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.

Backpacker - - The Survival Issue -

1 GATHER

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.)

2 SCRAPE

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.

3 SPARK

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.

4 BREATHE

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.

5 BUILD

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.

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