Emergency fire making for trail riders
Greetings and salutations,
I thought you’d find this interesting. A TrailMeister reader, Lonnie, sent me a great tip on how to start a fire without matches using steel wool and a nine volt battery. I don’t know about you but I don’t generally carry those two items in my saddle bags.
I have had my trusty bic lighter fail me while horse camping though and thought that it would be a good thing to research different methods of making fire without matches or a lighter. I found lots of nifty and way cool info (this past weekend was kind of smoky around the house) and I’ve got to say I’m going to be the coolest uncle around when I show the nephews how to make fire with among other things, a chunk of ice, a can, and a chocolate bar.
While I certainly won’t leave the trailhead without my standard matches and lighter it’s pretty nifty to learn about these other ways to start a camp fire.
You can read more about different ways to satisfy your pyrotechnic side here.
That is pretty darn nifty but I think I will stay with matches or a lighter.
I learned way back when for hunting to carry a road flare for emergency fires. They'll start a fire in almost any condition but underwater. Now I wouldn't want to use one just to start my campfire under normal conditions but it is handy on those reall wet, soggy nights where the lighter just doesnt cut it.
So many of my backcountry rides are at higher elevation. I've learned that most modern day gas lighters don't work at high elevation. They are just worthless. So I never carry one.
Matches have evolved. I really hate what they have become. As a boy, I remember lighting matches on my pant leg, zippers, with thumb nails, in addition to striking on a rock or pretty much anything hard. Todays matches really challenge the term "Strike Anywhere" It just seems that match makers have been forced away from white phosphorus tips to other safer materials that really don't strike as well. As a boy in scouting we learned to light a fire with no more than 2 matches. Today, it takes 4-5 stick matches just to find a match that will actually flame up and stay lit for more than the red match tip. I don't know if it regulations governing the chemicals or just the fact that most matches are made in china anymore that results in such poor quality.
Since I ride 12 months of the year. I often find myself in cold situation that could cause hyperthermia if I was not prepared. We've had horses go down or stumble causing their riders to come off while crossing water. Even in July, at 10,000 foot elevation it might be 35-40° if you are wet, you can die from hyperthermia. So being able to start a fire quickly to warm up and dry off is a primary lesson.
Fire starting materials are standard items I carry in my cantle. I carry matches and usually some kind of fire starter to help get wood burning. Dryer lint soaked in parafin wax, wood shavings soaked in a little coal oil, sometimes a small bottle of charcoal Briquets starter fluid. If I have time, I will gather the pine needles, shave the wood shaving and start the fire, If I'm wet, cold and needing heat right now, I get out what ever I brought to cheat with and get a big going fast.
My cantle pack contains a waterproof match case with 40 or so matches in it. A space blanket, and usually 2oz plastic bottle of some flamible liquid. People die if you can't start a fire in my part of the world. Try falling off a horse into a river at 10° to truely understand how fast you need a fire.
Ok Painted Horse, you are my guide of choice! burrrrrrr that sounds COLD. Ok...just for future reference...lint soaked in paraffin wax - how does that work? You never know...I may need a lint candle. Lint I have!
Take a cardboard egg carton, Stuff each of the depressions with dryer lint. Pour parafin wax over it. Let dry and break off each lump so you have 12 chunks.
When you need a fire, Put the chunk in the bottom and stack kindling and smaller wood on top The lint and cardboard will light easily and parafin provides the heat and burns like a candle.
You probably throw away the lint and egg carton,So this is a pretty cheap firestarter. The only real cost is the parafin. Make sure you melt it in a double boiler. Wax can catch fire over the stove if you get it too hot.
Lunch fire on a February trail ride
I think if I was looking to use something as a backup, I would stick with a flint and steel. They don't depend on a sunny day like the lens based methods, don't take long periods of physical exertion like a hand drill, and they are relatively small and easy to pack with no special precautions. Plus, with matches or a lighter, it is really hard to keep a flame long enough to get anything lit if the wind is blowing.
All that being said, I would just be SOL if I wanted to start a fire around here. We've had a burn ban going for a little over a year so I would likely burn down half the state if I started a fire :lol:.
This photo was taken on the 24th of July in Yellowstone park. It was overcast and drizzling a light rain. Tempeture was in the mid 40's. This girls horse stumbled while crossing the river and she came off. Water was about belly deep on the horses. So she went totally under water when she landed. She was soaking wet. Here she is walking the rest of the way across the river, vs trying to remount in the river.
We got most of her cloths off, ( As much as she was willing to shed) rung out the excess water and got a fire going to help warm her and dry her clothing. We traded a few coats around to get her something dry. It was about a 2 hour ride back to the truck. So there was no option to turn back, The only choice was to get her dried off and warmed up.
This was late November. Horse stepped in quicksand and the rider went over the horses head and landed flat on his back in that small stream. He was wet from head to heal on his back side. You can see him holding his wet coat in his left hand.
As good a rider as you may think you are. Sometime in your riding career, you will come off and get wet and wish you had some way to get warm.
One year while sheep hunting, We spotted a nice ram about two miles off. My buddy and I took off to try and catch up with the ram before the sun set. A 3rd friend stayed on the high vantage point with the spotting scope and talked to us thru walkie talkies to direct us to the ram. Long story short, The sun went down and we lost all daylight. We turned around tried to find our way back. It was probably one of the blackest nights I've ever experience. No moon, no stars. 100 miles from any city. So there was no reflected light. It was black. We were cross some very rugged and cliff strewn area. We called our buddy up on the cliff top and asked him to light a fire for a point of light to be reference for us to hike towards.
He replied over the walkie talkies that he would and wanted to know where the matches were. My buddy and I both had matches in our pockets and packs and were just dumbfounded to here, this ex-marine say he did have any matches with him. As we hiked we heard him shooting his gun trying to spark a fire. ( I want to buy some of those sparking bullets they use on TV). He never did get a fire lit. I made every body promise to never tell my wife or mother what I had done that night. Such foolishness to cross those cravasses and climb those cliffs in total darkness.
This is a picture of the area we hiked in the dark wishing we had a fire on the ridge to guide us back.
I make my own "tinder" using equal parts cotton balls, fine steel wool, and petroleum jelly (Vasoline). Take a wad of it, separate it out so there are fine fibers exposed, and a single spark from a magnesium "match" will catch it burning. A tablespoon size glob will burn for several minutes and start a fire in all but the very wettest situations. Two globs and even pretty wet wood will burn.
I carry a pill bottle full of it in my CamelBak along with the magnesium match. And a lighter, on the chance that it will work.
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