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#161018 - 01/24/12 10:18 AM Firestarting Tips Techniques? *****
Dave H Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 57
Loc: Charlotte, NC
Under normal conditions I have no problem getting a fire started. Of course that is not when you are going to need it the most.

We have had about 5 days of off and on rain and everything is really wet. So yesterday I took my son outside to see if we could get a fire started using only a pocket knife and few matches and whatever we could find outside. We were getting a light misting of rain at the time. I figured if I could teach him how to start a fire under those conditions he could get a fire started just about anywhwere.

We built the basic log cabin then added a platform of sticks about three inches above the soggy ground. Then we split dead sticks, that were not laying on the ground, about 1 inch thick using our pocket knives into splinters. We then made a good pile of shavings from the inside of some of the split sticks. next we used a match to try to light the shavings. We were not real successful at getting much of a fire going. Even the shavings still seemed slightly damp. I suppose we could have used larger sticks to get shavings from but the bigger the sticks the tougher they are to split especially with a pocket knife. Only after using some dryer lint did we really get the fire going.

My question is this. If in a really damp situation without wetfire, dryer lint, lighter fluid etc. is there a good way to get a fire going? What are some sources of dry tinder you might find naturally?

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#161020 - 01/24/12 10:31 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I look deep within conifers for little pockets of needles and twigs that are not damp and I also search for similar pockets in root balls, rock cavities, and the like. It may pay to start scrounging tinder before it rains, if you are out on a trip. Prepare to spend a lot of time coaxing the fire, feeding twigs at just the right moment, and gently blowing on the flames. A short length of rubber tubing is invaluable. It will take several minutes (half an hour or more), but you will eventually get to the point where you will achieve self-sustaining ignition.

Lastly, you can "cheat," and carry dryer lint, briquets, or whatever, up to and including Esbit or a canister stove. A friend of mine once got a fire started effortlessly, over the protests of the hypothermic victim we had just found, by opening a can of gelled alcohol, lighting it, and piling on slightly damp tinder. It did ignite, without any further attention - which was great, because we were quite busy with the victim.

You have framed the fire paradox quite precisely - when you need one, it will be difficult to light one. It is definitely an acquired skill. I used to be quite good at starting fires under adverse conditions, but years of carrying stoves and fool proof igniters has made me rather rusty.

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#161025 - 01/24/12 11:14 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
Blue_Ridge_Ninja Offline
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Registered: 09/09/11
Posts: 98
Loc: North Georgia
Don't wait until you stop to make camp to start gathering good tinder material. Even if it's fairly damp, if you carry it close to your core your body heat will help dry it out while on the move.

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#161036 - 01/24/12 12:09 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
finallyME Offline
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Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
You can usually find try tinder by splitting wood and using the center of the wood, that is mostly dry. But, to do so generally requires an axe/hatchet, or a large knife to baton. You can do it with a small folding saw, if you know the trick.
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#161039 - 01/24/12 12:46 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
billstephenson Offline
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Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
The shavings were a good idea, but the thickness and moisture content are variables in how easy it will be to get them to flame up.

Digging down in a bed of pine needles under a tree is a good idea for tinder, and gathering the smallest twigs you can find on deadfall is good too. But in the conditions you were in, that might take some real searching to find the driest tinder and kindling available, and that's the key to getting a fire started. Having dry tinder before you need to start a fire is not cheating, it's being prepared.

Here's how I do it:

First, gather up a big pile of sticks ranging from the thickness of your wrist to the thickness of a pencil. That's your fuel. Set aside as many smaller twigs (less than a pencil to a toothpick size) as you can while you do that. That's your kindling.

If you have cedar in the forest you're in, find the driest side of the tree trunk and lightly scrape the bark with a knife downwards towards the open palm of your other hand so that it makes a fine pile of fuzzy fibers in your hand. Gather up several big handfuls of that cedar fuzz, being sure to remove any damp strips of the outside bark. That, and/or the smallest, driest, twigs you have is your tinder.

Now, Take some sticks about the thickness of your arm and line them up laying on the ground as close together as you can. Then take the next size smaller sticks you have and lay them crosswise on top of the first ones, again, as close together as you can. That's your foundation. It gets your fuel up off the wet ground and provides a bed for your coals to start building up and adds to them once they have.

One top of that foundation build your Log Cabin with sticks starting at 1 inch thick for the first layer and slightly thinner for each layer higher. I use sticks about 10-12 inches long for my cabin. When you get your cabin about 8-12 inches high start filling it very loosely with pencil sized sticks on the bottom and smaller one as if fills up, and end up with your smallest twigs, which should be not much bigger than toothpicks. Make sure there is lots of airspace in between all those sticks. If they're stacked like cordwood they won't light off.

Once your log cabin is filled this way gently make a little depression in the twigs on the top and fill it with your cedar fuzz. Very loosely place a few more of your smallest twigs on top of that.

If you have a box or book of matches you can break off the heads of 5-6 of them and put them inside of all that with the match legs added above them. Again, make sure there is some airspace in there so your fire can breath.

Now light your cedar fuzz (or whatever your finest tinder is) and tend to it by making sure that the flame can light off some of those smallest twigs above. Have some fuzz and twigs and sticks ready to add while the fire is starting up.

Once all that tinder flames up it should start burning down into the sticks in the log cabin below it. Once that's burning good the cabin itself should start burning. Keep adding sticks a couple at a time all the while, and again, add them so they are in the flames and have some airspace under them, you can stack them crosswise or tipi style, but don't smother any flame with them.

All this time you also want to start placing sticks close to your fire to start drying them out before you put them on the fire. Once your log cabin full of sticks and twigs has burned down to coals on top of the stick foundation under it you shouldn't have much trouble keeping it going as long you keep drying out your sticks before adding them and don't smother the flames when you do add them.
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#161041 - 01/24/12 12:48 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: finallyME]
billstephenson Offline
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Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
You can do it with a small folding saw, if you know the trick.


Well.... What's the trick?? laugh
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#161045 - 01/24/12 01:14 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
Dryer Offline

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Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
That's good training! If you can make a fire in uncomfortable yucky conditions, you can make one anywhere.

What I do:
No dryer lint....it might not be cotton. Instead I melt paraffin, wad up paper towels as tightly as possible, dip/saturate, let dry with one corner protruding as a wick. One match will light a "fire bunny" and they burn for 10 minutes. I keep 2-3 of these in my kit. Esbit tabs work well too. I don't mess with firesteels and such. Book matches are normally what I use these days.
There are no conifers here. I start gathering tiny dried out/crunchy brier, toothpick size dead sticks, cedar bark, cedar heartwood, before making it to camp. Split small sticks for dry 'heartwood', or whittle down to the heartwood and make fine shavings. Once you get a BIG rats nest made, about the size of a soccer ball, then damp twigs and sticks will catch. That fire bunny will give you plenty of time to spot and correct problems.
Some people carry an auto flare. Those things will light wet wood if you start with sticks. I've also used little squares of bicycle innertube as fire starters.

Knowing how to light an emergency fire without starting aids is a great skill that should be learned. But, its quicker and safer to carry an aid of some kind.
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#161090 - 01/25/12 09:13 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: billstephenson]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Originally Posted By billstephenson
Quote:
You can do it with a small folding saw, if you know the trick.


Well.... What's the trick?? laugh


First you have to make a wedge and a baton. The wedge can be made from wood, or a rock. Then you use the saw to saw a split that you will place the wedge in, and then pound the wedge with a baton.
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#161093 - 01/25/12 09:37 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: finallyME]
Dryer Offline

Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
Then you use the saw to saw a split that you will place the wedge in, and then pound the wedge with a baton.


Is this for splitting logs or making fire? I was hoping for a fancy way to start a fire with a saw.
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#161095 - 01/25/12 09:45 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: finallyME]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By finallyME

First you have to make a wedge and a baton. The wedge can be made from wood, or a rock. Then you use the saw to saw a split that you will place the wedge in, and then pound the wedge with a baton.


I do this with a knife. baton the knife into it with the grain and then follow the knife with the wedge, as the wedge opens the wood, pull the knife out, and just continue to whack the wedge till the wood comes apart. Can use one wedge or start with a small one and work up. Good way to split clean grain stuff to get at dry wood inside.

You do need a full haft knife for it. I've also seen it done by someone who carried an old handleless meat cleaver for this purpose.
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#161097 - 01/25/12 09:54 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: phat]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By phat
Originally Posted By finallyME

First you have to make a wedge and a baton. The wedge can be made from wood, or a rock. Then you use the saw to saw a split that you will place the wedge in, and then pound the wedge with a baton.


I do this with a knife. baton the knife into it with the grain and then follow the knife with the wedge, as the wedge opens the wood, pull the knife out, and just continue to whack the wedge till the wood comes apart. Can use one wedge or start with a small one and work up. Good way to split clean grain stuff to get at dry wood inside.

You do need a full haft knife for it. I've also seen it done by someone who carried an old handleless meat cleaver for this purpose.


Which does get to what I do, if it's really awful out.

I find tinder, usually spanish moss or fine twigs underside of conifers. If there is birch - great, find a dead one. if there is cedar, get under the wet outside layer of bark and scrape with knife or rock, the resulting shaved bark is really good. cattails? awesome. dry grass, workable but hard to find when it's pouring out. Now, really, if I'm outside and know I will have to do this, I am preparing ahead of time and picking up these materiels as I walk. It's a rare thing that I all of a sudden decide "oh I need to make a fire" in the middle of a rainstorm and have *nothing*" So I usually have *some* bits of workable tinder
with me. Frankly, I almost always have a bic lighter. In the winter I may be doing this with dryer lint and a ferrocium sparker. Either way I need the rest of the stuff.

If I can find enough dry small stuff under conifers, or deadfall, break it off and get a good enough pile to get good and hot, and get it going. Once the fire's hot enough I can add wood that's wet on the outside and it will self sustain, but I need enough dry stuff first to get a decent little fire going with some coals and staying power.

If I can't find this by looking around. I will likely find some straight grain dry wood and split it as above. This make take some time, so anything I can find of small twigs or dead stuff that's dry from the underside of conifers will speed the process, but if I have to I'm splitting my way down to twigs for some of it. the key here is really to get to dry stuff.

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#161098 - 01/25/12 10:28 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: phat]
Dave H Offline
member

Registered: 06/02/10
Posts: 57
Loc: Charlotte, NC
I appreciate all the info. I agree that preperation is best. I was thinking about worst case scenario. My son camps with the Scouts. Let say he sets up camp and he (and presumably a buddy) wander away to explore some and get disoriented. Now they are lost. A great way to get found is a big plume of smoke. A fire would keep you warm and has some positive pyschological benefits as well. So if you had to start a fire with only what is in your pocket. He carries a knife and a lighter in his pocket.

I will work with him on finding the dry tinder with the many suggestions offered here.

As a parent there is a lot of comfort in knowing that your son knows what to do and how to take care of himself. As a scout leader you see that even well trained boys sometimes make bad decisions. Sometimes it takes a lot of going over things to get it though.

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#161101 - 01/25/12 11:44 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I don't understand why you guys play so nice with dead wood. i just stomp on it, drop rocks on it, or whatever, sending splinters all over the place, and then i pick up the dry ones and make the fire. My technique does a lot to relieve pentup male aggression and I am nice and warm as well....

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#161107 - 01/25/12 01:26 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 1103
Loc: Madison, AL
Originally Posted By oldranger
I don't understand why you guys play so nice with dead wood. i just stomp on it, drop rocks on it, or whatever, sending splinters all over the place, and then i pick up the dry ones and make the fire. My technique does a lot to relieve pentup male aggression and I am nice and warm as well....


That is always the first thought that goes through my mind when I hear people talking about batoning fire wood... it sure sounds like an awful lot of work. If I am gathering firewood I tend to make a lot of noise... either with a chainsaw or by yelling and smashing things.

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#161113 - 01/25/12 02:03 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
Dryer Offline

Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3591
Loc: Texas
Quote:
i just stomp on it, drop rocks on it, or whatever, sending splinters all over the place, and then i pick up the dry ones and make the fire.


Like. grin Someone once asked me why I don't carry a big knife in the even I have to make a lean to shelter from branches. Well, a big rock will bash off all the limbs I need!
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#161116 - 01/25/12 02:59 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
billstephenson Offline
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Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Yeah, stomping is my favorite way of breaking branches into manageable pieces. If it's too big to break up that way, and if it's really good fuel, I'll move up to taking a limb and breaking it between two trees that are close together. If it's too big for that I look for other wood.

I have friends that like to drag a tree trunk or big limb into a fire and scooch it in as it burns. I'm not a big fan of that. Branches burn better in a campfire and you can regulate the heat better with them. Adding a combo of thin and thick branches will keep a fire burning hot for a long time with no fussing. Branches also burn down to ash and small embers which are easy to put out. I've seen logs smolder for days after a campfire was left alone.

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#161127 - 01/25/12 07:55 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
phat Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By oldranger
I don't understand why you guys play so nice with dead wood. i just stomp on it, drop rocks on it, or whatever, sending splinters all over the place, and then i pick up the dry ones and make the fire. My technique does a lot to relieve pentup male aggression and I am nice and warm as well....


when the dead wood will cooperate I'll certainly do this..

but try getting small size stuff out of dry large driftwood, and the caveman technique will only leave you exerted and tired smile

It really depends on the wood you've got, whether or not you can break it, and how wet it is.

However you remind me of a time in a BC backcountry campground where I walked in and set up, and the two other newb groups there (it was pouring) complained there was no wood, and they didn't have a "hatchet" - I went to the stream bed, hauled up 4-5 large dry avalanche kills that had washed down it, and proceeded to simply swing them overhand onto a rock to break them into pieces small enough to go in the steel "firepit" - made a fire, and then rigged my silponcho over the seat - boiled water for tea and waited - didn't take long for them to come over and look forlorn (I did share my dry seat and heat... silly buggers)

but back to the original topic - I've seen scouts get hurt doing silly stuff to break firewood - and while I'm a big guy and have the upper body strength to overhand a 6 foot log and break it (and know when to let go to not whack my hands) - most 11 to 13 year olds really don't. and so then end up jumping on stuff or doing silly things.. so they may need to be "coached" a little on caveman wood breaking methods.


Edited by phat (01/25/12 08:03 PM)
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#161129 - 01/25/12 08:13 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: phat]
Jimshaw Offline
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Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
phat said, "It really depends on the wood you've got, whether or not you can break it, and how wet it is."

It is important to recognise that lighting a fire under dire circumstances may not be possible and depending on it may be fatal. NOT to mention that national park, forest, etc, regulations may prohibit wood fires and the cutting of trees. I mean I always backpack with a chainsaw grin and I'm sure you do too, BUT I remember a certain Oregon rain forest with 8 foot diameter douglas firs and nothing else and nothing would burn without gasoline to get it started and my chainsaw couldn't attack that.

or... and I hesitate to describe this, but I did use the word dire. IF you can collect a bunch of sticks and I mean under 1/4 inch diameter, even soaking wet, you can use a campstove to light a campfire, and obviously white gas would help a lot but is quite dangerous used as "Boy scout water". Set the stove on a level spot where you can grab it quickly and light it. Put a loose pile of sticks over the stove that at least a foot thick. As the heat of the stove comes up through the pile it will dry the thin wood and start it on fire. Maybe you can lift the edge of the pile now and be ready to pull out the stove before it EXPLODES, yet getting the maximum use of it to get the pile of sticks to dry out and burn. After that you better have a bunch more sticks, but without some bigger wood you are better off crawling into a hole.
Jim
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#161136 - 01/25/12 09:14 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Jimshaw]
Steadman Offline
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Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 514
Loc: Virginia
Couple thoughts on technique:

1) candle stubs work great for firestarters, if you thought to bring them. So do the newspaper rolls tied in kite string, cut into 2" lengths, and then soaked in wax. Using these cheater methods undermines firebuilding skill development, but they are really useful when conditions are bad.

2) I prefer a small log cabin/ lean to for my initial tinder, graduating to a tepee/star type fire after I get initial ignition and burning of the tinder (going from the 1-2mm sized stuff off the underside of the pine tree to kid finger sized wood to adult finger sized wood and then on up - this is an incrimental process).

The "build a big log cabin and watch it burn" technique is too finicky and prone to failure for my taste (or at, least, I don't have the right skill set to make it work). Keeping tinder/burning small stuff close together and gradually expanding the fire by adding wood of the right size (at the right time) seems to be a more fool-proof way to proceed, in my humble experience.

However, Bill I REALLY like your idea of a wood base to the fire. I've usually tried to just keep the tinder off the ground in the lean to/log cabin starter, and count on the fire to dry out the ground.

3) For breaking wrist-calf sized wood, two trees set closely together works well to set up a windlass type system for breaking wood. Insert the downed tree into the two trees, and walk forward to break off pieces. Much safer than bashing, and effective on wood that won't break after being stomped. This is not LNT, but neither are effective fires for warmth and cooking.

The inherrent difficulties in building fires with natural tinder is one reason to have Scouts PRACTICE this skill on a regular and routine basis, particularly when new. I suspect that this is a reason for the timed contests in making a fire to burn a string suspended off the ground at camporees and such. Having them cook over the open fire is a way to increase the incentives to learn their craft well, and to remember how to do it when it counts for more than just a meal.

Steadman

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#161137 - 01/25/12 09:39 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
billstephenson Offline
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Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Do you have "Fatwood" there? I'm pretty sure I met someone that knew somebody from SC that had a stump of it in their yard. That's sort of close to you wink

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fatwood

My neighbor was telling me old cedar stumps here will burn just about as good. We have them all over the place here. I know some are mushy, but others are hard as rock. If you do have fatwood, teach your kids to identify it. Good fatwood will light off when its been wet. I'm pretty sure it's waterproof.

Now that I think about it, a few years ago I found a small old cedar stump and tap root that had worked it's way onto the surface. After my fire was going and I was done cooking I put it on the fire and that thing burned like nothing I've ever seen before, and for longer than any wood I've ever burned. And it gave off a black smoke too. I must've stumbled on to some cedar fatwood. I don't think I'd even heard of fatwood at the time.

I'll have to go find some old cedar stumps and see how easy a piece is to light off. There might be cedar fatwood all over around here. It's rained all day here so tomorrow will be a good time to test it smile
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#161139 - 01/25/12 10:55 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Steadman]
billstephenson Offline
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Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
The "build a big log cabin and watch it burn" technique is too finicky and prone to failure for my taste (or at, least, I don't have the right skill set to make it work). Keeping tinder/burning small stuff close together and gradually expanding the fire by adding wood of the right size (at the right time) seems to be a more fool-proof way to proceed, in my humble experience.


I've played with different arrangements to start campfires a lot, and I've observed others a lot too. There are lots of ways to set them up that work good, and most don't require as much fussing around as that one.

The advantages I've found with this arrangement are that once the tinder is burning you shouldn't have to mess with it at all, the fire should take off fast, get hot fast, burn hot a long time, and have a good bed of coals that will last awhile before it flames out.

The disadvantages are you have to sort by size, and break to length, a lot of sticks to set it up, and then you have to build it.

But sorting your fuel supply is something I've found pretty important to getting a fire going quickly anyway. You don't want to be futzing around trying to find more good tinder while what little flame you have is dying out.

This one takes some fiddling to build before you light it, but I think it's worth learning and practicing because it has consistent good results and it fairly well demonstrates the basic rules of making a fire, Tinder-Kindling-Fuel-Airspace. It sort of forces them in the building process too. If you try and stuff too many sticks in your log cabin it will fall apart wink

I take the time to do it because I can light it easily when I'm ready and then sit back and relax awhile.

I guess another tip worth mentioning and teaching the kids would be to mix your wet wood and dry wood while you keep your fire going. Once I have a fire going I'll often switch to adding fuel in a tepee arrangement. That works really good with damp fuel because you can tepee the bigger wetter sticks in the coals and keep the flames up with smaller sticks under them until they dry out enough to start burning. Once you have a good bed of coals you can burn some pretty wet wood doing that. I've had big billows of steam coming off my fires doing that smile




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#161162 - 01/26/12 10:00 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Originally Posted By Dave H
I appreciate all the info. I agree that preperation is best. I was thinking about worst case scenario. My son camps with the Scouts. Let say he sets up camp and he (and presumably a buddy) wander away to explore some and get disoriented. Now they are lost. A great way to get found is a big plume of smoke. A fire would keep you warm and has some positive pyschological benefits as well. So if you had to start a fire with only what is in your pocket. He carries a knife and a lighter in his pocket.

I will work with him on finding the dry tinder with the many suggestions offered here.

As a parent there is a lot of comfort in knowing that your son knows what to do and how to take care of himself. As a scout leader you see that even well trained boys sometimes make bad decisions. Sometimes it takes a lot of going over things to get it though.


Being a scoutmaster, I would say first, get the kid a whistle. If he wanders off, he is much more likely to be found by blowing a whistle, then lighting a fire. But, it is still a skill he needs. I have noticed that scouts need a lot of training before they understand how to get a good fire going. Actually, the same applies to adults as well. Practice.
To add to that, it is important that he carry a lighter AND matches. He also needs to know how to properly use both. I let my scouts play with matches (with safety in mind, of course). They need to see the problems that matches have, and how to overcome them. The same with lighters.


Edited by finallyME (01/26/12 10:03 AM)
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#161196 - 01/26/12 04:27 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: finallyME]
OregonMouse Offline
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Of course those of us who have used stoves instead of campfires for years do need to get out and practice lighting campfires once in a while. I discovered this after trying to show off my (unfortunately rusty) "one match fire" skills to my granddaughter. blush

I've usually used the tipi method rather than the log cabin method. As long as there's enough air space between sticks, it doesn't seem to matter.
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#161277 - 01/27/12 11:49 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: billstephenson]
Dave H Offline
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Registered: 06/02/10
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One of the nice things about being in Charlotte NC is that within a couple of hours drive we can be in the mountains or on the coast. Some times I can find fatwood but not always. Pines and cedar can be plentiful but sometimes they are nowwhere to be found, especially in the older hardwood forest. When I'm in a pine forest getting a fire started is not usually the issue as much as fire control.

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#161313 - 01/27/12 07:20 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
tybee Offline
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Registered: 01/03/12
Posts: 19
Loc: coastal georgia
i'd always heard that particular pine substance pronounced "fat lighter'd". some northern friends of mine say they don't ever find it in the woods but it's not difficult to locate down here if one is in an old pine forest.

as to learning how to build a fire, when the kids were small, i used to challenge them to build a one match fire in the back yard fire pit. if they could get a fire going, it won a buck. if not....i could invent some more chores. smile
they got pretty good at it after a while. knowing that most of the effort is getting the correct amount of tender, small sticks and medium sticks on hand will serve them well. maybe.
i also prefer the "foundation of wood" to build the fire on top of. that technique also works well in a wood burning stove - the type you heat your house with - as well as it does building a camp fire.

another fire starting tip, a bit heavy for the back packers but i yak/canoe camp a lot so weight isn't as much of an issue, is to take match light charcoal briquettes, line three of them up, wrap in several layers of newspaper, wrap with string and store several of those packs in a plastic bag. you can get a pretty good fire going quickly with the three briquettes. by the time the fire is going good enough to cook over, that chemical smell is long gone.
i tend to take one 3 briquette pack for every campfire i plan on starting. the chief coffee maker really appreciates that when she arises before dawn to start the perculator. i do have to provide the wood so i gather up a "morning fire" worth of lumber before dark.
it's worth it to have that first cup delivered when i finally roll my carcass out of the tent.

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#161316 - 01/27/12 08:03 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: tybee]
oldranger Offline
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If you are fortunate, in the morning, the still glowing coals from the night before will readily spring to life with only minimal encouragement. My ultimate experience was one evening in the desert where our principal fuel was Desert Ironwood, a very dense, heavy wood. In the morning, all that was necessary was to blow away a light cover of ash. The coals were still perfect for cooking with no additional attention.

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#161325 - 01/27/12 09:25 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
Kent W Offline
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Registered: 10/15/09
Posts: 607
Loc: IL.
Iron wood is extreamly hard. In the midwest Osage Orange comonly known as Hedge is the midwest iron wood. Unfortunatly, it is not as common as it was 20 or 30 years ago. most of the old hedge rows are long gone that once lined the fields! Farmers want to plant every square foot! The GPS sytems allow this for them without even leaving fence rows at all to follow! The Plow drives itself these days and the farmer can sleep till its time to turn around!
Hmm no wonder we have no more small game! No Habitat perhaps?
Enough of my soapbox, Happy Trails

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#161347 - 01/28/12 05:35 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Kent W]
Gershon Offline
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One area we camp has a lot of dried out cow patties as it's open range. They burn real well without smoke or odor. And they last a long time. We don't use them much, but it's a good option if that's all there is.


Edited by Gershon (01/28/12 05:36 AM)
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#161440 - 01/29/12 09:19 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Gershon]
Barefoot Friar Offline
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Registered: 01/23/09
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Loc: Houston, Alabama
Originally Posted By Gershon
One area we camp has a lot of dried out cow patties as it's open range. They burn real well without smoke or odor. And they last a long time. We don't use them much, but it's a good option if that's all there is.


I know people have been doing this for thousands of years.

But the thought of using dung to fuel my cooking fire is just... ewww.
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#161442 - 01/30/12 12:02 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
oldranger Offline
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I probably shouldn't get too clinical, but remember that the best dung for fuel is herbivore - elephant dung is probably better even than cow dung, because elephants process the cellulose more inefficiently than cows. Carnivore dung (that's us!) isn't very good at all.

When you need fire, you need fire. Our ancestors would have never crossed the Great Plains without buffalo chips.

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#161456 - 01/30/12 10:15 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
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Originally Posted By Barefoot Friar
Originally Posted By Gershon
One area we camp has a lot of dried out cow patties as it's open range. They burn real well without smoke or odor. And they last a long time. We don't use them much, but it's a good option if that's all there is.


I know people have been doing this for thousands of years.

But the thought of using dung to fuel my cooking fire is just... ewww.


The worst part is all the bugs that crawl out of it. Still, they are good eating.
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#161466 - 01/30/12 02:20 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Barefoot Friar]
phat Offline
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Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By Barefoot Friar

But the thought of using dung to fuel my cooking fire is just... ewww.


Dried dung from a herbivore is usually fantastic. there's pretty much no more biological activity once it's dried out, so it's really no worse than burning grass or wood - and it smells a *lot* better than burning grass..

I've done dried cowflop fires and they're actually really good - as long as the cowflops are nice and dry. Seriously.. not gross at all... Think of it like burning particle board that has no carcinogenic glue and crud in it.

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#161482 - 01/30/12 09:04 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: finallyME]
Steadman Offline
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Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 514
Loc: Virginia
I'll endorse the whistle idea. I "bell" all my kids when I take them out into the woods, and tell them what they are supposed to do if they mess up and get seperated (hug a tree, blow three times, wait, listen, blow three times).

Hey, question for all the SAR bubbas as I drift a little here - is it one whistle to say "I hear you, stay where you are, I'm coming to you" and two whistle blasts to say "come to me" - or do I have it reversed? I want to make sure I'm teaching them right up front to save issues later.

Sincerely

Steadman

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#161494 - 01/30/12 11:41 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Steadman]
finallyME Offline
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Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Yeah, I "bell" my kids as well. I usually have to give them 10 minutes or so of "free time" with the whistles to let them get it out of their systems.

And, by the way, whistles make great gifts for nieces and nephews as well. Make sure to get the really loud ones for them though. It is the gift that keeps on giving.
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#161495 - 01/30/12 11:59 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Steadman]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
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Loc: California (southern)
My two cents worth - If I am out searching and I hear someone tooting on a whistle, I would make tracks to check out the situation. I wouldn't worry about one or two whistles and their different meanings. Three signals, or three of anything is generally a signal for help, but even that can't be taken too literally. Could you imagine thinking - "they only blew their whistle twice - they must be fine, so we won't check them out."

The important thing is your kids, if they are ever lost or in trouble, should do everything to make themselves as conspicuous as possible (short of setting a forest fire) and attract attention. Don't sweat the details....

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#161518 - 01/31/12 10:31 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
lori Offline
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Also important to not use whistles like toys. Had resources diverted from a search by that kind of behavior in yosemite last year....
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#161525 - 01/31/12 02:23 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
Steadman Offline
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Check. Reason I'm asking is that when I signal back to them (I also carry a whistle) I want both of us to be clear on what I'm telling them to do - and to have that set of signals be consistent with the SAR community.

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#161526 - 01/31/12 02:35 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dave H]
aimless Offline
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I am surprised that no one has offered this solution to the problem of starting a fire in very wet conditions. It weighs more than a vaseline-soaked cotton ball, but when it comes to effectiveness it is in a class by itself. Seriously, if you know ahead of time you may be needing a fire and that a fire will be exceptionally difficult because of wetted-out fuel, this is the best tool for the job.

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#161533 - 01/31/12 04:16 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: aimless]
OregonMouse Offline
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Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Why carry the extra 7 oz. when you can (if done carefully) use your canister stove for the same purpose? My canister stove (Primus Micron Ti) weighs 2.4 oz., and I can also cook on it! I'd consider that torch a car-camping item!

If it's that wet, I won't bother with a fire anyway--I'll set up my tent, get out of my wet clothes and crawl into my sleeping bag instead!

I carry an Esbit tab just in case--it works really well to dry out kindling and could be used as fuel if I run out of isobutane. Hand sanitizer works, too, and I always carry that.


Edited by OregonMouse (01/31/12 04:22 PM)
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#161535 - 01/31/12 04:21 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Steadman]
oldranger Offline
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I don't believe there is any generally accepted protocol beyond the "rule of three" indicating distress. If there is, it is a very recent development. Generally, the best course for anyone who is lost is to stay in one spot until reached by someone who can assist them.

After all, until you are on scene, you can't give good advice. Many time people are incapable of further travel, either because of injuries or impassible terrain features.

Lori' comment about not treating the whistle as a toy is excellent. It should be an emergency device only.

I personally would also equip them with a signal mirror. It is light, cheap, and incredibly effective, with a much wider range than a whistle (as long as the sun is shining). The whistle and mirror make a very good combination.


Edited by oldranger (01/31/12 04:27 PM)

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#161537 - 01/31/12 04:25 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
OregonMouse Offline
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I have really worked on my grandkids on this. Each has a whistle which they absolutely must have around their necks any time they are outside the tent. Before the trip, we practice the 3 toots ("Help, Come Quick") and they are warned never to use the whistle unless it's an emergency. They take this pretty seriously!

Be sure the whistle is the loudest you can find! A lot of so-called "survival" whistles can't be heard more than about 100 yards away!
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#161541 - 01/31/12 04:45 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: OregonMouse]
TomD Offline
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Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
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The couple in the story about being rescued on Rainier that I posted in the Winter Forum had a whistle-that's how the SAR team (who were looking for someone else) realized they were not other SAR volunteers and were instead, coming off the mountain in trouble.
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#161561 - 01/31/12 08:15 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: aimless]
Jimshaw Offline
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Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
aimless
I was camped along a river in a rain forest in Oregon and we collected quite a bit of quarter inch diameter firewood which my partner built into a teepee fire. He then used up 8 ounces of alcohol trying to light it. Perhaps due to his efforts, I was able to light the fire with my gigapower torch that I brought for the occasion. I used almost an entire bottle of fuel getting the fire started so I could cook steaks over it. It would have been far more efficient to have cooked in a pan.

I have used the torch to warm a titanium cup full of water for coffee, but you have to be careful not to burn yourself.

anyway - even a gigapower torch is not adequate to start a fire someplaces without an axe and chain saw to get to dry fuel. Its important to realise that its a waste of time to even try to start a fire someplaces - go to plan B.

I mentioned elsewhere about how to light a fire with a small gas stove. Its dangerous but effective. Perhaps using an esbit is about the best most effective method of getting some real heat rising through a pile of fuel. If you carry anything for fire lighting besides a lighter or matches, you may as well carry a couple of esbit instead. atleast on short trips.
Jim
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#161565 - 01/31/12 09:54 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Jimshaw]
Steadman Offline
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Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 514
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Wow. I assume you were starting the fire small... I don't think I ever camped anywhere that wet...

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#161567 - 01/31/12 10:01 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
Steadman Offline
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Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 514
Loc: Virginia
I need to think about that. I had a mirror in my gear (part of the Kelty Kid Carrier) that was really useful for checking on my kids while I was giving them a ride, and I realized I wasn't using it for anything when I strapped it on to my backpacking rig. How often do signal mirrors convert the "lost" into "rescued"?

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#161576 - 02/01/12 06:16 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Steadman]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Statistically, truth to tell, not very often. But that doesn't mean they are not effective. Most people don't carry, or use them.

However, a signal mirror easily has a range of around twenty miles, much greater than a whistle. And a mirror flash is difficult to overlook, particularly if the signaler is persistent. Most of the use occurs at sea, where a mirror is often included in life raft survival packs.

Theoretically, you can send Morse code with a mirror. We had one case where a party was sending SOS mirror flashes. The people who noticed his flashes only saw random flashes, but that was enough to call SAR and check out the scene -just about the same scenario that you often see with whistles.

I have used a mirror to indicate to a helicopter about to take off easily eleven miles away, our precise location in the mountains above Tucson. That makes for an easy, routine, no sweat mission, which is a good thing.

An actual signal mirror is versatile and can be used for other purposes. Conversely, many items can serve as mirrors, particularly mirror equipped compasses.

I have spent a lot of time in the desert Southwest, where th sun shines a lot. I dare say they are not quite so useful in less sunny areas, but I really do find them useful and worth carrying.

Have we (me) ever drifted this thread!


Edited by oldranger (02/01/12 06:19 AM)

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#161605 - 02/01/12 09:53 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: oldranger]
Kent W Offline
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Registered: 10/15/09
Posts: 607
Loc: IL.
My last trip in the smokies first week of april last year i learned a lesson. I saw posted earlier dont wait to make camp to find tinder. I did have some dryer lint in a ziplock. Guess what it wouldnt light? Was raining and snowing after a tough night of severe storms hail and rain. Turned to snow bye morning. we hiked higher all day in consistant snow. On way up in afternoon around 4000 feet it was sunny and breezy for a hour or two. During this time i started grabing small handfulls of dry lichens off the side of trees! I stuffed them in my pocket. Guess what at camp later in wind and cold and 6 inches of new snow on the ground! Lichens not lint started our kindling to a nice warming fire! Yes we had to resort to using a bit of my sons stove alcohol, but for some reason alcohol and lint wouldnt light? Lichens and alcohol did. Rest of trip we grabbed dry lichens wenever we could find them and stuffed in a dry pocket! I would have been fine without a fire that night, but it sure makes ya feel more secure in inclement weather! Attitude helps at tough times. Happy Trails


Edited by Kent W (02/01/12 09:54 PM)

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#161608 - 02/01/12 10:47 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Kent W]
DTape Offline
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Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 666
Loc: Upstate NY
Dryer lint was a good fire starter when (if) people dried cotton almost exclusively. The more synthetics in the lint, the less effective it is.

Myself, I never use the stuff. I collect birchbark from the ground as I hike and stuff it in my pockets. In my fire kit is a small amount of birchbark which I had collected on previous trips and is nice and dry.
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#161616 - 02/02/12 09:26 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: DTape]
phat Offline
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Loc: Alberta, Canada

I don't have any problem with dryer lint - but I certainly don't try to soak it in stove alcohol, and it's really not something to get kindling going - a small amount, fluffed up, is good to hit with a spark to get a fire started, but I need a little more than that, grass, birchbark, fine conifer twigs, etc. to get going from that. I do carry it (and/or cattail fluff) in winter for this purpose. essentially though, it is something to catch a spark, not something to act as a "fire starter".
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#161638 - 02/02/12 06:12 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: phat]
OregonMouse Offline
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Registered: 02/03/06
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I thought dryer lint was supposed to be soaked in paraffin (the kind used to seal jelly jars).

As I remember from my years back east, birch bark is the perfect fire starter. Unfortunately, it doesn't grow out here.
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#161647 - 02/02/12 08:37 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: OregonMouse]
Steadman Offline
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Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 514
Loc: Virginia
I'll argue that a candle stub is an easier helper. Why?

You have the consistent flame to dry off and get the small (pencil lead or twice pencil led size) tinder going. Once that goes, you can get pencil sized stuff going. And then you can work your way up bit by bit to wrist sized branches; which make the good coals you want to cook on. happy

All carrying more robust firestarters helps you do is skip some of the wood collection steps necessary to get a fire going when you don't have them (a section of newspaper lets me skip to logs in my home fireplace all the time).

The trouble with more robust firestarters is that often they fizzle out before you get sustainable ignition in the wood (think of the newspaper example) - and then you are back to square one. cry

Generally speaking, I've found that building the fire slowly helps to ensure success - and garunteed my dinner when I was a Boy Scout.

The big advantage of a candle is that if your initial blaze doesn't destroy it, will keep going for a while, helping you to work through issues when wood won't light.

Has anyone empirically worked thought the weight merits of the various methods of firestarting?

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#161661 - 02/02/12 11:45 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: OregonMouse]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
The best natural firestarter in my experience is Utah juniper bark. It is nice and stringy, very fine - lights easily from a match,and burns readily. I don't think I have ever used birch bark.

Too bad, OM, I don't think [/i]Juniperus utahensis[i] grows up in your neck of the woods.....

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#161662 - 02/02/12 11:49 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: OregonMouse]
Dryer Offline

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Loc: Texas
Quote:
thought dryer lint was supposed to be soaked in paraffin (the kind used to seal jelly jars).



It can be. It catches a spark easily if not wax soaked but burns quickly. A plain old cotton ball works much better.
I like my paraffin saturated paper towels much more that lint. It's more consistant. They burn longer and are easier to light. I don't carry a sparker. Gimme a match!
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#161665 - 02/03/12 12:01 AM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Dryer]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
You would think by now we would have official standards for dryer lint, so that the inferior grades could be kept off the market......

I harvest mine by the light of the full moon, after we have run a load of all cotton items.

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#161712 - 02/03/12 04:10 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Steadman]
OregonMouse Offline
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Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
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[quote]All carrying more robust firestarters helps you do is skip some of the wood collection steps necessary to get a fire going when you don't have them/quote]

I always thought the purpose of a robust firestarter is to dry out wet kindling enough to get a fire going. If your kindling is dry, you don't need a firestarter!
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#161714 - 02/03/12 06:02 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: OregonMouse]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
It seems to me that starting a fire quickly requires one to gather fuel of various sizes, regardless of the firestarter involved. The flame will propagate much more quickly if a nice "fuel ladder" is available. Of course, it propagates even quicker if you just crack the valve on your canister and apply a match - I am getting lazy in my old age....

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#161990 - 02/11/12 01:59 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: OregonMouse]
phat Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Originally Posted By OregonMouse
I thought dryer lint was supposed to be soaked in paraffin (the kind used to seal jelly jars).


If you want to use it as a lots of heat sort of firestarter that you light with a match or lighter, sure. then it's just acting as a wick for the paraffin. At that point, carry a few birthday candles.

I don't use it as that, I use it as the thing to catch a spark from a ferrocium rod firestarter (i.e. a "light my fire"). It's ususally then the target in the middle of a "bird's nest" of dry grass, twigs, birchbark, etc.

I don't use it normally in the summer, I do in the winter (along with the striker) because I can make a fire in 20 below zero without taking my gloves off.. Can't do that with a bic lighter or matches. not enough dexterity.

Quote:

As I remember from my years back east, birch bark is the perfect fire starter. Unfortunately, it doesn't grow out here.


We do have it here, although sporadically. so it really depends where you are as to whether or not you have it available.



Edited by phat (02/11/12 01:59 PM)
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#162003 - 02/11/12 03:48 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: phat]
Kent W Offline
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Registered: 10/15/09
Posts: 607
Loc: IL.
Old Ranger, your comment about harvesting dryer lint! Too Funny thanks for making my day!

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#165878 - 05/14/12 12:33 PM Re: Firestarting Tips Techniques? [Re: Kent W]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Finding tinder is the toughest part. I think of tinder as an extension of the match. It can be dry leaves, grass, very tiny dead pine twigs. The function of tinder is to light the very small kindling above it.

The next level is kindling. Pencil lead size at first and building up to pencil size. Twigs laying on the ground in a campsite are almost always wet. If possible, think gray without bark. Often next to a stream is a good place to find dead gray wood. Stomp a bigger piece if it's wet to expose the dry inside. I make a teepee over the tinder with the open side towards a light breeze or 90 degrees to a stronger wind.

Finally, I make a cabin around the teepee with gray sticks.

Personally, I like to build the whole structure before lighting anything.

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Lite Gear Talk - Featured Topics
Boil in a bottle?
by DustinV
07/23/21 06:29 PM
Gas Stove Vs Wood Stove Cooking System Comparison
by walkingnatur
07/19/21 07:52 AM
smartwater vs bladder for water
by nwguy
07/15/21 03:45 PM
Backcountry Discussion - Featured Topics
Is it dangerous to burn lantern fuel in the open?
by 4evrplan
07/26/21 02:21 PM
Feeling young again in our National Parks
by 41253
07/17/21 07:49 AM
How we take a Warm Shower in the Wilderness?
by walkingnatur
07/03/21 04:17 PM
Make Your Own Gear - Featured Topics
Carrying My Dog LOL
by Hey
07/07/21 09:20 PM
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