There’s More Than One Way to Start a Fire

LagerfeuerWhat’s camping without a fire? It’s sitting in the dark being cold, bored, and hungry. Campfires are truly amazing. They offer a means to cook food, they’re a light source, they keep chills at bay, and they can even be a source of entertainment. If you’ve ever watched flames jump, hiss, and curl around a burning bit of wood you’ll know exactly how entertaining fire can be.

There are many different ways to start a campfire. Some methods are easier than others. The method you use will depend on things like your skill, the time you have, and what resources you have available to you.

  • Fire starter – This is a general term and can technically be used to describe anything can can start a fire, however fire starters are more specifically long-burning bits of tinder designed to facilitate starting a fire (think starter logs). These can be made from stuff like sawdust, dryer lint, and newspaper which are easily flammable, and waxes or oils to sustain a flame. These are meant to be used with kindling and they make starting a fire a cinch.
  • Fire paste – This is a viscous fire starter that typically comes in toothpaste like tube. The same principle applies, in that the paste will steadily burn while you add kindling. The benefit of paste over a solid chunk of fire starter is that you can easily apply it exactly where you want it.
  • Lighter – By far the easiest means to start a fire. With a lighter and a bit of dry kindling you can get a fire going, even with damp wood. Purists might find lighters a bit cheap, but hey, a fire is a fire.
  • Matches – This is a marginally more legit means of starting a fire in the eyes of fire purists. It’spretty easy to get your kindling to catch when you’re using matches, but it can still require a bit of effort. Waterproof matches are nice to have if you’re going to be in a soggy environment. Strike anywhere matches are also handy, but keep in mind that “strike anywhere” does not literally mean anywhere.If you’re looking to strike a match on fluffy patch of moss you’re out of luck, but rocks and zippers usually do the trick.
  • Magnesium striker – Typically a chunk of magnesium with a striker on the back of it. You’ll shave off a little pile of the magnesium and spark it. magnesium burns hot, so it’s pretty effective. Just make sure you have your tinder and kindling ready, because it burns relatively quickly.
  • Ferrocerium striker – This is similar to a magnesium striker. It’s the same process in that you scrape of ferrocerium into a pile around your tinder, make some sparks, and try to catch those scrapings. The main difference between the two is that ferrocerium is man made while magnesium is naturally occurring.
  • Flint & steel – This is a much older technique and is also much harder to do successfully. You’ll need to prepare a tinder bed to catch the sparks made by striking the steel on the flint stone. Once an ember catches it takes finesse and perseverance on your part to turn that ember into flames.
  • Bow drill – The only method that a purist would respect more than this is starting a campfire with a mean look. This might be one of the hardest ways to start a fire. It requires skill, the right tools, and lots of time. Practice this one before going all out and leaving the matches at home.

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