Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Winter Survival - Fire Starting

Take a look at your pack/kit and critically evaluate what you are going to use for fire starter this fall and winter.

Late this past spring my SAR team was called upon to extract two men hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  They had quality equipment and had invested a lot money in their gear.  That said, the couldn't start a fire to warm themselves during a weekend of mixed snow and rain.  

They had only one method of fire starting and it did not work for them.

My recommendation is to have a small zip lock sandwich bag loaded with several types of fire starters.

For example, I am a big fan of the Stormproof Matches.  These are available at REI, Sportsman's Warehouse, Cabelas and of course  These are far superior to
many of those matches found at the discount stores such as the windproof models.

The old Bic lighters are nice to light a stove with but make sure the one purchased works in cold weather.  Place the lighter in the kitchen freeze over night and see if it lights once pulled out.  If it won't light at about 30 degrees what good is it in the back country.

Pitch wood is a super fire started.  Pitch wood  are found in
pine forests and usually at the bottom of a stump.  The wood is loaded with dried sap.  The wood is shaved with a knife and easily catches fire when lighted.  If you find a large chunk break it up and share it with friends.

I also carry a small container of cotton balls infused with petroleum jelly.  I can get roughly four cotton balls packed into the container.  Rain or shine, these small fire starters burn for about 6 minutes.  I place a small sheet of aluminum foil under the cotton ball to retain the petroleum jelly once it starts to melt due to the heat of the flame.  I also carry a ferro rod fire started that gets the petroleum burning nicely.  I get mine from

And yes, I do carry a small amount of "Strike Anywhere" matches that I use for camp chores.  I store those in a small orange vial that can be found at most outdoor retailers.

But most importantly, whatever you carry "it has to work for you."  Try your fire starter at home before heading out.  

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