COAX FLAME FROM A SPARK
There’s no better heater, S.O.S. signal, or morale booster than a crackling fire. No lighter? Start one the old-fashioned way.
Sparks are tiny, fragile things, and they won’t last long without the right environment. Collect dry grass, frayed wood shavings, shredded birch bark, cattail fluff, or dried ferns, which all take a spark particularly well. Build them into a loose nest big enough to fill two cupped hands. Set it aside. Then, gather bundles of sticks of varying thicknesses—pencil-, thumb-, and wrist-size—and build a teepee with the smallest sticks on the interior and the largest on the outside. (Leave enough room between sticks for plentiful airflow, and leave an opening in the center of the teepee to insert tinder.)
If you’ve got a magnesium or ferrocerium rod, scrape a dime-size pile of shavings into the center of your tinder bundle. If you don’t, go to the next step.
Kneel as close to the bundle as possible. Hold your ferro rod or flint palm-up in one hand, and brace that hand against your thigh. The end of the rod should touch the tinder. Scrape the back of the knife blade (the straight edge just behind the tip works best) down the rod in a firm, even stroke to throw sparks onto the tinder bundle. Repeat until the tinder catches.
When the tinder’s smoldering, lift the bundle. Blow gently, careful not to extinguish the spark or send shavings airborne. If the ember fails to grow after a few exhales, throw more sparks.
When you have a small flame, tuck the tinder into the teepee. Blow gently if it starts to fizzle. When the smallest sticks light, close the door of the teepee. Add bigger kindling as the fire grows.