Whether camping or in a survival situation it’s always a good idea to carry a flint steel kit with you in order to have a reliable fire-starting source. Unlike matches, flint will still create a spark even if it gets wet.
The key to every survival fire is preparation. As the Boy Scouts’ motto goes: Be Prepared! This cannot be emphasized enough and it is vitally important.
The preparation of the fire consists of finding the materials you need for every stage of the fire before you attempt lighting it.
The various steps, in terms of material needed, are:
1) Tinder – dry moss, cotton wool, fluffed bird nests, magnesium flakes
2) Kindling – small twigs, cedar bark, dry leaves, pine needles
3) Fire fuel – bigger sticks and logs
It’s important to make sure all your material is dry and that the branches are dead (living wood won’t burn well and will create a lot of smoke).
Once you have gathered all your necessary materials, and have them arranged in separate piles nearby, clear an area on the ground. You will want to clear away dry leaves and sticks in this area as they can be dangerous, because if the fire reaches them it can spread uncontrollably. Also make sure there are no tree roots popping up into the ‘fire-starting zone’.
Create a base for the tinder; a piece of dry bark works well. This will protect the tinder from any dampness on the ground and, if the bark curls up on the sides, it will provide shelter for the small flame.
Place your tinder onto your base, and hold your flint very close over the bundle. Now strike your steel striker down the piece of flint swiftly, making sure to drive the sparks on to the tinder.
Once a spark has ‘jumped’ onto the tinder, blow on it gently feeding oxygen to the spark. The spark should then create a small flame. Feed it with some kindling to get a stronger flame going. Once the fire looks secure (in that it doesn’t look as if it will extinguish itself easily) add some bigger sticks gradually, being careful not to smother the flame.
You’ll soon have a roaring fire going which creates the best atmosphere when you are camping.
Written by Rory Wilson who runs a broad blog on Enjoying Life. He also has a second site, buyflint.com, which is dedicated to starting fires with flint.