Would you go camping, when you know there’s a blizzard or storm coming? Have you ever waited for a rainy or windy day to go out into the woods and test your skills? One thing I learned from a friend of mine, who’s a former Navy SEAL, is that to train your body and mind for a survival situation, you have to employ something he calls “emergency conditioning”.
When it comes to a survival situation, emergency conditioning, consists simply of training your mind and your body, and develop skills in a way, to make it as close to a real life survival scenario as possible. One of the skills that at the top of your toolbox during a survival situation, is starting and building fires. Fire is a lifesaver in every sense of the word. It provides you heat, provides what you need to make your water safe to drink, can give you comfort and ward off animals that may stalk you in the wild.
Chances are you are currently able to choose when you go out and practice your skills, and many will pick days with better weather. Most people don't go camping hoping it will rain or even snow. I think that’s a mistake and you may want to practice your survival skills, including fire making, when the weather is bad. I covered this topic briefly in a previous article "How to Start a Fire in Harsh Weather" but I wanted to go a little more in depth in this article.
Fire Starting Methods
Starting with the basics, there are several different items you can pack in your bug out bag, purse, glove compartment of your car or even your desk drawer that will ensure you can start a fire in an emergency even if the weather is bad. These items are inexpensive and truly invaluable. Look into getting at least one, but preferably, have at least two methods of starting a fire on hand at all times.
- Magnesium stick
- Flint rod and steel
- Waterproof matches
The magnesium stick and flint rod do require some practice to figure out how to get the spark needed to start your fire. Don't leave your tools sitting in the packages. Take them out and get familiar with holding the gear and actually using it.
Creating a Tinder Bundle
Your next hurdle to creating a fire is constructing a tinder bundle. At home, you would probably use newspaper to get your fire started. When you are out in the middle of nowhere and you don't have newspaper, you need to put together some dry, easily flammable material that will serve as the base of your fire. This can be a real challenge if its raining or snowing
Where you are will determine what kind of material you can find. The following list are some things that make for a great tinder bundle to ensure you get a roaring fire.
- Pine needles
- Dry grass
- Fibrous material inside cedar bark
- Birch tree bark
- Dried moss
- Dry leaves
If it has been raining your best bet is to look for dry material under trees. The branches will offer some protection from rain or snow. Material that is exposed to the full sun and is not shaded is your best option. Leaves or grass that are exposed to the wind will also be drier than those that are lying directly on the ground.
Use your dried material to create something that resembles a bird nest. You can use a combination of dried materials. Your tinder bundle only needs to be about as big as your hand. Create a small indention in the center of the tinder bundle. This is where your spark is going to land.
Your next step is to collect enough firewood to keep your fire going for at least 30 minutes. You don't want to get a new fire going and leave it to go find more wood. New fires need lots of monitoring to ensure they do not go out.
When collecting firewood, you want to get three different sizes. You need small twigs and branches in the earliest stages, medium branches once the twigs are burning nicely and then finally, a nice log that will slowly burn for several hours.
Do not pick up any branches or logs directly off the ground. They will be damp and you will struggle to get the wood to burn. Look for branches on trees that have died. These should be easy to snap off. Trees that have fallen, but got hung up on other trees are another source of dry wood. Branches that have fallen to the ground, but have branches sticking up are okay to use. The wind and sun will have dried the piece that is off the ground.
If you do come across some damp wood, collect it and put it close to your fire for later use. The heat of your fire will help dry it out. This can take a day or several days depending on how wet the wood is.
Building Your Fire
Now that you have everything you need to make a fire, it is time to build a fire teepee out of your twigs. Use six to ten twigs to build a small teepee, leaving an opening on one side. Light your tinder bundle. Gently blow on the tinder to get a nice flame. Carefully put the tinder bundle in the opening of your fire teepee. The flames should catch the twigs on fire. You may need to add bits of dried material to keep the flame burning long enough to catch the twigs on fire.
Once the twigs are burning, add a couple small branches. Add more twigs if needed to keep the flames going. Once your medium size branches have caught on, carefully add a larger log or two being careful not to snuff out the flames.
Making Fire in the Rain
Making a fire in the rain is a little tougher, but it can still be done. The tricky part is to find shelter for your fire, without completely blocking the smoke from escaping. Check out some of the following places you can use to build a fire in the rain.
- Cave—if the cave is small, build the fire right at the opening so the smoke can escape, but the fire will be somewhat protected
- Under a tree—tall evergreens, birch and cedar provide nice shelter for you and your fire
- Make a teepee out of a tarp; make sure you leave an opening at the top for the smoke to escape
- Under a rock overhang
- Create a lean-to that protects the fire
You also need to protect your fire from ground water. You can do this by putting down a layer of rocks and then building your fire. Choose a place that is not likely to be flooded by running water. Do not place your fire in a depression in the ground that could quickly fill up with water.
When You Don't Have a Modern Fire Starting Method
If you find yourself without a modern fire starting method, you can still make a fire with items you find in your environment. Primitive fire making is not easy, but it can be done with a little patience and perseverance.
Rubbing two sticks together is probably one of the earliest methods and it does work. Use a knife to cut out a small dimple or indent in the wood that will be on the bottom, lying flat on the ground. Cut a small slit or what some people refer to as a pie slice out of the dimpled area so that you can see the ground. Slide some tinder material into the missing pie piece.
Place your other stick between your hands with one end in the dimple. Rub your hands back and forth, turning your stick, which is referred to as the spindle. The friction from the rubbing sticks will create a spark. The spark will be caught by your tinder and a flame will ensue. Check out this article for more details Make a Fire By Rubbing Sticks
Practice, will always improve your chances of performing in real life situations. By simulating different conditions that may exist you automatically create that possibility in your plan and can start preparing and refining your skills ahead of time instead of having to improvise from scratch.
He doesn't consider himself an expert, but a facilitator and he works hard to provide a platform to those with valuable expertise to share their knowledge with as many people as possible.
He enjoys helping others prepare themselves for multiple dangerous scenarios, by coaching them on how develop their own customized survival & preparedness plans and develop their survival skills. He promotes the core concept of making preparedness and survival knowledge part of their daily lives.