame –
You will always be able to find Fire starting materials – they are everywhere – lint in your pocket, thread from your clothing and of course dry tinder made from wood.
However, you will still need to have an ignition source:
The Bow Drill Method
A bow and drill is a method that has been used to produce a hot ash ember for hundreds, if not thousands of years.
It is simply based on friction to to create a fire.
This method of starting a fire can uses various designs and raw materials but the overall basic concept is always the same –
create enough friction that will cause heat and produce an ember.
You can use a shoelace, rope discarded by others or, if you wear a Paracord Bracelet, then that is ideal (hover over link – this one even has a fire starter built in.!)
The overall concept is to try and spin the main drill, using the bow, fast enough and long enough to create an ember in the fireboard. To make a hot ember good enough to start a fire will take a lot of effort AND practice.
Make sure you have dry tinder available close to the fireboard – once you have an ember you only have to move the fireboard a bit closer to combine the tinder and ember.
Some experts will tell you to catch the hot ember under the notch in the fireboard and, using a leaf or piece of bark, move it across to the tinder.
However, moving the ember can cause it to extinguish, you can drop it or the wind could blow it away.
Move the board away and bring the tinder to the ember.
The wood file.
A much less complicated method than the bow and drill above – but will require more effort and both pieces of wood must be very dry for this procedure to work.
However, this method has been field tested thousands of times and the wood file will definitely produce a hot ember, but you must practice patience and attention to detail.
Easy, additional source of ignition.
When your in the wild, you tend to carry lots of odd things – alcohol wipes or hand sanitizers in particular. These will all contain some alcohol which, in itself, is ideal when used as an emergency fire starter.
Squeeze an alcohol wipe over some dry tinder or squeeze a drop of sanitizer on the tinder.
Use the steel and strike it against flint – this will create a spark, which in turn will ignite the alcohol and you have a flame to start your fire.
Just about any knife blade and a flint or even a hard stone and steel can be used together to create a spark. Natural forming flint is the best material to use with steel.
Even more alternative fire starter ignition methods
Take a piece of broken glass or you can even use a pair of glasses to magnify and focus a sunspot at some dry tinder – after a short while the tinder will ignite.
For the very best results, the sun should be directly overhead, but this method will generally work anytime the sun is shining, you simply have to position yourself correctly.
Another way to improvise is by using a soda can bottom as the reflective material – simply magnify and direct the sunlight to create a fire in dry tinder. You will have to polish the soda can bottom to give a highly reflective finish.
Use any piece of soft cloth to buff the metal to a high shine.
Next, position your dry tinder on the ground and move the can about until sunlight is reflecting off the can onto the tinder.
This method will take a lot of patience and a steady hand but will definitely work.
Another very quick and efficient way to start a fire in the wild is using a torch battery.
If the positive and negative terminals of the battery are ‘shorted out’ they will produce a spark good enough to ignite your tinder into a flame.
If you have any steel wool – this makes the perfect conductor and will flame up instantly.
All these methods of starting a fire will work – some better than others and some quicker, with a lot less effort than others, but the overall principle is to not over complicate things – use the simplest and easiest methods where ever possible.
I’m sure if our ancestors had ferro rods and survival knives with fire starters they would have used them too..!