When a Zippo Is Not Enough, These Fire Starting Materials Could Be a Lifesaver

ReadyNutrition Readers, this piece is a reiteration of fire-starting basics in terms of materials to stockpile for yourselves, for your winter-fires or for a grid-down/collapse event.  You can place these materials in your home, in your “Bug-Out” bag, your vehicle, and in your work locations.  Sometimes the Zippo lighter is not enough, and you need a little more material in order to “kick start” your fires.  Let’s cover some of them as well as simple procedures to keep them waterproof.

  1. Storm-proof matches – There are several types of stormproof and windproof matches.  The company I recommend for them are UCO windproof and waterproof matches.  You can purchase these at Cabela’s or you can visit the site at UCO gear.

These guys deliver, and they come within a case that keeps them waterproof (even though they can be submerged under water and then struck on virtually any surface).  At $5 to $7 they’re a good investment.  Strike anywhere matches can be waterproofed, however, they are hygroscopic, meaning they absorb moisture/humidity/water with time.

2. Zippo lighter – Along with matches, you’ll need a good lighter.  Everyone is familiar with the Zippo, that works on white gas/Coleman fuel, as well as gasoline.  They are good to have a backup when the times are tough, and butane is in short supply.  The drawbacks lie in the fact that they leak, meaning the lighter doesn’t stay closed and loses/evaporates its fuel.  Also, you need flints and wicks with them.

For disposables, I really like the ones made by Djeep, a French firm.  They are short, rectangular, and stubby, and they both take a beating and are dependable.  It can’t hurt to pick up a few dozen of them.  The “El-Cheapo” lighters made in Vietnam are unreliable and will not work when the time comes.  If you can’t get hold of Djeeps, stick with your Bics, as there is usually better quality control over them than in the “off” brands.

3. Fire logs – As far as fire-starting materials are concerned, I have recommended in previous articles that you refrain from buying some commercial fire-starters as in Coughlans or another name-brand.  Buy a fire log in your local grocery store.  The fire logs are made of sawdust and paraffin and wrapped up after they are compressed in paper that can also be burnt.  You slice off a section of the fire log, wrap it in paper (try wax paper) and stick the “slice” in a Ziploc bag.  Voila!  You just made a piece that is larger than those paltry “sticks” they sell for $7 or more.  Remember to cap off the end of the fire log with a plastic bag and then rubber-band it secure.

4. Magnesium bar with flint rod – There are plenty of metal matches and fire-starting strikers out on the market.  A good metal match is a plus as well, and many of these come in self-contained plastic tubules that prevent the match from getting wet.  They also usually come with a tool to help you strike off sparks.  My preference is the magnesium bar with the flint rod attached to the back of the long edge in a groove.  You shave off shavings of the magnesium bar with a knife and then strike sparks onto the shavings using the flint rod.  Waterproof these with the Ziploc bag or a small Tupperware container.

5. DIY firestarters – Lint from the lint-guard of your dryer can be blended with some paraffin to make the fire-starting material. Here’s an easy DIY article to make these. You can also add sawdust, or use it on its own.  Another thing: a small syringe can be a lifesaver if you don’t have any of these materials around.  You can use this syringe to take a small amount of gasoline, oil, alcohol, or other combustible material to inundate either wood shavings, leaves, or other material to make a fire.  There are plenty of small tricks that you can do.  A small 9 Volt battery (rectangular, with male and female terminals) can be placed to touch plain (“unsoaped”) steel wool to produce a flame.

Prep all these materials by making them waterproof or water-resistant whether or not they are already made as such.  The reason being is that protective casings also protect them from spills or contamination by other chemicals or situations.  Preventative measures are always much easier than trying to start at a “deficit” of needing the materials when the “suck” factor (weather, dangerous surroundings, etc.) is high.  Fight that good fight each day, and prep as if there’s no tomorrow.  There probably is, but if it arrives and everything goes down the tubes, you won’t have any more time to prepare.  JJ out!

Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne). Mr. Johnson was a Special Forces Medic, EMT and ACLS-certified, with comprehensive training in wilderness survival, rescue, and patient-extraction. He is a Certified Master Herbalist and a graduate of the Global College of Natural Medicine of Santa Ana, CA. A graduate of the U.S. Army’s survival course of SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape), Mr. Johnson also successfully completed the Montana Master Food Preserver Course for home-canning, smoking, and dehydrating foods.

Mr. Johnson dries and tinctures a wide variety of medicinal herbs taken by wild crafting and cultivation, in addition to preserving and canning his own food. An expert in land navigation, survival, mountaineering, and parachuting as trained by the United States Army, Mr. Johnson is an ardent advocate for preparedness, self-sufficiency, and long-term disaster sustainability for families. He and his wife survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Cross-trained as a Special Forces Engineer, he is an expert in supply, logistics, transport, and long-term storage of perishable materials, having incorporated many of these techniques plus some unique innovations in his own homestead.

Mr. Johnson brings practical, tested experience firmly rooted in formal education to his writings and to our team. He and his wife live in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with their three cats.

This information has been made available by Ready Nutrition

Originally published November 13th, 2017
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  • Axel Mattson

    The cheapest way to get waterproof matches is to take some strike anywhere wooden matches and dip the heads in melted paraffin. Back in my younger days we’d take matches we’d waterproofed and put about 25 into an empty shotgun shell and then seal it with electrician’s tape. That’s what we’d take on our backpacking trips. The paraffin not only waterproofs, but melts when the match ignites and allows the match to burn much longer as the paraffin burns too.

    As for tinder, one of the best the best natural tinders out there is cattail heads. If the Big One hits, steel wool will be hard to find for using with your flint and steel. Cattail heads, once you fluff it into wool, goes up like gasoline when a spark hits it from flint and steel, or even from a butane lighter that has run out of fuel but still has spark.

    I’ve been in more than one storm in the mountains when there was no dry wood to be had. The best fire starter was to take several small sticks and pop the bubbles on the trunks of fir and spruce trees. Pitch would some out, coating the tips of the sticks, and it was like gasoline. Awesome fire starter for wet wood.

    When I am splitting my kindling, I set aside any pine pieces that are especially loaded with pitch. It makes a superior fire starter in wet or damp conditions and you can light the stick with a match.

    • skeptical1

      Those are some excellent tips, Axel. Thanks for sharing.

  • Fred762

    Ball of fine steel wool..touch it with a 9V battery and ..voila’ light a ball of waxed paper. Used to teach the Scouts fire skills.

  • Howard Brewi

    Here are a couple comments from some one who lives in interior Alaska. An old time Yukon Quest musher told me this one. Carry a can of Heet gas line antifreeze. The alcohol has enough vapor pressure at -40 to ignite when white gas will put out matches. The mountaineering multi fuel stoves recommend a squirt of this or denatured alcohol to preheat the burner. These distance mushers usually use alcohol fueled heaters to melt snow and ice to cook dogfood on the trail.
    Carry trick birthday candles (the kind with magnesium wicks that re light them selves). They only displace a couple matches in your match case and give you a really long burn time.
    Practice using your bic lighter or ferro rod with really cold hands. Maybe after a bare hand snowball fight. Some times a match is easier to handle in this kind of condition.

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