Yes, it’s time to have a bit of pyrotechnic CRAZY in CRAZY PREPARED

KNOW how to start a fire.
Fire = dry heat = one Maslow’s #1 priorities on his hierarchy of needs.
Yes, we have heaters, boilers, and wood stoves nowadays, but if you’re out of your usual surroundings, camping, hiking, or escaping the crumbling ruins of a once great empire, you DON’T HAVE ANY OF THAT!

Regardless of planning, preparation or intent, most folks who do things in the outdoors will end up cold, wet and miserable a couple times a year. (Law of stupid happenstance) When this does happen, it makes you appreciate good roaring fire to dry off next to like nothing else will, and makes knowing HOW to get one started an indispensable skill.

If you grew up in the outdoors, you likely know this, and may read a few novel tricks here, but then this article isn’t for you so much.

To build a fire, you need about three stages of fuel: tinder, kindling, and logs.  Tinder is where you start. Paper, lint (dryer lint especially), wood shavings, dry leaves, or VERY small twigs work best. You can also use steel wool and a 9 volt battery. You don’t need a direct flame, like from a lighter, (Although it REALLY helps.). What you want to get in your tinder is a spark which starts everything else glowing and smoking. Then, you GENTLY blow or fan this spark to get a more serious flame, and start adding your small twigs and other kindling. Use the kindling to expand and intensify the fire, until you can catch the smaller of your logs. Play around to get the hang of it. A charcoal grill can be good to practice with, if you aren’t using instant – light stuff.

If you have engine fuel, spray on lubricant, hair spray, air freshener, alcohol, hand sanitizer, most automotive oils / fluids (except radiator), or chaffing dish fuel (aka Sterno) as an aide to starting the fire. (Take care, and remember MOST of those will evaporate into flammable vapors. (Save your eyebrows.)

Keep in mind, when you’re out in the woods it takes some foraging to find dry stuff to burn, the wind will never blow the right way, and things in general will NOT work out easily. It helps to have a shielded area to light the fire in, too, so making a small pit, circle or windbreak will help. Fire is hot, and likes to spread, so be aware. Don’t breathe the smoke and pass out face – down in the coals.

If you have a lighter or fire starting tool you can speed up the process a bit. The only difficulty is the greater the level of heat and flame they provide, the more disposable they are, or the more consumable resources they need.

The simplest and longest lasting tools are flints, lenses, or anything designed to make a hot spark to start a bit of tinder glowing into an ember. (That is ALL they will do, so practice building from ember to fire if you’re going to rely on one.) Most flints you can buy come with a block of magnesium attached that you can shave off flakes to help light the fire with. These shaving will burn very hot, but too quick to help do much more than light the tinder.

Actual Lighters are a GREAT convenience since they give you flame on demand without having to puff one up out of an ember. Downsides are reliability and longevity. Butane can leak out over months in storage, and “zippo” type liquid fuel lighters have a way of drying out if not well sealed or carefully packed. Zippos do have the bonus of being very renewable when supplies are around. There are also anecdotes of folks pulling out and lighting the fuel- soaked wadding inside the lighter when they need to produce a BIG fire in a hurry. This is best used only to save a life or scare off a wild animal, since it renders the lighter inoperable until repacked and refueled. For most folks out and about day to day, a lighter is an excellent and versatile thing to carry, and about as prepared as most are likely to need.

There is no real ”Instant campfire”, but a few things come close. You could lug along a portable stove, most of which use kerosene, alcohol, gasoline or diesel fuel. (Be aware of fuel availability, especially for brand – specific fuels) Many of these are quite compact and clever, many also resemble a gas kitchen range, but are bulky for traveling long distances on foot. Hobo stoves, cans with cut – outs to allow feeding fuel to a small hot fire, are not a bad thing to cut out of a steel can, or bend out of metal. There are many designs, but the basic idea of an enclosure for a wood fire. With all versions of these stoves, you do look at lugging both range and fuel (lessened with the hobo stove).

There are also fire starting fuel bars. Your good author will personally espouse the fun and efficiency that is the U.S. Military trioxane fuel bar, which can ALMOST replace kindling in a well built and shielded fire. Wood fire “logs” are also around, but haven’t been observed to be as efficient. Good in a pinch, but designed for a fireplace, not a campfire.

As always, play around, but play safe (as possible). Repetition and practice make bad cold situations EASY.