Start by gathering a couple handfuls of tinder,
about one-third of a shopping bag’s worth
of kindling, at least half a shopping bag’s
worth of small sticks (1/2 to 2 inches thick),
and at least a shopping bag’s worth of thicker
wood (2 to 12 inches thick).
Any kind of material that takes very little heat
to start on fire can be used for tinder. Paper
makes great tinder, if you have matches. If you
don’t have matches and are attempting to
build a fire with a spark, you will need extra-fine
dry tinder. Dry pine needles, fine dry grasses,
shredded paper, birch bark, dried moss, bird down,
mouse nests, cotton balls, wood shavings, pulverized
dry pine cones and fibrous inner cedar bark all
make good tinder.
Kindling must catch on fire within a few seconds
from burning tinder, yet burns for only a few
minutes to ignite the larger pieces of wood. Dry
pine needles, still stuck to branches, are perfect.
Small twigs, 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick, are also
excellent. Test the sticks to see whether they
are wet or dry. If the sticks can be bent and
twisted without snapping, they are wet and will
not do for kindling. If all available kindling
is wet, you can still burn green pine needles,
but otherwise you must find standing wood, which
can be split with an axe or shaved down to find
a dry core. You can make “feather sticks”
for kindling from larger sticks of wood by carving
many shallow cuts with a knife to create fine,
curved shavings protruding from the side of the
the Fire: Build your fire in a protected
spot, especially if the area is windy. If it is
exceptionally windy, you may have to dig a trench
for your fire or build it on the leeward side
of a fallen tree or large rock. If the ground
is swampy or the snow is deep, you may have to
build your fire on a platform of green logs covered
Do not use stones from a riverbed or
porous stones around or under a fire. These stones
can explode if heated because of internal steam
the Fire: If you have paper, crumple
a couple of sheets, build a small pile of fine
kindling on top of the paper, then light the paper
in several places. If you don’t have paper,
use two handfuls of extremely fine, dry tinder
instead. Make sure you don’t smother the
tiny flames of the beginning fire with a pile
that’s too big or too tightly packed, or
by stacking larger wood too quickly onto the fire.
As the kindling catches on fire, pile on more
kindling and gradually add thicker chunks of wood.
Make sure the fire gets enough air circulating
through it. Either build your fire in a crisscross
fashion, or lean the wood against itself in a
tipi-like cone shape, to ensure there are plenty
of gaps between the wood for air circulation.
A well-built fire, with dry wood and plenty of
gaps for air circulation, will not smoke much.
few strips of car inner tube as they are excellent
for starting a fire and should become part of
any survival kit.