Wilderness Survival

Presentation Notes and Resources
2011 Central Illinois Powderhorn BSA
by Bill Qualls

    Easy firestarting.

    • Fireplace log: Break off a chuck. Easy to ignite. Makes great tinder.
    • Fatwood: Pieces of high-resin wood. No reason scouts shouldn't have one or two pieces in their pack at all times. Available at Lowes, Walmart. Whittle off a few small shavings. Lights easily, burns hot and long.

    One-match fire.

    • Focus on the basics!
    • Encourage boys to gather three times as much tinder and kindling as they think they will need.
    • Critique each other's fire lay before lighting. "Do you think it will work? Why? Why not?"

    Sparking rod and steel wool.

    • Sparking rods are made of ferrocerium.
    • A small sparking rod is available through the scout store at http://www.scoutstuff.org/hot-spark-fire-starter.html. The rod is fine, but the scraper is not very good.
    • A great assortment of striking rods and scrapers is available at http://firesteel.com/. Quality gear and excellent prices.
    • This way they see that steel wool will burn.
    • Use 0000 wool.
    • I don't use this method in the outdoors: I recommend this (fire with steel wool) so they can use it to practice the motion of using real flint and steel (see below).

    Sparking rod and fatwood.

    • Scrape fatwood shavings into an Altoids tin, pill bottle, etc.
    • When needed, pour some shavings onto a leaf, piece of tree bark, piece of paper, piece of foil, smashed can, etc.
    • Ignite with sparking rod. Burns long and hot!

    Sparking rod and waxed jute.

    Sparking rod with cotton balls.

    • Have them try it with cotton ball (only) and time how long it burns. Then have them try it with cotton ball and vaseline and time how long it burns!
    • This is my preferred method. I carry an Altoids tin with a small sparking rod, scraper, cotton balls, and vaseline everytime I go hiking or camping. EVERYTIME!
    • More about this at http://www.billqualls.com/survival/fire/index.htm.
    • What about magnesium rods? I don't like them. Yes, they work, but try starting a fire in a heavy wind! Good luck!

    Flint and steel with steel wool.

    • As mentioned above, I recommend this so they can use it to practice the motion of using real flint and steel. Some scouts really struggle with that! Strikes should be long, hard, downward strikes, as if trying to use the flint to scrape off a piece of metal.
    • Doesn't have to be flint. Any high silicate rock -- such as quartz or cherp -- will work. You can get great sparks from petrified wood!
    • Must use carbon steel. Stainless steel will not work.
    • Old files will work as strikers.
    • Old-style strikers are available from Midwest Native Skills School at http://www.survivalschool.com/products/fire_starting/Flint_and_Steel_Strikers.htm.
    • My friend George Millard sells complete flint and steel kits for $20 plus shipping. Kits include can, jute, char clot, flint, and a hand-forged striker. George actually makes these using a forge in his backyard. Contact George at anvilbuck@att.net to order.

    Flint and steel with char cloth.

    • Use cotton: old denim pants, gun cleaning patches, canvas, oil lamp wicking.
    • Tin should have a 1/16" to 1/8" hole in its lid. An Altoids tin will work fine, as will an empty Sterno can.
    • Cut cotton into 1" to 2" squares. Place in tin. Generally you want to fill the tin, but not pack too tightly. Place tin on fire.
    • You can do this easily on a BBQ grill.
    • Smoke will come from hole. When smoke stops, it's done. DO NOT DO THIS INDOORS! You'll never get the smoke odor out of your house.
    • Place char cloth on top of flint, touching but not hanging over the edge. Don't handle the char cloth any more than is necessary.
    • When a spark lands on the cloth, it will glow red: the cloth "catches" the spark. Then transfer the cloth to your tinder nest (see below). Relax, you've probably got plenty of time.

    Getting fire from char cloth.

    • Create a tinder nest.
    • Use jute, old rope, cedar bark, dry grasses, fine leaves, ... or even a real nest!
    • Leather gloves will protect your hands from burns. Scouts can be clumsy!



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    Contact me at bill_qualls@hotmail.com.