Forum Index » GEAR » A 3.4oz fire starting insurance policy


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Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: fire on 12/17/2013 14:50:25 MST Print View

"..at a certain point your hands start shaking and your motor skills go out the window ... think "polar bear" swim but rather than having a warm blanket and hot chocolate after, you need to start a fire.

Its a real eye opener"

I am sure it is. After teaching myself to start a fire without matches, lighter, fire steel, etc, I can imagine just how difficult it would be in anything other than optimal conditions. I needed optimal conditions and 40 or so hours.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: cold dunkings on 12/17/2013 15:18:23 MST Print View

I was raised on deep glacial fed mountain lakes andccold salt water. Everyone should try a safe dunking in cold water to get an inkling of the effects. You never understand the shock to your system until you try it.

Basically it sucks!

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Esbit? on 12/18/2013 09:02:23 MST Print View

The only downside is that they are hard to light. They won't light with a spark. Once they get burning they are great because they will dry out pencil-size fuel. Even without building a fire they can warm you up but you need to be careful not to breathe the fumes. Ditto with Trioxane bars.

When you are really cold, things don't work the same. It can be really hard to strike a match or work the wheel on a lighter. Fire-steel requires some manual dexterity that just might not be available. That's why I like tinder that will light with a spark.

I get kinda opinionated about fire-starting technique in the PNW in winter because I've been hypothermic once. No fun. A lot stuff that works fine in dry climates doesn't work at all in the misty, cold, and wet. Most of what I learned as a scout in cold, dry Montana doesn't work out here in Coastal NW Oregon. I've accumulated some tricks that work for me, and I've played around with getting a fire going just for practice. So yeah, I can really get behind the idea of a mini road flare.

I think this is a great thread on a super important subject.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: A 3.4oz fire starting insurance policy on 12/18/2013 09:49:02 MST Print View

"..at a certain point your hands start shaking and your motor skills go out the window ... think "polar bear" swim but rather than having a warm blanket and hot chocolate after, you need to start a fire.

Its a real eye opener"

Been there, done that. In Oregon, in the rain, 40* temps. In those conditions, with hypothermia, you do not want to depend on a bow drill to start a fire! At the time, I was saved when I remembered I had a Svea 123 in my pack. Took long enough to remember that! I think the mini-flare is a great emergency idea. Thanks for sharing it!

josh wagner
(StainlessSteel) - F
les on 12/18/2013 09:53:19 MST Print View

just saw a survivorman episode where he attempted to use a flare that was packed away in an emergency kit, and the flare was expired by a couple years and did not light. so checking if you carry one of these you should check it every year or so.

i fell though the ice on a pond once as a kid. maybe the scariest thing ever. you INSTANTLY go to the bottom. there is no slow sink that you see in the movies. good idea to do a "safe" controlled cold water plunge. i've been wanting to do that for a few winters now but MANNNNNNNN it looks so cold!

Dan Yeruski
(zelph) - MLife

Locale: www.bplite.com
Re: A 3.4oz fire starting insurance policy on 12/18/2013 10:06:12 MST Print View

Nice choice Dale.

A few years back I went the DIY route. The large signal flares were on sale at Kmart really cheap, inventory closeout type of sale...couldn't resist :-)

I cut the flare short enough to use electrical tape to seal the joint where the 2 plastic edges met. I also sealed the stricker cap with electrical tape also. I have the flare in my emergency grab-n-run kit.

I was hypothermic once at home. Long story made short....Experienced the uncontrollable shivering and motor skills of my hands and other parts. While in bed trying to warm up and recoupe, my wife was doing all she could to help me along. I layed in bed thinking of the firemaking skills that had learned over the years and info on hypothermia. I knew at that point how difficult it would be to survive while being in the shivering state of hypothermia. I was home at the time, temperature in house 60 degrees? I had been laying on the living room floor waiting for the next dash to the toilet when the shivering/chills started.

Be prepared in any situation that can lead to hypothermia. Get that flare out of it's protective package.

I read on the internet of an individual who died of hypothermia in cabin, out in the woods. He must have entered the cabin in the advance stages of hypothermia. There was plenty of fire wood, matches and a woodburning stove in the cabin. They said there was no indication that he tried to start a fire. I read that many years ago when doing research. I tried to find the site but could not...sorry.

 photo tool107.jpg

edit to add link:

http://www.bplite.com/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=216&hilit=signal+flare

Edited by zelph on 12/18/2013 10:08:04 MST.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: shelf life on 12/18/2013 10:33:28 MST Print View

Shelf life is important to consider with many emergency supplies: matches, first aid items, batteries, etc. that is why I used the Seal-a-meal to package the flares, reducing air and moisture exposure as well as general wear and tear of packing.

I imagine you could break open a flare and use a firesteel to set off the innards if the striker fails.

I replace my matches each Spring. That's one thing I like about firesteels: they are very stable. I rely on a mini Bic for general fire lighting.

I carry a Bison Designs spy capsule jammed full of Tinder Quick tabs on my "survival" keychain along with a firesteel, AA LED flashlight, whistle and Leatherman Style CS tool. That is always in my pocket. In my other pocket is a K&M match case full of REI/UCO storm matches and strikers. I also carry a folding knife with a locking blade or fixed blade knife like a Mora.

For day hiking I have my poncho for general rain gear and emergency shelter plus an AMK space blanket bivy. My first aid kit, a few Micro Pur tablets, an extra insulation layer, compass and maps, and spare food completes my essentials list.

Edited by dwambaugh on 12/18/2013 10:40:17 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Sometimes we have other fire starters in our pack. on 12/18/2013 11:26:51 MST Print View

>"At the time, I was saved when I remembered I had a Svea 123 in my pack. "

We were sea kayaking out of Seward, Alaska and I went in first. I just got lucky - it wasn't skill - and came in right between smaller waves, scrambled out the boat and dragged it up the beach just in time. I tried to wave Kristin off, but she was already following me in and wasn't so lucky. A 6-foot breaker dumped over her as she sat low on the beach.

I dragged her and her boat up the beach and decided, "This doesn't need to be pretty, it needs to be fast." and started the single-burner propane stove (upright on a 1-pound propane bottle) mostly buried it in the pebbly beach, and piled driftwood on top. When the driftwood was going nicely, I reached under and pulled the stove out.

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
fire on 12/18/2013 11:52:37 MST Print View

Great and timely thread. I have done the "jump in the cold lake, wade to shore, then start a fire with the tools in your pockets" drill and like Eric said it is instructive.

The forecast last weekend was calling for steady rain and highs around 38-40 degF so I took the opportunity to enjoy some "good living" on a local trail system. I brought a small flat tarp, and hiked in the gentle rain. I got to a nice spot next to a lake and set up the tarp just as the harder rain came. The wind was shifty and kept the rain moving at various angles.

It occurred to me that:

- Had I been hypothermic it would have been quite challenging to deal with it from scratch. Being proactive pays. Prevention really is better than a cure.

- I was really loving my Patagonia R3 hiloft jacket.

- I was strongly motivated to simply hide under the tarp in my synthetic clothes, and had I been overnighting I would have been very glad to have a synthetic bad instead of down. I know, some of you guys are masters at keeping your down dry but I don't need any further burdens.

Kevin said:
"We were stuck in a 10 hour rain shower a couple weeks ago and manage to get a nice fire going."

How did you protect the fire from the ongoing rain? I'm pretty experienced at starting a fire when the forest is wet, using split squaw wood, fuzz sticks, pine pitch etc etc but not so much when the rain is actually pelting down.

I would love to hear some BPLers' strategies for keeping a fire going in steady rain when you do NOT have a fixed shelter (AT shelter, cave, overhanging cliff, etc). How do you keep the fire protected and also keep yourself out of the rain? It seems too dangerous to have a fire just under the edge of a silnylon or cuben tarp.

I have been toying with the idea of carrying a "sacrificial" fire tarp cut from 3-mil poly sheet but I haven't tried anything with it yet. And it's a chunk of extra weight to tote.

Edited by El_Canyon on 12/18/2013 11:53:55 MST.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: fire on 12/18/2013 12:12:44 MST Print View

>"I would love to hear some BPLers' strategies for keeping a fire going in steady rain "

Basically, piling the wood higher on the fire and staging wood next to the fire so it is getting some heat drying off a little bit.

Building a rock wall for the far side of the fire reflects a little more heat back at you. More importantly, it reflects heat back at the wood drying it out, and it lets you pile the wood higher.

I find each time I get lazy and think, "I'll let the fire burn this branch/log in half", it takes WAY too long and I can stack the wood as tightly as if I'd sawed it in half or skipped using it.

Ian Destroyer of Forums
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: fire on 12/18/2013 12:23:02 MST Print View

I've read threads on BPL of people using flares to scare off bears (Bob perhaps) so there's a potential third use for this item.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: fire on 12/18/2013 12:26:01 MST Print View

"I would love to hear some BPLers' strategies for keeping a fire going in steady rain"

First thing is to place it under the densest tree canopy you can find, this will do a lot for keeping the rain off your fire.

Next thing is to make it BIG. Get big logs burning. You want a coal base that you could forge a greatsword with. Make it big because when it's big with a hot coal base it will take a lot more rain to put it out.

If you are going to use wet wood, you need to get the wet wood drying out as soon as possible. What I usually do is put a big log on the opposite side of the fire parallel to the fire and my shelter. Then I start leaning pieces of wood against this big log so they are propped up above the fire. This allows them to dry out and at the same time I'm basically creating a lean-to over the fire which helps protect it.

I have kept a fire going all night to keep warm in light to moderate rain a few times.
Keep some dry kindling with you under your shelter and stuff some hot coals into your cook pot. In the morning you will have an easy time restarting the fire to warm up or cook.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: fire on 12/18/2013 12:41:34 MST Print View

David and Ian have it right: in the rain, the fire needs to be big, and you need to put put more wet wood behind and beside the fire to start drying early. "Behind" is as much for reflecting as drying. A rock wall can make a great reflector if it isn't channeling run-off into the fire.

This is NOT a LNT technique!

David, great fast fire technique there! I have a friend who says the best way to start an emergency fire when you're wet and cold is with a pint of gasoline! Good point, but a bit uncontrollable, especially when hypothermic. But fast beats slow and complicated in those conditions!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Volatile, semi-volatile and solid hydrocarbons. on 12/18/2013 13:11:51 MST Print View

>"the best way to start an emergency fire when you're wet and cold is with a pint of gasoline "

Stephen, If that's all you've got, and you don't really need your eyebrows for the next month, it works. But gasoline is so volatile, much of it flashes to vapor and burns in the air above the wood. Add any fuel low so its flames heat the wood. Diesel is a better choice per ounce because it is longer burning and not nearly do dangerous to light.

Synthetic fibers are good fire starters in pinch. Don't burn your clothes - it's better to wear those, but 550 cord and such add wind-proof BTUs once lit.

Whenever I've taken a wrap, sandwich or crackers out on a trip in a zip-lock bag, I end up carrying the zip-lock bag for the rest of the trip. One is fine because it makes a nice, sealable trash bag, but one than one is a pain. Wrapping the first few days of food (which for me is often normal, around-town food) in waxed paper makes disposal of the wrapper very easy. And wax paper is a wonderful and safe fire starter.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: fire on 12/18/2013 13:18:04 MST Print View

> "I would love to hear some BPLers' strategies for keeping a fire going in steady rain"

Yes, I can light a fire under bad conditions; I just don't bother. We get the tent up, get inside it, strip off, dry ourselves and get into dry warm clothing. Then I start the stove. Hot soup. Beats pfaffing around in the rain (snow) trying to light a fire EVERY time.

Cheers

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Volatile, semi-volatile and solid hydrocarbons. on 12/18/2013 13:23:45 MST Print View

"Synthetic fibers are good fire starters in pinch."

I was considering what to sacrifice when my buddy discovered the cooking oil.

He had tried white gas, which I kept telling him wouldn't work. A pint later and no fire...

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: fire on 12/18/2013 13:26:09 MST Print View

>" We get the tent up"

+1

Standing around a campfire in the rain gets one side of you (at most) warm. While the other three sides get cold and wet.

Another alternative to setting up the tent is to just keep hiking. If you've got clothes that dry as you wear them (non-down, non-cotton), I'll often hike when the weather is worst because I don't want to stop and cool down. Then when the rain lessens, I ventilate more and start looking for a protected camping spot.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: fire on 12/18/2013 13:29:59 MST Print View

"pfaffing" ?

What is that?

--B.G.--

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: fire on 12/18/2013 13:48:20 MST Print View

Once the fire is well established and hot, I always have at least two good sized logs in the fire with a space between, creating a hot spot that keeps both logs burning. I start with a tipi of small dry branches with tinder inside and a space for sliding my starter tinder bundle into.

Having a good supply of wood at hand is part of the deal. There's nothing worse than getting the fire going and leaving the warmth and light to stumble around in the dark trying to find more suitable wood.

The first place I look is for low dead and dry branches that can be broken off, which is intermediate fuel that can be broken or shaved down for lighter tinder. If camping by a fast moving river, you can usually find wood in the rocky banks that was left at higher water. I've found wood quite a ways back from the main channel in flatter flood areas.

I don't normally have a fire unless I'm in a campground and I've brought a supply of firewood. As much as I like the romance and warmth of a campfire, it just creates too much damage to the environment and my equipment. I do count fire making as a necessary skill for backcountry travel.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: fire on 12/18/2013 14:03:03 MST Print View

"Having a good supply of wood at hand is part of the deal. There's nothing worse than getting the fire going and leaving the warmth and light to stumble around in the dark trying to find more suitable wood."

That brings up the old story of the difference between the red man and the white man. The red man gets caught in a storm, so he gathers a small amount of wood, builds a small fire, stays very close to it, and he stays warm all night long.

The white man gathers a large amount of wood and builds a large fire. The fire burns down and he stays warm all night long by running to find more wood.

--B.G.--