Tag : emergency

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7 Common Types of Firestarters

By: Ghost

One of the cornerstones of a survival plan is the ability to make fire at will. Fire has played a vital role in Humanity’s survival over the ages. Fire has given us warmth, warded off predators, cooked our food, signalled over great distances, been instrumental in the fashioning of tools and weapons, purified our water, been used as a weapon of war and ultimately been a mysterious force of power. However you look at it, fire is power. If you possess the ability to reliably make fire in any situation your chances of survival increase dramatically.  From a preparedness perspective, you should always have a lighter and some waterproof matches in your vehicle along with a candle.  It can keep you alive if you ever have to spend a night in your car.  If you’re out on the trail, always carry at least two methods to make fire – I recommend a lighter and a ferro rod & striker (my personal favourites).

To make fire, you need to understand it’s basic principles. Fire needs three elements to form:

  1. Heat

  2. Oxygen and;

  3. Fuel

Fire Triangle

Fire Triangle

If any of the above are absent, any efforts to start a fire will fail. Over the centuries, the goal of someone starting a fire would usually be to create a spark or ember within a tinder bundle and coax it to flame. In more modern times, advances in metallurgy, chemistry and manufacturing, matches and lighters (as well as modern versions of ancient technologies) have given us the abilities to produce flame on-demand. These days, natural gas and propane are at our fingertips to heat our homes and water, create mood from gas fireplaces, produce flames on our barbecues and roast turkeys in our ovens. But if you take that away, how can you replace it?

To this end, I’d like to go over some of the ways you can make fire. Some are better than others, but all have their pros and cons. Let’s take a look:


1. Bow Drill:

This is essentially “rubbing two sticks together” and getting the fire from friction. If knowledgeable and practiced, you can get a fire going anywhere you can find wood.  To build a bow drill, you need to fashion the following components:  a board, spindle, handle, the string and, the bow itself.   I will expand on this in a later post on fire-making.

Pros: Knowledge weighs nothing. You can do this almost anywhere if you know what you’re doing.
Cons: Doesn’t work well if wet. Different woods are easier/harder. Without cordage, high-skill level required to make the bow.

Primitive Bow Drill

Primitive Bow Drill

Bow Drill in Action

Bow Drill in Action











2. Flint and Steel:

This combination readily produced a spark which could be coaxed into an ember and then a flame within a tinder bundle.  To use this method, you would hold the flint in one hand and, using the striker in the other hand, strike the flint piece while keeping the tinder as close as possible to the flint to catch the spark from the striker.  Keeping the tinder on top of the flint is a good option to reduce the distance of travel for the spark.  Higher-carbon steel strikers work best.

Pros: Has been a mainstay method of firelighting for thousands of years, is light-weight, works in more inclement weather.
Cons: Requires some skill to use, usually requires a prepared tinder to catch the spark.

Flint Flake and Steel Striker.

Flint Flake and Steel Striker.

3. Fire Piston:

A simple and old-ways method to create an ember by compression of air within a cylinder. By ramming a piston with a small amount of tinder in the end cavity the force creates heat and ignites the material. With the ember glowing, it can be carefully but quickly delivered into a waiting tinder bundle to begin a fire.

Pros: Durability and longevity (lasts almost forever), small, light-weight.
Cons: Requires fine tinder and a practiced hand to use.


Fire Piston

Fire Piston


4. Glass or lens:

The power of the sun can be harnessed and focused into a powerful ray of heat and light which can enable you to directly ignite flammable material. With the right angle and focus, you can burn leaves and grasses in your tinder bundle into a jolly flame.  Tip:  If trying to ignite something light in colour, darkening it with some dry earth, charcoal or a dark marker would absorb the light energy more readily.  The magnifying method can be used with eye glasses, a clear plastic bag or a water bottle to achieve a similar effect with practice.  Even a polished pop can base would work to focus the sunlight.

Pros: Very light weight. Is very fast in ideal conditions.
Cons: Requires direct sunlight, much easier in the hotter months.

Magnifying Glass Fire

Magnifying Glass Fire

Magnifying glass fire

Magnifying glass fire












5. Magnesium and Ferrocerium (ferro) rods with steel:

A more modern take on a classic. Ullmann’s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (2000) describes Ferrocerium as “a man-made metallic material which gives off hot sparks at temperatures of 1,600 ºC (3,000º F) when scraped against a rough surface such as rigid steel”. In essence, it does what the old stuff did, but better. When coupled with magnesium shavings in a tinder bundle, this combination is highly reliable in modern survival applications to get a fire started. You just aim the rod in the direction where you want the sparks to go and push the scraper down in that direction, of pull the rod out from the scraper.  Either way, you’ll get a shower of sparks which will hopefully get your tinder smouldering.

Pros: Can be very compact. Works when wet or cold. Very reliable. Lasts for thousands of strikes. Relatively inexpensive. Easy to use.
Cons: Ferro rods come in various qualities. Sub-par manufacturing can create poor performance.


Ferro Rod and Steel Striker

Ferro Rod and Steel Striker


6. Matches (waterproof, strike-anywhere, survival-type):

Matches are just so simple and, if kept dry, an almost sure bet to start a fire in a non-windy area. There are also special “survival” matches which are waterproof and windproof and will flare-burn for 15 seconds no matter the wind or rain.

Pros: Very compact, light-weight and inexpensive. Can usually start a fire with minimal tinder.
Cons: Must be kept dry – unless “survival” type, can be blown out easily.

Strike-Anywhere Matches

Strike-Anywhere Matches

7. Cigarette Lighter (butane or fluid):

This is the tops. The pinnacle of human fire-making achievement. Now we can carry fire in our pockets and can bring forth flame in an instant regardless of wind, cold, or even rain in some cases. A relatively inexpensive option, at the very least, you should have one in you vehicle and survival kits. Maybe even carrying one with you…just in case.

Pros: Inexpensive, reliable, makes flame and sparks. Durable. Lasts a long time.
Cons: Has finite fuel. Some can be affected by water on the striker preventing sparking.

Lighters, Adjustable flame (green) and non-adjustable (red).

Lighters, Adjustable flame (green) and non-adjustable (red).



I hope this gives you an overview of the 7 Common Types of Firestarters. In the next post, I will talk about how to use these fire starters with various tinder options to get your fires going. Regardless of which method you prefer, always carry more than one. Redundancy will always benefit you should a piece of your kit fail. My personal favourites: a Bic lighter and the Light My Fire- Army ferro rod and steel. Simple, easy, effective, reliable. But you be your own judge, test them out and make up your own mind. You should be proficient in as many as you can.

In the meantime, be safe. Plan, practice and survive…without fear.



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Your Vehicle Emergency Kit

Be Prepared on the Roads.

By: Ghost – August 14, 2014

Owning a car and driving around is a fact of life for many people.  Either commuting to and from work, driving to the mall to run errands, road trips, meetings, and the usual family commitments, we spend a great deal of time in our cars.  Rushing around, we often take our vehicles for granted.  We just expect them to turn on in the morning when we turn the key, even if it’s freezing outside, and to get us to where we need to go with little more than the occasional fill-up.  The truth is we never know when something in that complex machine is going to break and we will be left somewhere alone and in a situation without any support.

Enter the emergency kit for our vehicle.  There are a few things you can do to mitigate the risk of a breakdown and preparing yourself for self-sufficiency when stranded in your vehicle.


❖    First off, maintain your vehicle.  Take your vehicle for regular maintenance, oil changes, diagnose and repair problems as they happen so that your car is in top shape whenever you head out on the road.

❖    Second, you want to keep at least a half-take of gas at all times, with a small can (approved for trunk storage) of fuel in the trunk.  If you’re uncomfortable with fuel in the trunk, keep an empty can at least.

❖    Third, put together an emergency kit appropriate for your vehicle and season you’re in so that you can survive a night in your car if stranded.

Finally, use common sense.   Stay informed about driving conditions, communicate routes with trusted people in case something happens and postpone trips if hazardous.



Road conditions can go from clear to treacherous very quickly and being caught unawares can put you at risk, especially if you’re on a lightly-travelled route.  Whenever you leave your home, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

What You Should Carry in Your Car


Like any other preparations, tailoring the items you will cary should be measured agai
nst your needs, climate and road conditions, as well as the size of your car and possible amount of passengers you may be traveling with.  I also like to prepare to render assistance to those I may find in need on the side of the road, so I pack a few extra things as well


Lets go over Here is a list of what I recommend you have in your bag:

    • A short, full-tang knife and/or multi-tool
    • Jumper cables
    • Full-sized spare tire (and can of fix-a-flat tire repair)
    • adequate jack (and a piece of wood for a base)
    • Tow strap (2″ x 24′)
    • Bottles of Water
    • Method of water purification (tabs or filter – Aquatabs? LifeStraw?)
    • Small roll of duct tape
    • Can of WD-40
    • 25+ feet of 550lb paracord
    • Heavy-duty garbage bags
    • Small flashlight (reliable w/ extra batteries if required)
    • 2-4 chem-light glow sticks and/or road flares (red/white, or blue/amber if winter)
    • A few food sources (energy bars, GORP, ramen noodles, soup packets, granola bars,etc.)
    • Small vehicle tool kit (pliers, wrench, screwdrivers, hammer, shovel)
    • Bag of gravel or kitty litter (for traction in snow or mud)
    • Selected medications (Tylenol, Gravol, Caffeine, Ventalin?)
    • Warm blanket
    • Small stash of cash and change (including tokens or tickets for public transit)
    • Spare set of keys (for vehicle and house)
    • Spare charger or battery for your cell phone (ready to go in the bag at all times)


    • Change of clothes appropriate for the possible weather, terrain and duration for your trip home. (This is HUGELY important.  You should keep tough, climate appropriate clothes and footwear to change into if you have to make the trek home.  You don’t want to not make it because of injury due to terrain or death from exposure).
    • Extra socks (preferably wool)
    • Map (with primary, secondary and tertiary routes marked) and compass.
    • Small pad of paper, black permanent marker, pen and pencils (mechanical and plain).
    • A lighter (simple, Bic) & candles in a metal holder
    • Personal Care items (a few tampons/pads, wet wipes, hand sanitizer, travel toothbrush & toothpaste, metal cup for boiling water, etc.)
    • First Aid Kit: (a few gauze pads, band-aids, nitrile gloves, CPR mask, Quik-Clot, N95 mask, EMT shears, extra maxi pads for pressure dressings, splint material, triangular bandage )
    • Work gloves
    • Fire extinguisher
    • Spare napkins, toilet paper, kleenex.


I would suggest this as a well-rounded minimum.  Also, be prepared to leave a lot of things behind.  If the situation is dire enough, you may have to leave your vehicle at work or on the way home.  Be sure to regularly rotate the food and water in your Bag, check expiry dates on any medications, check batteries and refill consumables as necessary.  Change or add items as required, according to changing seasons or approaching weather.  Being aware helps you to be prepared.


If caught in a storm, you may be forced to stay in your vehicle if it’s bad enough on the roads, so if you add an extra sweater and socks, you will have more insulation to keep you warm.  A candle lit in your car through the night (especially one of those ’36-hour’ 3-wick candles) can keep you alive until help arrives. Also, stay in your car!  Most people who are injured or killed on the roadside are struck by passing cars. Your vehicle will protect you. It’s a steel cage which will provide protection from the elements and on-coming traffic.


Another thing you may want to consider is to purchase a membership to CAA/AAA because they can assist you should your vehicle break down.  They can give you a boost, bring a spare tank of fuel, unlock your car if you lock yourself out, and provide a tow to a mechanic.  It comes in handy.  They also provide other benefits such as maps, trip planning, insurance and travel guides; not to mention discounts on all kinds of things.  My membership has helped me out many times.  I think it’s well worth it.


Having your Vehicle Kit stocked and in place  promotes confidence and reduces fear in the face of a crisis.  If you know what you have and how to use it when under stress you will be able to stay calm and deal with the situation.


Be prepared, be ready, be free from fear.

Be well,


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