Fire lighting is like everything else in bushcraft – it takes time to get it right. Follow these steps and you’ll be well on the way to failure-free fire lighting.
Practice Your Fire Lighting. This can’t be stressed enough. Like so many other skills used in bushcraft, practice makes perfect. To confidently start fires in all conditions you need to practice in all conditions. Like some guy once said “If it ain’t raining it ain’t training”.
Use the right tool for the job. If you’re fire lighting for some bushcraft practice then use that hand drill you’ve only tried once before. When you really need a fire increase the odds of success by using firelighting methods you’re used to and know will work. Keep it simple. Like some other guy once said “don’t turn up to a gun fight with a knife”.
When you practice your fire lighting split the task down into the smallest steps and be confident with each one. From nothing to ignition. From ignition source to tinder to flame. From flame to fire.
Preparation. This is the second thing that can’t be stressed enough and just like the first time, applies across the board in bushcraft. Never take shortcuts when you really need that fire or you’ll pay for it later. Time and time again I’ve seen experienced people (including myself I must add) take short cuts and end up with a smouldering pile of wood, not a fire. At best it takes more effort to light your fire. At worst you die of hypothermia.
Fuel selection. Don’t pick up any old crappy wood that happens to be nearby. The ideal is dry, standing, dead wood. If you can’t find this then compromise or improvise but don’t start off this way. Don’t forget that dry, dead wood can be collected anytime, not just when you need to light a fire.
Tinder selection. Again, tinder can and should be collected whenever you get the chance, not just when you’re in firelighting mode. Collect and dry it out in a pocket or shelter before use.
It takes some discipline to put in the time and do it properly but that’s life. If you want to take your bushcraft to the next level this is part of the journey.
Try the classic fire lighting exercise – make a one match fire and repeat. Once you get good at this try splitting the match in half and try again.
Don’t forget the preparation or the practice!
If you’re in a situation where fire lighting is really important for morale know your limits and when to not even try. If you have the choice leave the fire until conditions are better.