Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Survival Kits (Personal) Part 3

In part 1 of this series we covered the container your kit will reside in, in part 2 one of the most important components; the knife. In this post, I am going to cover another critical component in any survival kit, firestarting equipment.

Nothing provides a psychological boost to a person just trying to make it to the next day alive and NOTHING will help alay that persons fears when the sun goes down better than fire. Fire, it is said, is a dangerous servant and a fearful master, but it is because man has mastery over fire that we have become the apex of the animal kingdom.

When talking about fire specifically in a survival kit I recommend that you have at least two methods of creating it available to you. In ADDITION to that I also recommend that you carry a lighter of some sort in your pocket at all times. I never leave the house without a Bic in my pocket.

There are several methods used to create fire but the two I recommend for a survival kit are a firesteeland matches. Some people prefer the magnesium stickover the firesteel,that is fine, go with your preference.

If you follow what I just said you now have a lighter in your pocket, matches and a firesteel in your survival kit. You have the bases covered and you are also still ok should you become separated from your kit (you have the lighter in your pocket, right?)

Lighters are the easiest way to create fire, go get your self a pack of Bic lighters, they last a long time and even when they run dry, they still generate a spark, which in a pinch, can ignite tinder. DO NOT use a Zippo...they are COOL don't get me wrong, but they dry out quickly. You really can't go wrong with a plain old Bic. Throw one in each of your vehicles as well, you never know when they may come in handy.

When talking about matches get a box of STRIKE ANYWHERE matches from your hardware store. DON'T BUY anything that claims to be windproof or waterproof as they are ALL garbage from what I have seen. You can waterproof matches on your own if you wish by melting paraffin and dipping the match heads into it and letting them dry (this WILL make them waterproof BUT also harder to ignite as well). I recommend getting a good waterproof containerto put the matches in; rip off a striker or two from a match book and store that as well, just in case. Be careful how you pack your matches so they don't ignite in the container.

A magnesium stickis just, a block of magnesium that has a striker attached to it. The idea is you use a knife to scrape some magnesium shavings into a pile and the hit the striker with your knife to generate a spark and ignite the magnesium. The magnesium burns VERY hot and takes a spark almost instantly. They are great, but to be honest they can do a number on your knife if you aren't careful. You can damage the blade scraping the magnesium shavings. That being said they work VERY well and I have used them myself. The key is to have your tinder ready when the magnesium ignites so it catches on fire.

My favorite fire starting device is the firesteelwhich is nothing more that a bar made of rare earth elements that when hit with a piece of metal generates a spark. Most of them come with a small metal scraper that you rake across the firesteel to generate the shower of sparks.

Below is me in my yard using a firesteel to ignite some lint. See how quickly it ignites?

Once again, as with the magnesium stick, the key to using the firesteel is tinder. The firesteel depending on its size will start hundreds, if not thousands of fires. If I could only take one source of fire making into the bush with me the firesteel would be it...hands down. If it gets wet, dry it off, if the scraper breaks, use your knife. You will not run out of "strikes" during a survival situation...if you do, you have chosen to live in the wilderness and are most likely no longer being looked for.

There are MANY other methods of creating fire including the fire piston, using a fresnel lens, and the primitive methods, such as a bow and drill. They all have their place, but in a survival situation if you have the three methods available to you I have described you will be warm and feel secure, which could make the difference between life and death.

Stay tuned for the next installment of building our personal survival kit!

...that is all.

Subscribe to Be A Survivor and Follow me on Twitter

Buy Be A Survivor stuff! ~ Donate to Be A Survivor! ~ Join "The Survivalists"!


  1. I'm with you about the firesteel! I have used the4 magnesium bar, and the firesteel is so much easier to handle under stress.

    Might be helpful to practise lighting a fire under adverse conditions, such as wind or rain! Doin it at home is better than learning in the wild!

  2. Jim,

    Agree 100%, that video is me in my yard testing out a new firesteel. It also also great to practice these type skills when you are camping!


  3. Fishkit in the hollow handle of my 14" Gerber ax consists of
    -size 8 and size 12 treble hooks threaded onto a safety pin.
    -50 lb test braided Spyderwire fish line (as thin as BrandX 10 lb test line) wrapped on a clear plastic sewing bobbin
    - magnesium firestarter cut in half lengthwise, and painted to retard corrosion. I attached a cord to MFS, ran it through the center hole of the bobbin, and attached it to hacksaw blade
    -two single-edge razor blades
    To keep everything inside the hollow handle, I stuffed a small mesh bag into the handle, and threaded a leather thong through the two holes near the open end of the handle.
    You get two MFS for the price of one. Cut a Magnesium FireStarter in two lengthwise, one piece has a striker inset, and the other does not. Place the piece of MFS (that has no striker inset) in a vise. file a trench lengthwise. Hold Ronson lighter flints in pliers and with wire brush remove red coating from each flint. mix a small batch of JB Weld. Apply mixed JB Weld to trench in MFS. press lighter flints into the JB Weld. Leave it overnight. Next morning after the JBWeld is fully dried, apply two coats paint to MFS, else it will rapidly corrode in damp climate. After paint has dried, connect MFS with stout nylon cord to bobbin of fishline and 3" section of hacksaw blade.

  4. The waterproof/windproof matches from REI are excellent. They are bomb-proof, not like those cheapos you buy at Wal-Mart or etc., they go off like a friggin' highway flare (i.e., do *not* use them inside a tent or other structure!). In cold windy conditions where I can't get my gasoline stove lit by any other means whether it be a Bic or a so-called "windproof" lighter (hah!), I pull out one of those hefty mo-fos and that stove gets m-f'ing *lit* I tell ya! I just gotta make sure there's some bare dirt close to the stove to toss it onto, because that m-f is *not* going out once you strike it.

    Note that I have a lot of what you might call "survival gear", but I'm more prosaic and just call it camping/backpacking gear. My idea of the perfect survivalist gear is a functioning local government existing within a functioning economy. You want to survive the collapse of civilization? Don't bother accumulating a gigantic arsenal of guns and ammunition and food enough for a decade. Do like Dean Ing, who calls himself a "practical survivalist", did -- move to a small town, join the Chamber of Commerce, and become personal friends with the Chief of Police and the head of the local National Guard unit. Because while some amount of guns and ammunition are useful, in the end victory goes to the organized.

    - Badtux the Civilized Penguin

  5. For the driest tinder available, save your dryer lint (I prefer the nearly 100% cotton that you get when you do your white cotton underwear and socks). It is easy to stuff a bunch in a small, water-tight container and throw into a pack. If its raining, you'll be thankful that you have the stuff, along with a firesteel or whatever to start the fire.