DIY Firestarter

12:29 p.m. on September 5, 2018 (EDT)
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I haven't made these since I was a Cub Scout, but with a free afternoon and my 6-year-old nephew visiting, we made some DIY firestarters with old candle wax, dryer lint, and paper egg cartons. 

There are certainly more efficient and more effective ways to make a DIY firestarter, however, this was the way I learned as a young kid and passing on the tradition to my nephew was time well spent. His favorite part was stuffing the egg cartons with the dryer lint. 

In all, we made 4 dozen cartons, or 48 individual fire starters. That will last quite a long time for us. 

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12:54 p.m. on September 5, 2018 (EDT)
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Love that you shared that with the youngster. Now you have an excuse to take him camping :)

5:04 p.m. on September 5, 2018 (EDT)
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The old hunters favorite is a sealable 35 mm film can filled with cotton balls soaked in vaseline.  A lot of people are not good with fires these days.  Not enough practice.  

7:26 p.m. on September 5, 2018 (EDT)
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Or maybe too much practice.  Fires these days are prohibited in a lot of areas, with good reason.  While fire making is a key outdoor skill, it will be used less and less in the future, given our massive fire history over the past few years.

It might be time to make sure people have other skills that could replace building a fire to get warm--like carrying proper clothes and shelter, knowing where you are and how to get out, etc. 

I think I have built exactly two fires in the last fifteen years in the mountains. 

 

10:58 p.m. on September 5, 2018 (EDT)
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I spend a lot of time in the mountains and learned a lot from boy scouts long ago, watching others making a fire it seems a lost art in the smartphone age. It is good to teach kids the art including feathering kindle, carrying birds nests, splitting branches with a knife, fire steel and my favorite of cotton balls w/vasoline.

Making a fire is easy when nice and dry, once in a while practice in less then favorable conditions, the kiddos will learn an even greater skill. Good job.

10:16 a.m. on September 6, 2018 (EDT)
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Being skilled with fire can save your life.  It can save another person's life. It is a fundamental skill that is being lost in the name of conservation. 

10:33 a.m. on September 6, 2018 (EDT)
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Fire is just another tool. Use it appropriately, which sometimes means don't, and there really doesn't have to be a problem.

The problem is that a lot of folks don't use it appropriately. Movies and TV have romanticized giant bonfires while in the real world a tiny fire is what is called for. Still, I see folks create giant volcanoes of flame just to have something to look at because they left the TV at home. At Hazen's Notch last Fall I watched a NOBO group build a fire right at their tent site, ignoring the fire ring on the other side of the shelter. Few years back during a really dry year I watched an AT hiker build a giant fire for breakfast on a 70°F morning. Not to cook but because he woke up cold, or at least that was his excuse.

If you want to cook dinner make a twig fire. If you want to save lives, carry dry clothes and hand warmers. If you are just bored read a book or write one ;)

10:34 a.m. on September 6, 2018 (EDT)
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My fire making skills are somewhat rusty - fifty years ago they were much better, due to more extensive use.  Today I carry a canister or alcohol stove -very simple and easy to cook or get warm.

In addition, I have wielded a pulaski on enough fire lines to know full well how destructive fire can be.  Both views expressed above have merit.  The paradox is that fire making skill is an important skill, but it is also potentially dangerous, as well.

An  informed person today knows how and when to make a fire, but has other skills an capabilities for situations where fire can be too risky.

11:03 a.m. on September 6, 2018 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

Love that you shared that with the youngster. Now you have an excuse to take him camping :)

 +1. I'm thinking this really is more what this thread is about.

12:13 p.m. on September 6, 2018 (EDT)
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Agreed...move the fire discussion to its own thread...keep this one focused on passing on skills to the younger generation before the whole species evolves into pointy thumbed creatures with a bent neck from looking at our phones...he says from his soapbox typing on his phone!

4:11 p.m. on September 7, 2018 (EDT)
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JRinGeorgia said:

LoneStranger said:

Love that you shared that with the youngster. Now you have an excuse to take him camping :)

 +1. I'm thinking this really is more what this thread is about.

 I didn't necessarily have an "agenda" when hitting submit on the initial post, but my thinking was definitely more in line with passing along the skills needed and an understanding of the responsibility for fire-building.

However, we all know that fire is one of those hot-button (no pun intended) topics that people in the outdoor community seem to get really passionate about. I know most of my hiking friend's west of the Rockies (mostly CA, WA, and OR) could debate at-length the advantages and disadvantages of fire making, while most of my friend's here on the east coast don't spend too much time thinking about fire (our collective mind's tend to think more about ticks these days). 

12:59 a.m. on September 8, 2018 (EDT)
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balzaccom said:

Or maybe too much practice.  Fires these days are prohibited in a lot of areas, with good reason.  While fire making is a key outdoor skill, it will be used less and less in the future, given our massive fire history over the past few years.

It might be time to make sure people have other skills that could replace building a fire to get warm--like carrying proper clothes and shelter, knowing where you are and how to get out, etc. 

I think I have built exactly two fires in the last fifteen years in the mountains. 

 

 But I'll bet your transfer is to sit staring blankly into a TV screen for hours upon hours day after day, huh?

1:08 a.m. on September 8, 2018 (EDT)
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White man cut down green trees with Ace hardware hatchet; make big smoky fire and stand way back. Red man gather small dry sticks from the ground with hands; make small smokeless fire and sit very close. Spark the char-cloth in the center of a bird's nest with flint and steel is the way of the mountain man for starting a red man's fire.

9:15 a.m. on September 8, 2018 (EDT)
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^Gee Charles, how insulting and racially insensitive can you be?

9:20 a.m. on September 8, 2018 (EDT)
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KiwiKlimber said:

 I didn't necessarily have an "agenda" when hitting submit on the initial post, but my thinking was definitely more in line with passing along the skills needed and an understanding of the responsibility for fire-building.

However, we all know that fire is one of those hot-button (no pun intended) topics that people in the outdoor community seem to get really passionate about. 

I agree. Fire is an important topic to discuss, but that doesn't mean than any thread that has the word "fire" in it is an invitation to take the thread to that debate and derail the OP's intent.

10:00 a.m. on September 8, 2018 (EDT)
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Charles: this year we'll have burnt somewhere close to 1 million acres of forest in the West, with most of those fires started by people.  

I am not sold on the need for fires as life skills.  If you take the right equipment they should not be necessary, and they are often illegal in the West. 

Finally, making fires is not compatible with Leave No Trace.  I look at the stars at night.  I don't need more.

3:27 a.m. on September 9, 2018 (EDT)
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Ok, before I chime in, I feel compelled to state that making inflammatory statements about someone you don't even know and equating them to TV couch potatoes is uncalled for and not the stuff well tolerated well on this forum.  At least take the effort to check out someone's bio before launching into such speculation.  In this case you would find Paul (aka Balzaccom) has posted 54 trip reports since joining TS in 2012 - he definitely IS NOT a couch potato.  Disagree if you will; some of us will offer up stupid ideas now and then.  I am sure I stand accused thusly.  But it is the ideas that are dumb, not the person.  Respect...

----------

Now back on topic...  Kiwi, now that you have lit a fire in your nephew's imagination, and backed it with 4 dozen fire starters, you have obligated yourself to as many camping trips as it takes to exhaust that supply of starters!  I hope it is as fun as you anticipate.

As for the necessity of knowing fire starter skills, I am inclined to side with Paul, that the energy spent on this topic is a testosterone driven dude thing, like conversations over a beer around a BBQ about how to grill steak.  In the overwhelming number of instances where people end up in dire situations where a fire could make the difference, they arrived at this crisis through lack of understanding other wilderness skills, or by knowingly taking unwarranted risks.  In other words, don't spend a minute learning how to rub two sticks together until you learn how to keep dry, warm, geographically oriented and can anticipate weather.  Short of that a better survival skill than fire skills is getting your butt back to a warm car or civilization quickly.  Most campers have this option on most trips, few spend much time camped further than a dozen miles from a road head. 

As for those who do venture way off into the beyond, the typical conversation about fire skills posted in this forum come across as little more than silly, hypothetical, survivalist nonsense.  Indeed Kiwis's wax pots are a great solution for a starter fuel source, but one stills needs the means to ignite these pots.  There are three related threads on hypothermia - the whole reason why one may value survival fire skills - that provide insight why stuff like flint steels and such are more a hobby toy than true mission critical survival implements for the modern day camper.  Additionally these three posts allude the danger could have been avoided exercising better judgement, precluding getting into these situations in the first place.

Traveling in snow during shoulder season.

Shit happens and your gear gets soaked.

Prevention is 9/10ths the solution.

Ed

12:16 p.m. on September 9, 2018 (EDT)
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This is one of those discussions where both sides have a point.  One does need to be properly equipped and aware of conditions so as to avoid the need for  fire, but it can happen that the ability to build a fire can be critical.

One example would be a number of SAR incidents in which i have participated where building a fire was essential to keep a victim from sliding deeper into a hypothermic state, or building a signal fire.  Sometimes you just have to understand that LNT will have to take a back seat (and it is possible to make fire residue much less apparent).

I believe I have mentioned how my fire making skills have declined since my youth, when we always built a fire, to today, when i routinely carry some sort of LNT stove apparatus.  But I can recall about five or six occasions, over as many decades of wild land rambling, when a fire was critical and difficult to ignite.

But fire making is just one of the skills that a competent outdoors person must acquire;lets not forget physical conditioning,navigation, first aid, and all the rest that are necessary to be really secure in the woods

8:32 p.m. on September 10, 2018 (EDT)
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FWIW, my grandfather was Battalion Chief Arnold Seymour of FDNY Battalion 25. Fire safety is something which was drilled into me at a very early age.

I used to go to a regularly held camp in the Huron-Manistee National Forest, where a communal campfire would be kept burning for about 10 days straight. 

Virtually every person I have seen on YouTube or in real life using fire in the wilderness is doing it wrong, and most people should never be allowed to light a fire in the wilderness. I have seen "bushcrafter" videos on YouTube that make me want to reach through my screen and throttle people.

Fires that look like they have been put out can actually still be burning underground, and the fire can continue to smoulder through organic soils for many days, only to flare up into forest fires, later.

The first year I was at that Michigan camp, at the end of the second weekend, I caught people trying to cover up the campfire pit with dirt, before I stopped them. I took the rest of the camp water (we would drive into town to fill up about 80 gallons of jerry cans per day at the local RV park), and poured an entire 6 gallon jerry can over the firepit, first, as a demonstration. Of course the coals were still burning underneath, and the water instantly boiled. People were shocked. They thought the fire was out.

I got out a shovel and started digging down into the firepit to demonstrate how deep the hot coals had reached, which was some 2 feet into the earth. I ended up pouring I think about 20 gallons of water into the firepit (I had kept an emergency stash of full jerry cans in my own truck separate from the camp, just in case), and continually turning over the coals with the shovel until they were completely cool.

In subsequent years, I made sure to be the last one to leave, staying an additional night until Monday, to make sure everything was clean and secure before leaving the campsite. I also organised patrols at the end of camp to walk through the woods to check each and every known spot where campers had been to ensure any individual campfires (which they were not supposed to have in the first place) were fully doused.

7:00 p.m. on September 26, 2018 (EDT)
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I get what you are all saying about how unsafe the behaviors of current folks making and putting out fires are. That stated, doesn't it seem like a really disturbingly large number of the forest fires we've been seeing lately are set by arsonists? I don't get it.

9:42 p.m. on September 26, 2018 (EDT)
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Korak said:

".. doesn't it seem like a really disturbingly large number of the forest fires we've been seeing lately are set by arsonists?..."

It does, but then it may be that fire science is paying closer attention to the underlying causes that previously were not more closely examined.  Furthermore there is a general uptick in large fires, but that is due to trending dry climate over the prior several decades.

Ed

February 23, 2019
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