The 10 Essentials: Fire

12:01 a.m. on June 2, 2008 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "The 10 Essentials: Fire"

While a comprehensive packing list depends on many factors, certain outdoor gear is considered essential whether you’re heading off on an extended backcountry bushwhack or exploring the trails in your local woods. As part of a weekly series, here's a look at outdoor essential number six: #6. Fire Being able to start and sustain a fire, even in wet, cold, and windy conditions, is essential. A...

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7:32 a.m. on June 2, 2008 (EDT)
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While I feel that a fire is not always necessary, for survival situations it is VERY necessary. This is a given, and I agree 100% that fire should be on the list. I consider it to be part of "shelter" on MY list.

Just as learning to change a car tire should be required before a person receives their driver's license, I feel that learning at least 2 ways to build and light a fire should be required before green horns are allowed into the backcountry. (Or front or middle country for that matter)

My only other comment is: Be wary of "cheap" waterproof matches. While the matches themselves my be waterproof, the flimsy drawer-type box they come in is not. If the box gets wet, even damp, the striker on the side will not ignite the matches. These matches are NOT of the strike anywhere variety, and a dry box is needed to light them.

1:33 p.m. on June 2, 2008 (EDT)
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Here in California, especially during the April-Dec time frame each year, it is very risky to start a fire outside designated campgrounds with permanent fire rings. During the June-Oct time frame, fires are often forbidden even in campgrounds fairly frequently. The problem is that they get out of control very quickly, which could put you in much worse trouble than just being out overnight.

Basically, this means understanding how to build an emergency fire and guarding it carefully to prevent its spreading. We have already had several major fires in the SFBay Area in the past month, with the Summit Fire destroying close to 40 structures in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There have been "emergency" fires that have destroyed tens of thousands of acres in many recent fire seasons.

f_klock's comments on matches are something many people are not aware of and should be emphasized.

On "storm lighters", many of these work poorly, and some not at all, at altitudes above 10,000 ft. Of course, this is above timberline in many areas or the Sierra and Rockies, where there is no wood available for fuel anyway. Matches have the advantage that you can easily open the box and see how many matches you have before setting out on the trail, where it is often impossible to check how full the lighter is (take at least 2 lighters).

In the areas where it is safe (with precautions) to build a fire for signalling or warmth, it cannot be emphasized too much that you should learn to light and keep lit a fire when it is wet or in snow. Practice this until you can do it in very wet conditions BEFORE you venture into such conditions. I highly recommend reading London's To Light A Fire in both versions.

Also, fires for signalling are different from fires for warmth - learn, know, and practice signal fires for daylight and night as well as "warmth" fires.

3:18 a.m. on June 11, 2008 (EDT)
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I carry both lighters (just the cheap, Bic-style) and waterproof matches -the ones from REI that are in the photograph above. The REI matches work like a fireworks sparkler-once they are lit, they burn all the way. They are excellent. The box comes with a striker pad. I have also used Coughlin's matches and they do not last as long in the box. Once they have been around for a while, they don't work-at least mine didn't. I keep one box of matches in my "ten essentials" bag and a second box in my cook kit.

12:43 p.m. on June 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Bic! Bic! Bic! You can trow one into a bucket of water, then use it to light a fire 30 seconds after shaking it dry. Cary two or three: one on your person and one in your pack, and perhaps a third inside your cook kit. At less that $1 each, you can replace them with new ones prior to each significant trip.

For some reason, many outfitters consider selling Bic lighters equivalent to selling cigarettes. I consider a Bic to be one of the most important and least expensive survival tools available for backcountry excursions.

8:15 p.m. on June 23, 2008 (EDT)
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There's lots of ways to start a fire but if 'matches' in one of those you choose-pay much attention to the 'striker' and how it is kept dry.
Many wet strikers won't light anything including strike anywhere matches.
Experiment at home on what strikes and what lights and what leaks.

April 20, 2018
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