Maybe you weren’t expecting to get lost (who is?) and maybe you’re a non-smoker so you don’t have your trusty Zippo with the unit insignia you got as a PCS gift last year. There are a few compact items you can always keep in your backpack or kit for just such a situation as well as numerous ways to improvise a means to our most historically useful invention.

1. Flint and Steel: Spark Sticks made of flint compounds are available at every major outdoor retailer. Some come with a piece of steel to scrape along the edge of the rod to make sparks to light your tinder. Others are better suited to using your pocket knife to get a larger, hotter spark.

The benefits are that they take up little space, are relatively inexpensive, available everywhere, and are extremely portable. Drawbacks are reliability and energy expended in the process. So, choose your purchase wisely. You can’t get a new one delivered when you’re already stuck.

2. Spark Wheels: Using a similar mechanism as the average convenience store lighter, spark wheels can be rolled along a surface against your tinder rapidly and repeatedly giving you lots of hot sparks in a short amount of time. Easily my personal favorite from my time at the Jungle Warfare School, SERE, and personal camping.

Advantages include portability, ease of use, and how quick tinder usually lights with minimal energy expenditure. Disadvantages are that they are not as widely available as fire sticks, are a bit more expensive, and some have small flints that need changing after several uses.

3. All-Weather Matches: This one seems like a no brainer, right? They come in small, waterproof containers and are made with special chemicals to hold their flame in drastic weather conditions. Just check how many you have before every trip, and pack a few dozen in your emergency bug-out-bag.

Advantages are ease of use (given that every adult should know how to strike a match), portability, and resilience to weather. Disadvantages are limited uses, breakable, and inconsistent quality across the various brands. Some just plain don’t work.

4. Fire Sticks: Here’s an arts and crafts project for you. You can either use a for-sure softwood from home to make these or just ensure you always have the parachute cord and base block pre-drilled to collect your ashes.

Fire sticks are used around the world to make a fire in the developing world, and the people there can do it almost instantaneously. You need two dry softwood sticks with the bark shaved off and a piece of wood for the base to collect the ashes created from friction.

Make your bow using a stick and a tightly tied piece of cord. Twist the taught string around your vertical spinning stick and place the end of the spinning stick into a groove on your base block. Spin the vertical stick using the bow in a sawing motion while using another block, rock, or shell to keep the pressure on the vertical stick so it creates friction against the base block.

Once you see smoke coming from the groove in the base block without the vertical stick spinning, you know you now have ashes. Carefully place those ashes in your (VERY) dry pile of tinder. Steadily and gently blow on that spark until it catches the tinder. Then place that burning tinder among your kindling.

Disadvantages are that it’s a temperamental process, it takes time to set up the pieces, lots of energy expenditure, and no guarantee of success. The only advantage is that if you do it you have bragging rights for life and can consider yourself nearly a master survivalist.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Bryan Bintliff

Bryan is an Army veteran, Masters Student at NYU, and a freelance writer dabbling in travel advice and survival tips... sometimes both at once. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and is enjoying his new weekend warrior status.
Bryan Bintliff

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