In a survival scenario you need food, you need water and you need shelter. You also need a heat source for a few reasons. First, there’s the small matter of keeping warm. Even if you live in a more temperate climate, the nights get pretty cold pretty fast. You’ll also need a heat source for cooking and boiling water.
Now there are lots of handy little gadgets out there that can make your life much easier when it comes to getting heat and a fire going even without power from the grid. However, almost all of them have one problem in common: They tend to be bulky, heavy and impractical for travel by foot.
So that means knowing how to light a fire the old fashioned way is a skill that all survivalists should have under their belt. While it takes a bit of practice, it’s like riding a bike: once you’ve got the skill down, you’re probably not going to lose it.
Starting A Fire In The Wild: Tinder
The first thing you need to start a fire is tinder.
Tinder are very small pieces of very dry wood and also some leaves and other inflammable material. You use these as the very base of the fire because they help to get things going and don’t require a lot to get started. Think of tinder as nature’s newspaper. So hunt around for material that is very dry and fine that you can put at the base of your fire to light the next layer.
You can also make your own tinder by cutting off small pieces of wood and bark using a machete, hatchet or other tool.
Starting A Fire In The Wild: Kindling
Kindling is the next step of the game. These are definitely pieces of firewood, but they’re smaller, thinner, drier and easier to burn. Again, this is something that you can make yourself using a machete or a hatchet, something that you should absolutely have in your bugout bag (we prefer machetes because of the versatility they offer).
Starting A Fire In The Wild: Firewood
Now we get to the meat of your sandwich. For firewood we mean big logs that are going to go onto the fire to really make it roar. Avoid pieces of wood that are on the ground as these are much more likely to be damp. You want to find the driest wood possible and splitting the wood (cutting it into halves or quarters) is the best way to make it more flammable.
Starting A Fire In The Wild: Arranging Your Wood
We’ve presented the three types of wood you need to start a fire in this order for a reason: it’s also the way you want to arrange the wood for your campfire to get started.
Put the tinder at the bottom, arrange the kindling on top of it in a kind of “teepee” so that the kindling can breathe with a second layer of “teepee” made out of the main firewood around it. That’s the best way to arrange your wood so that the fire catches quickly.
Starting A Fire In The Wild: Starting The Fire
Obviously the simplest way to get a fire going that doesn’t take up a ton of room is a lighter or matches. But let’s assume that you don’t have those.
Other than rubbing sticks together – which can be frustrating, exhausting and time consuming, you can use some kind of small firestarter that attaches to your keychain. Magnesium goes up like a Roman torch and the only thing you need to have other than this little keychain attachment is a pocket knife (or some other kind of metal – but you do have a pocket knife, right) to create the spark.
Practice with your family in your backyard on a cool fall night. Not only will everyone learn a valuable survival skill, you’ll also get to spend some quality time together in front of your roaring homemade fire.
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