Start that fire

Most of you have thought about the situation where you tip over the canoe and land on shore wet and cold. I do carry matches in water proof containers, but wonder how easy it would be to get a match going with the outside of the container (plastic or metal) wet and your hands shacking. What would be a good way to get a fire going under these conditions? Lets assume there is dry firewood available such as drift wood on Lake Superior. Do most of you carry waterproof lighters? Firesticks?

Suggestions welcome. Thanks

It may not fit in a typical match container, but I find sandpaper to be really handy. If gear gets handled roughly, I sometimes worry about the chances of matches accidentally igniting when stored in the same zip-lock bag as a piece of sandpaper, and it may be wise to wrap the sandpaper separately.

Another idea I have yet to try, but I know it works: Carry a full-size road flare. They are very easy to light, even with numb fingers, and it’ll get that fire started in conditions when matches aren’t up to the task.

That flare was a good idea. Now that you mentioned it isn’t there a smaller flare avaliable that Kayakers use? Wonder if that would work well? I may have to look into it.

Thanks for the idea.

Waterproof match containers
for me, as well. Good quality matches are getting harder to come by.

I cut the sticks down on my matches thus allowing more storage. Cut 'em just to the point were you can still handle them with gloves.

Backup fire starting device is an electric storm lighter. Use good fuel and check it before each trip.

Emergency tinder is gathered from pencil sharpeners - easily igniteable. I roll up a handful of ‘joints’ (ZigZag brand papers, of course!), and keep them in a small drybox with the matches and lighter.

This box is carried in my PFD backpack so I’m never without it.


a bunch of stuff…
coupla flares are almost always in the day hatch…i have storm matches that burn like crazy, a coupla lighters and then vaseline soaked cotton balls in there as well… that’s all between the med kit and the ditch bag.

if it’s a weekend trip? oh hell, break out the white gas and get a proper fire pretty damn quick!

it’s a fine line between preparedness and just being a kook.

storm matches
I have never heard of storm matches. Can you elaberate? Thanks

A Couple Lighters…
…and a Trioxane bar are stashed in the 1st aid kit. I’ve had two occasions over the years when a quick fire was needed and I’m glad I was prepared. WW

Emergency fire starter…
Never been in a situation where I’ve had to start a fire in an actual emergency.

If I’m paddling in nasty/cold weather I “always” have a complete change of clothes & raingear in a waterproof bag.

My emergency fire starting material consists of about 30 matches & several new strikers in a waterproof container. In a separate waterproof container I have 4 or 5 bars of trioxane & a couple of lighters. Another lighter is in my first aid kit, which I always have with me.


wooden matches…
about 3.5 or 4 inches long…they are mostly all “head” on the match stick and they look like little flares or 4th of july party favors.

once struck and lit, they will not extinguish until all of the chemical is burned away regardless of wind, rain, etc. have a place to toss it once lit, cause you can’t put it out.

personally i think they burn too fast but if you need flame…yeah, they’re going to flame up.

between those and lighers and then the vaseline cotton balls, let alone any white gas? fire, i have covered.

whether or not that useful in ways more than purely pschological is another question.

Cotton balls
Hello all,

I use cotton balls soaked in alcohol and stored in 35 mm film cans as fire starters. The slightest touch from a lit match and the go up. Use “Heet” gas line anti freeze (methanol). Also, I use wooden, windproof, waterproof matches stored in a waterproof container. Fumbling with undependable lighters when you are wet and cold sucks bad.

Good Luck,


Mammoth dung…
…willow shaft and notched fire board.

See the movie “Quest for Fire” for operating instructions.



Usually available at your
local outdoor store or campmor> Given shipping regs post 9/11 go local!

Dropped a cheap jet lighter

– Last Updated: Dec-29-05 11:42 PM EST –

in the front yard. snow, rain, mud, etc for a year. It did have a cap and 0 ring seal. Fired right up. Zippos? heck yeah. Using a lighter when you can means those matches do not need quite so much tending. So I still use matches as a final line of defense but my cheap jet lighter is often my first choice.

Just the view from here.

Same here
We found years ago that the “waterproof” matches that they sell in the camping stores are not any good after the first year you have them.

We put our faith with the dry bag and change of clothes, and also the rain gear and a couple of the silver survivor blankets.



candle lantern
in my ditch bag is a candle lantern and a BivAnorak by Hilleberg…Valley used (may still do) sell a tent like thing that up to four can get in out of wind and weather,regardless the candle lanter can heat up a small enclosed area quickly–of course in the BivAnorak your mouth and nose can still get air, but the rest of your body is heating up quickly with the candle lantern between your legs. I’ve tried to keep a thermos with hot fluids in the boat but more often than not I dont get that done.

Magnesium fire starter & a Knife…

post subject
I always carry strike anywhere matches in a waterproof container and a candel. If the wood you are trying to burn is wet the candel will allow you to keep a flame going long enough to dry the wood and start a fire.

I carry one of these, too, but after an experience trying to shave the magnesium with cold hands in the wind and wet, I’ve taken to carrying a tiny Nalgene bottle full of “pre-shaved” magnesium, and another with vaseline-soaked cotton balls. Now all it takes is a spark. Trioxane fuel bars are really good, too.

Be prepared

– Last Updated: Dec-29-05 8:15 AM EST –

When you pack, fire is one of your top concerns. Matches and lighters secreted about your gear in waterproof containers. Stike anywheres, storm matches, waterproof matches; get a variety for the variety of conditions you will deal with. A proper match safe with a striker. Ziplocks. Anglers know that all sorts of gear comes with match sized baggies.

If you've dumped and are worried about hypothermia, fire is your 3rd concern.

Get out of the cold wet clothes and into your warm dry whatever you have left over. If you're paddling in cold wet weather and don't have some backup clothes amongst your group you're not prepared.

Get your stove running. It's easy to light and is an instant source of heat. Even just the spark from a lighter or match will get it going. While it's burning away, put a pot of water on it. You'll be drinking that water soon, even if you don't have soup or other calories to put in it. Don't make coffee, make food or just hot water. Caffeine dehydrates and agitates, no help. One extra serving of soup per person, calories are heat. Keep your core warm. If you don't have an emergency meal, you're not prepared.

3. By this time you can assess if things are really bad or just sucky while you drink your soup and hang your wet things. If things just suck, then suck it up and keep moving or make camp and deal with it. If things are really bad you should think about climbing in your dry sleeping bag to get your body heat generated by the food working for you. You may need shelter first, if the wet stuff is falling on you. By now your wet clothes should be hanging up. If you sleeping bag is wet, you aren't prepared.

4. OK, now you're ready to deal with the situation. You're warm, dry and have energy for the task at hand. While it can be a fun exercise to start a fire with a minimum of materials, this isn't Happy Fun Time. Lots of tinder. Lots of everything. Pat yourself on the back for buying a White Gas stove. It's pretty tough to empty a cannister to start an emergency fire. 1/4 cup of fuel is all you need, mind your gear. If you pack tin cans or sturdy foil pouches in your garbage fill one and use that to start the fire.

For god's sake. Boots stay at least 2 feet away from the fire. 2 feet for the sake of your two feet. Don't scorch your underoos either, it makes them chafe.

In November I was lucky enough to dump an hour's paddle from the car. Rough waters, there was a tornado and everything. We didn't have to make camp, but we did have to abandon one guy in order to get to the car and rescue him.

Wax Paper
The wax paper used to wrap taffy is an excellent fire starter. You get the added benefit of eating the candy.

Pelican makes a small case that I carry both matches and lighters and well as toilet paper. TP can be used as firestarter as well.

Forget flares, soaked cotton and other things like that. It doesn’t take much to start a fire.

A change of clothes was some of the best advise given. Having a set of insulated longjohns to quickly get into is better than freezing your butt off while trying to build a fire. I would add a warm hat. Most of your heat loss is through your head.