Thursday, January 22, 2015

Emergency fire-starting trick

 In Northwestern Ontario you can find a great emergency fire starting material -- birch bark -- everywhere -- almost.
I was moose hunting a few years ago and got dropped off by my mates on a point so I could watch the back side of a grassy bay where moose might come to feed. It was windy, snowing and raining and turned out not to be fit for man nor beast.

In pretty short order I got chilled, despite my warm clothes and rain gear. I decided to give up on the hunting idea and just sit by a fire until I got picked up. I always carry a butane lighter in my hunting vest, able to light thousands of fires, if needed. To my chagrin, there wasn't a birch tree on the entire point and the mainland was a mass of blown-down, sopping-wet, dead balsam firs. I could not come up with anything dry to start the fire. If only I could have gotten a small flame going, branches from the dead balsam would dry out in the heat and it would have been no trick to keep the fire going. Despite all my experience in the bush, I could not get the fire to burn. I ended up doing jumping jacks for about three hours.
When I came home to Nolalu that fall I was telling my story of woe to a teacher-friend of Brenda. Harry Sitch said the exact thing happened to him moose hunting one time although in his case he had waded out into a beaver pond to retrieve a fallen moose (a far better story!) From that point on, he said, he carried an old waxed milk carton in his pack (or vest, I forget which). The carton is waterproof and when lit, burns for several minutes, enough to ignite the tinder in a campfire under any conditions.
It was a good tip. Just cut the sides of the carton in strips and fold them back and forth over the base of the carton. The whole thing collapses to about the thickness of a deck of cards. When you need it,
just fluff-up the package a bit and place it under the tinder.
Click to go back to our website 
Click to see the latest on the blog


Anonymous said...

Great tip. Here's another for ya. I buy a small bag of cotton balls for pretty cheap
and smear them in a jar of petroleum jelly. Then into one of those 35mm film canisters.
Fits great in any small pocket and will start many many fires! The only bad thing is
the jelly soaked fingers while I'm making them! lol

Just a little tip I ran across long ago!

Hope things are going great for you and Brenda! Wish I could get back up there and see
you two again!

Anonymous said...

I was watching Alaska the Last Frontier the other night. They collect moose droppings, dry them on a tray or metal cookie sheet. After they are dry, they soak them in paraffin. Take them out and return them to the try and let the wax set up. You now have fire starters that will burn for quite some time. Just a thought since you are in moose country.
Dave M.

Dan B. said...

You know, for a minute there I thought you were going to say they dried out the moose droppings, covered them with melted chocolate and set them out for their buddies! That's been known to happen in moose country too!

Anonymous said...

I can see the chocolate trick happening. I even know somebody that might try it.
What most people don't realize is that moose droppings are composed of all fibrous material since their diet consists of grasses, tree bark etc. When dried and soaked in wax they will be just like a fire starting stick that you can purchase in sporting goods stores. Give it a try Dan.
Dave M.