Be an expert Fire Starter Using Foraged Materials Found In Your Environment

How To Be An Expert Fire Starter

fire ember in hand

Do you know how to b​​​​e an expert fire starter using foraged materials found in your environment?

  • Whatever the situation, and regardless of the survival scenario, the one main constant to successfully surviving and bugout or SHTF emergency is being able to start a fire.

There are literally dozens of ways to start a fire if you have the time and resources. However, once you find yourself in a survival situation and miles from home the need for a fire become very important, and your fire starter material must be readily available and your methods uncomplicated.
Typically, hikers, hunters and others have literally been left out in the cold, because they have found that the matches they had carried all day in their pockets were no good, they would not light.

The reason: Matches carried in pockets next to your body will absorb perspiration, making them damp.
Matches in backpacks exposed to humidity will become useless as well.
You are miles from home; it is cold and will be dark soon. Will you suffer or do you have the skills to make a fire with what you can forage from your surroundings.

Fire starter or combustibles are everywhere - lint in your pocket, thread from your clothing and of course dry tinder made from wood.

Here Are Some Tried And Test Methods
 To Help You Become
An Expert Fire Starter

Before you can even think about gathering tinder for your fire, you must have an ignition source.
This can be a box of matches, if stored correctly, but remember these will eventually run out. A lighter is also a good idea, but again will run out of fuel eventually, and could also have a mechanical failure, making it useless.
However, a couple of small lighters weigh next to nothing and are very compact to have with you: One on your person and the other in your backpack.

Basic Bushcraft Methods To Gain
An Ember To Start Your Fire With.

Without an ignition source, ie: a lighter or match, you need to become proficient at creating an ember which in turn becomes you means to ignite your foraged tinder.
Basic bushcraft style methods include: Fire By Friction Using A The Bow Drill 

bow and drill components

A bow and drill has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years to create a fire using friction.
This fire starter method may have various designs and materials but the basic concept is the same, create enough friction to cause heat to make an ember.

Use shoelaces, cordage from your pack or rope discarded by others that you could forage from the area.
The concept, of course, is to spin the drill fast enough and long enough to create a pile a fine black wood dust, this dust will give an ember in the fireboard.

The diagram of the bow drill above accurately depicts the materials you will need and all materials other than the rope/string can be found on the forest floor, although with even more bushcraft knowledge and skills you can make your own cordage quite simply.

fire ember in hand

Make sure you have dry tinder available so once you have an ember you can move the fireboard to combine the tinder and ember.

By ready to catch the ember under the notch in the fireboard using a leaf or piece of bark. Then you can move the hot coal ember on the piece of bark or leaf into the tinder.
Moving the ember can cause it to extinguish, you can drop it or the wind blow it away, so great care is needed.

Move the board away and bring the tinder to the ember, you have less chance of it going out that way.

The Wood File Method:

wood file fire starter

This is a less complicated technique than the bow and drill, but this method requires more effort and both pieces of wood must be extremely dry for this procedure to work.

However, the wood file method has been field tested thousands of times and will work with some patience and attention to detail.

The same ember catching technique is used as in the bow drill method.

  • Essentially, by rubbing two pieces of wood together, with enough pressure and for long enough time, you will create very hot wood dust, and that will create your hot ember to add to your tinder and make a fire. But it is not as easy as it looks! and requires quite a bit of practice to master these techniques, as well as choosing suitable wood for the process...
ferro rod fire starter

The above two methods are old skills that are well worth trying to master, however: As preppers you probably wont need them, because you will be carrying the most essential survival tool for creating an ignition source to make a fire, and that is the trusty Ferrocium Rod.

Also known as a Ferro Rod, Fire Steel or Fire Stick, this tool is an absolute must have for any survivalist, bushcrafter or prepper.

The ferrocerium firesteel is composed of an alloy of rare-earth metals called mischmetal and is a solid rod of that will produce sparks of 3000 degF for a fraction of a second, when rubbed with a steel edge - enough to shower your tinder for ignition.

There are, of course, a whole load more methods to create an ignition source for your fire, but stick to a ferro rod and you cant go far wrong..!

Types Of Tinder You Can
Forage To Start You Fire

There is a lot of materiel that can 'catch a spark' and thus produce a fire for survival. In fact, you don't really have to forage too much to find something suitable.
Just put your hands in your pockets and you'll find something that's dry and very suitable as tinder - pocket fluff, or if you wear a jumper, just scrap it and you will get dry fluff.  Dry enough to to take a spark..!

As well as fluff in your pockets and fluff from your clothes, there are other good sources of tinder right there on you person.

In fact anything that is dry, that can be teased down into a fine fibre will work.
If you have a cotton shirt, then tear a strip off and tease out all the strands to give a nice pile of fine tinder, perfect to spray a load of hot sparks from a ferro rod.

Take a look at whats in you kit as well:
Anything that has an alcohol content will burn, typically if you carry a hand sanitiser with you, a few squirts of this stuff is very flammable. 
Or a piece of cotton wipe from you first aid kit will do as well.
Even a bag of crisps can work!! Crisps have a high fat content, and as such, if crumbled up, they will burn, and of course, if you have an alcohol burner, such as a Traingia stove, with you , then simply dip your small wood tinder in the fuel.

Natural Tinder You Can
Forage To Start You Fire

Sniffing around in an urban environment will yield a lot of potential dry tinder, anything from dry cotton wool to some petroleum jelly to rub on the cotton for a prolonged flame.
So it shouldn't be a problem if you need fire in a built up or urban area.

If you are in a woodland environment you still have plenty on hand to help you.

Outer Bark Tinder:

Birch bark is generally consider one of the easiest sources of reliable outer bark tinder that can be found around a wooded area.
These trees are plentiful and I always gather up a few handfuls when out and about in the woods - it makes excellent tinder.

Birch bark requires very little preparation to give a nice pile of highly flammable dust that will burn forcefully, enough to ignite the smaller twigs of your fire. 

Cutting strips and rolling up inside a small can will give you a lot of fire starting materials, and keep it safe and dry in your rucksack and your good to go.

Inner Bark Tinder:

You can form inner bark tinder by scraping along the fibres from the inside of bark.
The bark should come from a dead standing branch only.

Use your knife to scrape along the natural grain of the inner bark, and remove it from the outer grain.

Once you have these 'wood fibres' continue to tease them apart, making a fine nest of string like fibres.
Keep the bundle light in order to create as much surface surface area as possible for the oxygen to feed the flame once you have showered it with sparks..

Flower Head Pods:

Although seasonal, you can collect this from many different plants:
Clematis and  cat being the top two.

Flower pod heads tend to work better when mixed with other fine wood materials, in a birds nest style, and will give a flame if helped by a little blowing of fine breaths.


Probably the most common, and easiest to recognise is the King Alfred Cake Fungi, somethings called CrampBalls.

Choose a firm one, as softer, squishy ones don't work so well for tinder purposes.​

I prefer to break mine in half and shower with sparks, then with a little blowing you will produce a glowing ember ready to add to more fine tinder.

Always Carry Your Own Tinder

There are plenty of compact, lightweight tinder options you can easily carry with you in order to start a fire without too much trouble.
As preppers, having dry tinder to hand is an obvious first choice to have prepared and ready in your bugout or survival bag.
Here's just a few easy to source options:

  • Fluff or lint from a tumble dryer filter
  • Cotton wool - just fluff it up a bit
  • Make up remover pad - rip in half and fluff up
  • Petroleum Jelly - smear on your smallest stick tinder, it will burn for ages 
Steve Hart UK Prepper

There are, of course, many more methods to help you start a fire in an emergency situation.

But knowing just a few of these will help you become an expert fire starter, and put you one step ahead of the others...

Don't forget though - go out and see what you can find, and see if it works for you. 

Happy Prepping Folks,  Steve

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