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Missing "essential" items: backup light, whistle, and fire starter
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michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
bics on 06/26/2013 17:30:24 MDT Print View

If I'm doing a hike that is less than a few weeks I'd rather take a bic and a backup bic for all of my fire needs.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Re: Re: Bic vs. firesteel on 06/26/2013 17:58:50 MDT Print View

David said "But for how important a fire can be when things start going badly, a fire steel SOMEWHERE ELSE in your system is worth it to me."

agreed, I don't think redundancy is necessary w/ many things when hiking, but fire ignition would be the big exception imo

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Bic vs. firesteel on 06/26/2013 18:23:14 MDT Print View

I've always considered fire to be recreation, not survival

If the conditions are bad, like raining and windy, it's very difficult to get a fire going, and if you can manage to keep the fire going in the rain, you' get cold and wet faster than the fire will dry/warm you

Better to get into sleeping bag inside tent. Or hike out to your car.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Bic vs. firesteel on 06/26/2013 20:40:02 MDT Print View

Of course you need a shelter before a fire. I like a tarp because I can have a fire while being sheltered from the rain.
I have spent rough nights drying out wet clothing and stoking a fire all night while under a tarp. I get out of my sleeping bag every couple of hours and put more wood on the fire. I did this every night for a week long trip once (I didn't plan on doing it). It's not fun but it's better than being cold. You can't do this with a tent.

You can't carry a tent and sleeping bag in your day pack, so for day hiking a fire becomes the primary way to keep warm during an unexpected overnight. The most important emergency items in my day pack for wet weather are a folding saw, fixed blade, and a tarp. If you get a fire going you might even be warm enough to get some sleep.

For the backpacker, a fire becomes a tool to compensate for compromised insulation and/or temperatures far below expectations. Also if you are hungry, sick, or recovering from extended exposure your body can have a tough time generating heat and an external source can really help.

Trying to build a fire on top of an exposed ridge or mountain in a storm is pointless. You are better off crawling into a bivy and waiting it out.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Learning Curve on 06/26/2013 21:36:22 MDT Print View

I don't know if this is useful, but I struggle with fires (i'm practicing). The following have happened to me resulting in not having a fire:

1) Didn't practice enough with the firesteel, 20 minutes later I gave up and went to sleep.

2) Brought matches, forgot match paper and had toothpicks.

3) Filled my Zippo, but the Ronsonol evaporated or spilled, anyways, no fire. I eventually dropped that anchor anyways.

4) figured out the firesteel, stuff was wet and I had no tinder, no fire.

I carry mini-bics but I prefer matches for my wood stove. I like the SOL wheel firestarter, because it's Max-proof. I am learning from my mistakes, but if it's relevant to you, don't throw in "backup" firestarters unless you can use them to, you know, start a fire.


P.S. I couldn't signal with a mirror in a funhouse. I wish I grew up with the Scouts...

Edited by mdilthey on 06/26/2013 21:39:11 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Learning Curve on 06/26/2013 21:56:52 MDT Print View

"4) figured out the firesteel, stuff was wet and I had no tinder, no fire."

Building a fire in the rain:
The one stick fire, the foundational skill for wet weather fire starting:

Edited by justin_baker on 06/26/2013 21:58:03 MDT.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
firesteel on 06/27/2013 00:04:52 MDT Print View

without the right tinder it is quite hard for the average person to start a fire with a firesteel even in perfect conditions ... basically youll need cotton balls, very often PJ ones, or something similar ...

a lighter is much easier for most people to use ... and even then good luck for the average person to start a fire in the pouring rain with one without some good firestarting material, like PJ cotton balls ....

the trick with fires is to start planning for one BEFORE you actually need it ... if yr lost and you dont think youll make it back, start collecting twigs and other fun stuff, dry em out if you can ...then if you need it yr all set


Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 06/27/2013 06:30:21 MDT Print View

Good info from Justin and Eric. Justin has obviously put in the time to develop the skillz.

Running a fire in wet conditions has been very useful to me. It is a significant confidence booster when despite your best planning, you can't be sure how things will turn out. This is doubly true on marathon dayhikes where you don't have a sleeping bag, and if you do have a foam pad it is a bare-minimum piece.

Mors Kochanski is right: it is better to be warm and wet than cold and dry, or cold and wet.

+10 on carrying foolproof tinder. PJ infused cotton balls are my favorite. You gotta stack the odds in your favor.

If you think that a firesteel will light anything in the forest, you are wrong.

Again, stack the odds in your favor: Bic + firesteel + PJ balls + skillz = power & confidence. That's a big rate of return on a couple ounces of weight.

I for one am disappointed that we have not been able to somehow mention GLBT or Six Moon Designs issues in this thread. Surely we can do better.

Corbin Camp

Locale: Southeast
Whistle on 06/27/2013 10:31:19 MDT Print View

I carry one because A) it really isn't that heavy B) I'd rather have something with me that could help me or someone else out in a bad situation C) I'm too lazy to replace the whistle on my sternum strap that's part of the clip then replace that clip with something that weighs 0.0002 oz lighter.

I see a whistle right up there with a seat belt. You can go years without an accident but it's that rare case where something happens out of your control where the presence of a simple device means you live or die.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
A surprise "essential" on 06/27/2013 14:36:41 MDT Print View

After getting "monkey butt" this past week while on a 6 day backpack in Utah's Coyote Gulch I realized I had forgotten to bring a tube of Polysporin or Neosporin in my FA kit.

It WON'T happen again! It was "sorely missed". ;o)

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: A surprise "essential" on 06/27/2013 15:37:59 MDT Print View

Eric, thank you for not posting a picture!

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 07/02/2013 10:07:26 MDT Print View

My research has shown me that signal mirrors and other simple visual signal aids are important not so much as a sole signal (though that has happened), but as a crucial tool for "the last 1/2 mile". Reading various survival/SAR accounts shows a common theme: a flight plan or a concerned relative gets the initial search effort going, but closing the last gap between SAR and the survivor is often surprisingly tough.

some recent signal mirror successes in Alaska:,0,3667716.story

I guess you could say that never making a mistake will ensure you don't need to carry that 0.7493 ounce signal mirror, but only a couple BPL folks have that kind of mojo.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
mirror on 07/02/2013 10:29:18 MDT Print View

or 0.2 oz for the AMK mini signal mirror :) as mentioned before it can be used for to inspect yourself for medical purposes as well- not to mention getting your hair just right for that picture! :)

David Miles
(davidmiles) - F

Locale: Eastern Sierra
Re: Missing "essential" items: backup light, whistle, and fire starter on 07/03/2013 19:27:27 MDT Print View

I carry:
-Fox 40 whistle, AMK signal mirror
-mini Bic, book of matches
-Petzl Tikka2 Plus, Fenix LD01

I know several people who watched our helo search multiple days for them without a mirror to signal it. It can really shorten a bad day :)