What Is Needed To Start A Fire

To start a fire you need three elements; Heat, Fuel, and a Gas (oxidizing agent usually oxygen). Since Nature provides Oxygen everywhere we go, and fuel is typically abundant (wood, leaves, etc), the only element we really need to provide is Heat. Heat is the hardest of these three elements to generate, so we need to find the simplest method for creating it and igniting our fuel quickly and easily.

Heat Generators

There are several methods for generating heat and they vary depending on what supplemental fuels we use to aid in getting our fire going quickly. First we will focus on the top three heat sources, then we will cover what is the best way to prepare for a night in extreme weather. Why extreme weather, because in the Mid-West we have rain, high winds, snow, subzero temperatures, and nights with 30 – 60 below Wind Chills. Now try starting a fire in those Winter conditions, it’s tough as I have done it and I will explain what works best. Also it helps to practice your technique (in Rain and Winter conditions) multiple times before heading out to the wilderness.

Magnifying Glass

A magnifying glass is light to carry and does not take up much room, but it ranks third (#3) out of our top three heat sources. Why, because you need a sunny day, dry conditions, and a good dry fuel that burns easily. This method also takes time and when it’s below zero it does not take long before you’re too cold. If you are going to use a magnifying glass, even as a backup heat source, I would recommend you make some char cloth for a fuel supplement. When purchasing a magnifying glass look for one that comes with a Compass, as this is a must tool for all Outdoorsmen.

A 9 Volt Battery

With a 9 Volt Battery as our heat source we will look at using Find Steel-Wool as our fuel. By shorting the steel fibers across the positive and negative terminals of a small 9 volt battery you can generate enough current to bring the steel to its ignition point. Steel Wool is easily ignited, weather it’s in rain or the worst Winter conditions. However, it takes special care by continuously blowing on it, and it does not burn long. You will also need to warp a dry fuel around it, such as leaves or char cloth, to get your fire going. The Battery & Steel-Wool ranks #2 in our top three methods for starting a fire without matches.

Steel Striker & Flint

When purchasing a Steel Striker do not buy a cheap $10 – $18 one as you will be disappointed and it will not start a fire under the Mid-West Winter conditions. So you will need to buy a good one, which will run you $30 and up. Now that you have a good striker you will need a good supplement fuel. Here we will use the Cotton Ball and 100% Petroleum Jelly. But why two fuels, because this combination simulates a candle or lantern, thus burning much longer. You could look at the petroleum jelly as the oil and the cotton ball as the wick. This fuel combination is also easy to store (a small Aspirin container will hold quite a few), burns long with a tall flame, and ignites easily in rain or Winter conditions. Make sure before placing your cotton ball that you open it up exposing cotton fibers that have not been covered with petroleum jelly. By exposing these fibers the cotton ball will ignite quickly. We rank this method as #1 for starting a fire without matches.

The Best Solution For Starting A Fire In The Wilderness

Now let’s stop and think about this for a minute. If we are planning or knowingly going out into the wild for an adventure then we have time to prepare, even if it’s just for a couple of hours to hunt, so why do things the hard way? And since we want to travel lite let’s consider what technology has to offer that will simplify things, allowing us to start a fire quickly and easily. *Take into consideration that you may be spending a long night or two under extreme weather conditions, it may save your life.

Recommendations For Starting A Fire

Always carry a knife and a compass, preferably one that comes with a magnifying glass. In one dry container have Kleenex or Toilet Paper (duel purpose), in another small container store Kitchen Matches (good for a backup and if they get wet use them for kindling), and then purchased a couple of cheap lighters (reliable, easy to start, works in all weather conditions).

For a Supplemental Fuel use the Cotton Balls dosed with Petroleum Jelly, these are light to carry and you can store a lot of them in a small aspirin container. If you are planning on a long Wilderness trip, for example a week or two in the Boundary Waters, then you will be packing in. In this case it’s wise to have a good Steel Striker & Flint as a backup heat generator. For a supplemental fuel use the Cotton Balls with 100% Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline or Equate) or purchase cotton pads and place some Sterno or Hand Sanitizer (Alcohol Based) on them. You can get all these products in a plastic container and they’re easy to pack-out when empty.

Starting A fire In The Worse Conditions

Here I will show you how to start a fire in the snow with temps of -10 F and 30 below wind-chills. We will use the Cotton Ball & Petroleum Jelly for the fuel and a lighter for the heat source. For the kindling we will find small twigs and then move to large sticks. Make sure to spread out your cotton ball as you need non-jelled cotton fibers to get things started.