Some may not agree that fire is of higher priority than food. To each his own. I feel that fire edges out food due to the fact that it works with shelter in regulating your body temperature as well as sanitizes water. You can live a lot longer without food than you can without warmth and/ or water. Not only should you be familiar with fire starters and tinder materials, but fire lays and safety as well.
- You should always have at least two fire starters on your person. I personally carry a lighter, ferro rod and a fresnel lens at all times. I have the ferro rod in the event that the lighter gets wet or too cold to function and not enough sunlight to make use of the fresnel lens. Otherwise the lighter is the easiest and fastest way to get a fire going, so that’s what I go with.
- Knowing how (and practicing) primitive fire starting skills such as hand drill, fire plow and bow drill methods can not only be an enjoyable, almost spiritual experience, but it will also help you to understand better how fire actually works and how fragile it can be. I would not however, recommend that you rely solely on primitive methods in a survival situation. These methods can be very difficult and in a survival situation I feel they would add unnecessary stress to an already stressful situation.
- You should become familiar with natural tinders in your area to help get your fire started. Some examples might be pine needles, cottonwood fluff and birch bark.
- Man made tinder can also be carried with you when out and about. Frayed clothing, bandana or shemagh can be used in a pinch as well as paper or cotton. To help extend the burn time of these tinders, rub a dab of petroleum based lip balm on them.
- Become familiar with different fire lays and their pros and cons. A fire you intend only to cook with will not be the same as a fire that is intended to warm your shelter, nor are either one of those the best for a signal fire.
- Always clear the area where you are making your fire. Be observant of overhanging limbs and how close the fire will be to your shelter (especially if using a debris hut). I don’t recommend a fire inside of your shelter unless you are 100% sure that it is safe from catching fire and that it will be adequately ventilated. Burning to death and carbon monoxide poisoning both seem like they would suck!