Fire --how to make

Just a warning on the inflatable pad – some of them don’t insulate that well (though maybe you have already sourced one that does). Straight air mattresses with no insulation material inside the bladders to prevent air movement will just allow ground cold to transfer to the sleeper.

I used to guide winter backpacking trips and preferred a full length ensolite pad (3/8" or 1/2") plus a short inflatable or compressable foam pad for my torso and head. I have a couple of the Klymit ultra small inflatables now and they work great for comfort with the ensolite and you can practically carry one in a cargo pants pocket. And if you are sleeping on bare ground you probably want something under that inflatable pad to block moisture and prevent damage to the material from sharp little bits of rock and vegetation, so a thin close cell foam will serve for that.

A utility ensolite pad serves many purposes besides sleeping. For kayaking I have a 72" one I cut in half and use one piece inside the cockpit of a couple of my boats to increase fit and comfort. handy for sitting on around camp too. And we even used one along with ski poles to wrap and stabilize a broken leg on a guy who had to be evacuated.

Back in the day, my favorite winter tents all had HUGE floor-less vestibules that we could vent and used cookstoves in during storms. I would usually sit on the folded ensolite to cook out in them.

For a lot of my backcountry gear I eventually switched to “2 is better than 1” for some of it. Besides carrying two sleeping pads, for instance, I found that two lightweight sleeping bags that nest for colder nights have many advantages over having a temp specific single bag. Easier to pack since two smaller stuff sacks can fit in more places in your pack to allow balance distribution and are easier to stash in a canoe pack or kayak hatch. I sold off my winter expedition grade down bags (even the minus 40 F rated one I sewed from a Holubar kit in the late 1970s) and went to a single layer Polarguard oversized mummy bag with a 3 season rated down mummy that could fit inside. Each bag stuffed down to about the size of a large loaf of bread and would fit inside my internal frame pack instead of being vulnerably lashed to the exterior. If I was using the two together and woke up too warm I could wriggle out of the overbag and lay on top of it in the down bag. The polarguard overbag helped protect my down bag from condensation moisture in the tent plus I could stash damp socks and my longjohns I would be wearing the next day between the two bags to add insulation space around me and to keep my clothes warm (even dry damp socks that way).

For day hikes from a base camp or summit attempts in mountaineering, I could pack the more moisture resistant overbag in my summit or day pack in case of emergency bivouac or if we needed to wrap somebody for rescue in case of an accident or illness. Overbag kept my down bag clean too and was easy to machine wash.

You can make a cheap functional hoodless overbag from any old nylon shell quilted synthetic fill discount store rectangular car camping sleeping bag, even one with a busted zipper. Just lay your down mummy bag on top of the inside out cheap bag and trace an outline on it about 4" bigger than the mummy sides and bottom edge with a Sharpie. Then cut both the top and bottom layers on that line. Use a lighter to carefully singe the edges of the nylon so it won’t fray and sew the two layers together across the sides and bottom. if you want to get fancy you can stitch bias blanket binding from a sewing supply store over the raw seam to make it cleaner and not scratchy. And you can add a half or full length zipper to one seam, though my overbag has never had that and has worked fine as just a quilted oversized sack.

Another advantage of carrying duplicate items on a group trip is you have a spare to equip someone else who may discover they have inadequate gear or lose some or all of it. As a guide I had to consider that kind of thing but have retained the habit.

And you never know when a piece of your own kit can fail or get lost. i know somebody who fumbled strapping his stuff-sacked winter down bag to his pack at a steep camp 2/3rds of the way up Aconcagua (highest mountain in the Western hemisphere) and it bounced halfway down the route. The expedition had no extra bags so he had no choice but to abandon his chance to make the summit on the trip with his team and had to hike back down to find it. It was 3 hour descent before he located it, fortunately the bright blue stuff sack stood out clearly against the grey rock and ice and it had not gone into a crevasse. That bag happened to be the Holubar arctic bag I had made, which I had loaned him for the trip. One of the other climbers, who watched with him in dismay as the packed bag bounced down the cliffs, told me the first thing the guy who lost it said was “Kerry’s gonna kill me if I don’t get that back.” He did comment to me when he confessed to the disaster later that maybe if I had not sewed such a bombproof stuffsack for it (triple stitched cordura) maybe it would have exploded on one of the cliff drops and released the bag so it would have stopped bouncing further down. Oh, well…

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Some of the inflatable pads insulate quite well. Places like REI actually state the R value of some of their pads.

Exped and Thermarest both make some inflatable sleeping pads that are quite comfortable, very packable, and have excellent R values (around 7).

Seattle Fabrics sells patterns and materials to sew your own floor-less tent.

You are more talented and have more time than I do Willowleaf!
Still good info for someone inclined to make their own tent either just to do it or to save money.
About $1,300 for my next floorless tipi style tent so money saving could be a serious motivator for someone.
Lightweight, durable, able to hold up to a snow load or wind isn’t cheap.

Thanks for the link and info. Interesting. I’ve used stoves in tents, but the tents were bigger and canvas. The Finns are great winter outdoorspeople. I don’t understand why they use such small knives tho.

Vestibules are a great thing to have in tents. The air mattresses that have higher R values must be thicker on one side as they’d have to reduce the conduction of cold that would cause convection of the air inside.

In the Boy Scouts my nick name was “Half Match”. My camp fire tactics were akin to the nick name. Once or twice an axe was included in the ignition sequence.

In my more experienced years it is now a split up 2x6 trailer leveling block, some lighter fluid and a plumbers tourch. My fires light.

When kayak/canoe camping I carry a stove and matches (whole matches) .

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The higher R value pads are still fairly thin and light since they are intended for backpackers… I think the shapes of the air chambers effects it a bit but to be honest I haven’t done a lot of research into that.
I don’t backpack but I’ve learned that their light weight, compact gear is perfect for taking trips into the wilderness in a kayak
Vestibules are nice! And with a tipi hot tent that has the stove next to the center pole you end up sleeping on the side opposite the stove and have the other half to store gear and a pile of wood.
If I have room I pack an extra tarp to make a porch also.

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Some people do chalk that up to being lazy. I completely disagree. That is a sign of intelligence, wisdom, experience…and older age. :smiley:

Exactly. I used to backpack and when hitchhiking around the country, used the same pack and same gear. Everything’s in one bag, lightweight and compact, so just grab that bag for a walk, a canoe trip, or even vehicle camping. 30 years later, the only change I’ve made is I now have a duluth pack instead of an internal frame north face pack.

One fine Wyoming spring day I was working with a wildlife biologist from Alaska. We were out by Rock Springs doing some critter surveys. I had dropped off my comrade and we worked apart for several hours. It was April but we had a storm with horizontal snow and winds around 30 mph. I hiked back to the truck and went to find the biologist. He was in a little rock guard shack sitting in the corner with a small fire made out of survey stakes. We became close friends right there.

Fire making basics, and the one match thing I learned in Boy Scouts.

The necessary ingredients for fire, heat source, fuel, and oxygen. Oxygen is often not considered. Set up so any wind is funneled into the fire. You want air space around the fuel. You can stack it such that large pieces help reflect the heat back down on the fire so it burns hotter.

Blowing on a fire helps, but blowing through a straw works much better and makes for a hotter flame by providing more oxygen. Works good when starting a difficult to start fire, but don’t blow it out.

You want to really learn the basics… try fire by friction. The bow drill method is the easiest friction method. Use all natural materials collected at hand. It takes your understanding to another level.

I always wondered how our ancestors figured out how to make fire. I suppose chipping rock tools led to sparks which led to fire making. However, when trying to learn to make fire with a bow drill I realized that drilling holes in wood with wood makes for lots of smoke, which had the same eureka moment as a spark did from tool making. The next step was to make a notch in a hole to collect the hot charred sawdust that would form an ember with which to make a fire.

And then there is the road flare!

I carry a Bic lighter, some small pieces of fat lighter, and waxed paper sticks because I’m lazy or wise. Take your pick. Oh, and for “backup” there is toilet paper.

one of these is very useful . 2 for 5 bucks

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Yeah, I carry the same gizmo. Weighs very little and doesn’t take up much space.

I use a lighter and whatever tinder (Birch Bark hopefully), kindling is at hand. My backup is a ferro rod and vaseline cottonballs.

When I was young I used to try to be “Mr. Outdoorsman” and start fires with a drill. Over the years I’ve carried all sorts of tinder in an old instant coffee jar. Had the “one match” fire down for both camping and later for starting my wood stove at home. I carried kitchen matches in a waterproof match container. For a while I was prone to dipping the match heads in candle wax to water proof them and make them burn a bit longer. Did lint with sawdust and just a light touch of diesel fuel in candle wax mixed in an egg carton. For quite a while I carried old copies of “the Onion” in a zip lock bag - good to start fires and provide a chuckle in a tent when rain bound for too long. And ferro rods with mag blocks. Steel wool and a bit of wire to use with headlamp batteries… A Pocket loupe… All sorts of stuff.
Now days I’ve become a dedicated “cheater.” I carry a couple Bic lighters in separate instant coffee jars and use fire starter sticks. Fast and no hassle at all. I’m getting old and I’m after fire, not showmanship. But I still always have at least some of the other stuff as backup in my bag.

GuideboatGuy put me on to yet another pretty cool fire starting method - and one that hasn’t yet been mentioned, so I’m thinking it might be new to at least some folks here. The fire piston.
Use demonstrated here:

Or make your own:

BTW, you can lube an O ring by rubbing it on the side of your nose, just like a fishing rod ferrule - always just a touch of oil there.

I keep thinking Paul Simon might want to write a song about “Fifty ways to start a campfire”.
Break out the flint, Clint…
Make up a drill, Bill
Need a flick of the Bic, Dick
Its getting too dark to see.

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[quote=“Dago, post:9, topic:107426”]
I’ve tried those and didn’t like the oily/greasy nature of them.
[/quote]If you tell a person to use vasleine soaked cotton, I will guarantee you they will go way overboard with the vaseline. “Just a dab will do ya”. Ony a touch of the greasy stuff worked into the cotton is plenty. If you “soak” the cotton ball so that feels greasy, it may not even light and will make a mess. The cotton ball needs to have several “dry” fibers to catch the initial spark and to flame up enough to initiate the petroleum burn.

Regardless of what artificial starter you may use to accelerate the processs, try starting with a selection of graduated size pieces of “dry” wood. First the tinder, such as dry birch bark ( it takes a flame like kerosene) or a “nest” of dry ( very dry) wadded up pine or other pitch laden “fine hairy tinder” from the lower dead branches. Maybe some crumbled very dry ( still on the branch dry) brown beech leaves. Before you begin, make at least five piles of tinder and kindling, very small snappy twigs, then pencil size twigs, all the way up to thumb size sticks. have evenlarger dry fuel ready to put on after the kindling burns hot. In short, have everything ready. Dont leave a nice kindling fire burn down to nothing while you have to leave it to get larger sustaining wood. Have it all ready in one nearby place.

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Preparation is the key.

Although with the vas cotton balls, what you need is to expand them so there are hairs, they dont need to be dry. Mine sit is a tube and soak Vaseline for months at a time. I just take a small hunk, and fluff it out. If you are trying to get a ball of vas soaked cotton to light, it wont happen. Non vaseline cotton will burn quick and short. Soak it, then fluff it and it will take a spark.

The more you need a fire, the harder it is to start.
Carry some fire starter. A lot of people depend on stoves and have lost the art of fire building and tending.

Lots of great suggestions here.

A cheap lighter or two is a good idea, and/or backup.

A higher quality one would probably be better, if you can afford it/them, in addition to the ferro rods, and other high-tech spark generation devices available for sale now.

Did I miss it or is no one using corn chips and the windproof lighters that crackheads use. You can always eat the corn chips. They keep the lighters around the cash registers at Dollar General.