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We've all seen situations on reality shows in which someone is stuck in the wild with nothing but sticks, stones, a knife and th

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  • We've all seen situations on reality shows in which someone is stuck in the wild with nothing but sticks, stones, a knife and th

    We've all seen situations on reality shows in which someone is stuck in the wild with nothing but sticks, stones, a knife and their wits. However, they always seem to get a fire going without a match. Assuming there is fuel nearby in the form of pine needles, birch bark, coconut husks or whatever, what's the best way to start a fire? -Jacob Evans, Claremore, OK

  • #2
    Starting a fire without some type of modern fire-starting equipment is a daunting task. The challenge is to find the proper natural materials and prepare and use them correctly.

    1. I prefer the bow/drill, in which a "drill" of dry softwood is spun via a "bow" against a notched fireboard. The upper end of the drill is held by hand in a stone, bone or hardwood socket. This is a very successful method, but the materials and technique must be perfect. The correct formation of the crater and notch in the fireboard is a huge key to success.

    2. The crater, where the drill makes contact with the board, must be formed near enough to the fireboard's edge to allow a channel to be cut vertically down through the edge of the fireboard to connect the crater on the top of the board to the notch below. The notch should be conical in shape (wider at the bottom) and directly below the crater. Its purpose is to allow the fine, hot dust to collect as it is worn off of the base of the spindle and the surface inside the crater. If the notch is not large enough or is shaped incorrectly-or if the connecting channel between the crater and the notch is not the right size-there will be no fire. The hot dust should be collected on something that can hold it all together, like a large leaf. After collecting a quantity of hot dust that is sufficient to form a loose "coal," it can be transferred to the tinder bundle and then blown into a flame.

    3. The tinder needs to be more than a pile of leaves. Very dry grasses will work: Wrap them tightly into the shape of a bird's nest to keep the coal from simply falling through and out the bottom.
    -Rich Johnson, Survival Expert


    • #3
      There is another way of starting a fire, and it makes it's own tinder...
      First, you need a piece of wood that is about 1 or 2 feet in diameter. Cut it in half.
      Second,get a stick with one end made into a wedge shape.
      Third, use a knife to cut a notch starting from 3/4 the wood all the way to the end.
      Fourth, Use the stick to scrape along the sides hard starting from the 3/4 end til the end. Shavings of the wood will come off, making the tinder. The friction will heat it up the tinder, starting a fire.


      • #4
        Get lots of tinder, And lots of dry, dead wood. Use what you can to get a spark and PATIENCE. Its possible with a little hard work.


        • #5
          As someone who has some experience in leading and training Search And Rescue (SAR) teams in the Army, (Ok, it was 30 plus years ago and under harshert circumstances than your average hunter will find himself in today, as they're probably not trying to avoid being found by others) I believe it is important to carry certain essentials into the field every time you go. The above mentioned ways do work but require diligent practice prior to the actual need of the skill. If you are not proficient with those skills you will be found by a SAR team, usually too late. If you find yourself in a survival situation, the skills you need have to be almost reflex, already so ingrained that it is second nature, you do them without thinking about it. Another factor not taken into in using the above methods, is are you injured? If you have any kind of upper extremity injury which will hamper your freedom of movement using any method which requires exertion may be impossible.
          Back 30 years plus, in the military survival training we were taught, and wisely so, to conserve our energy. Go with the method that requires the least expenditure of energy.
          When I go into the field, depending on where I am going, I carry 3-5 ways to start a fire. (I seldom carry matches or a lighter.)Most involve some kind of flint and steel. There are so many products on the market that are good. Just look around, Strike Force,Blast match, the magnesium fire bar,too many to mention them all.
          I also carry several starter materials that will work as tinder, e.g. dryer lint stored in a zip lock bag or 35 mm film canister, 0000 steel wool sealed in a ziplock bag. You can make fire starters with paraffin melted over either cotton or dryer lint in a cardboard egg carton and cut apart and dipped into the melted wax. Cotton balls and vaseline in a 35 mm canister also work. OOOO Steel wool, dryer lint both take a spark easily and with a paraffin starter will burn 5-10 minutes, long enough to slowly add more dry wood to it.

          The key is to practice with them and become proficient before you find yourself in the situation. I have never used a match to light my fireplace. I practice with all of my tools so it is as natural as breathing, I don't have to think about it. I have been in several situations that people I know considered the circumstances to be, shall we say, dire. I weathered them rather well and without a great deal of discomfort mostly due to good training, thank you US Army, and preparation on my part, physically and mentally.
          The worst thing you can do is to be out there and realize you have head knowledge but no real clue as how it really is supposed to work because you've never actually done it. People in that situation are called statistics. They also provide good stories for people who do SAR to use as examples of what not to do.
          Because of my background,(I am a retired Emergency Department RN, 35 years experience in large busy metropolitan ER's) I have seen more dead people who were dead because of 1. Poor planning, 2. Carelessness, 3. Stupidity or 4.Just plain bad luck. You almost always get number 4 when you have any of the first 3.
          Don't be a statistic


          • #6
            Though techniques like the bow drill, and fire plow are all effective for some people, they are very hard techniques to do without alot of practice and time spent perfecting the technique. My first coal with a bow drill took about half an hour to fourty-five minutes. By all means practice these skills as they are fun to do and great to show off around a campfire, but prevention of the situation is always much simpler, carry some firestarting materials with you that will be reliable. Then once you are stuck in the survival situation and you've already got a comforting fire going and a shelter and the basics taken care of, you can work on the bow drill technique while you wait, that is if you don't know how to do it.


            • #7
              although my main backup is the mag striker and cotton balls dabbed well with vasoline, i also carry a magnifying glass.


              • #8
                carry a flint and steel, much more reliable than trying to rub two sticks together


                • #9
                  I usually don't trek very far,
                  when all around me black bears are.


                  Those shows were intended to have watchers believe that they were, indeed, "realty" shows. We know better now.

                  Regarding how to make a fire...there are many ways: mixing two chemicals together, using the polished bottom of a soda can, using a flashlight reflector, using steel wool and a battery from your cell phone, ad nausium.

                  Those are nice if you're putting on a medicine show.

                  Be sensible...bring a new Bic lighter and some stormproof matches, and maybe another type of fire starter, if you wish. By the way, stay away from those lighters that have a see-through fuel compartment. I've had them fail after five and ten strikes of the wheel...!!

                  Unless you're just playing around, why make it hard on yourself. When you're afield and in trouble, you'll be glad you went PREPARED.

                  Otherwise, other posts here describe other, more primitive, ways to create a flame. If you think you could use them in a snowstorm or rainstorm, though, you might think otherwise...if you survive...!!


                  • #10
                    Use whatever you have. Be well versed in multiple ways of starting a fire. I would suggest that with no other way to star a fire. A bow drill method is probably your best bet. Prepare to be tired and sore.




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