Starting a Fire the Easy Way

In a survival situation, fire is one of the leading necessities. Even if you don’t need one for light or warmth, it’s going to be a valuable tool for cooking or boiling water. Anyone who does outdoor sports should be able to light a good fire under any conditions they’re likely to find themselves in. In a military context, fire also has its uses – even if it’s just for lighting your stove – but you can also use fire to create or clear obstacles, and it’s a quick and thorough way to destroy classified documents or equipment in an emergency.

In my Army career I ate a whole bunch of 24-hour ration packs. Every one of them contained a book of paper matches and a small plastic envelope with five lifeboat matches and a striker. These were included so you could light the issued hexamine stove, but they weren’t always adequate. The paper matches were useless in any sort of wind, and weren’t particularly waterproof either. The lifeboat matches were much better, but there were only five of them – not enough to guarantee lighting the hexi if it was damp – and anyway lighting one was like setting off a tiny gas attack. My personal equipment included a Zippo and a can of fuel for it, so I had a reliable source of ignition.

FirestarterNow Zippos are great, but they’re far from perfect. They tend to leak fuel and vapor, so if you have it in a pocket that’s next to the skin there’s a risk of developing an irritation. There’s also practically no way to scrounge fuel through the military supply chain, so if your personal stash runs out you’re in trouble. Butane lighters have the same drawback, but can be a great choice if you’re out for shorter periods – the high-power windproof sort will ignite just about anything, and some are powerful enough to be used as mini blowtorches.

If you want a really long-lasting source of fire, the way to do it is get a flint and steel, like the 5ive Star Gear fire starter. This has a long-lasting ferrocerium rod and a sawtooth steel striker, it’s tiny and weighs practically nothing. It will also produce sparks at a temperature of about 5,400°F, so it has the potential to light up just about anything. The downside is the sparks don’t weigh much, so they need to be scraped onto finely cut material if they’re going to work. It also takes a bit of skill to use the device. One way to make it more effective is to carry a magnesium fire starter; these will produce a spark and the magnesium, once lit, will burn intensely enough to light even damp wood.

A flint and steel, like any other method of starting fires apart from lighters and matches, needs some practice to use it effectively. It isn’t all that hard, but you don’t want to be learning it in a storm when you need to get a fire going in a hurry. So, if you buy a gadget like, this get two – one packed in your gear and one for practice. That way, when your matches get wet or your lighter runs dry, you’ll always have a backup source of fire.

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.

Fergus Mason

Fergus Mason grew up in the west of Scotland. After attending university he spent 14 years in the British Army and served in Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq. Afterwards, he went to Afghanistan as a contractor, where he worked in Kabul, Mazar-e-Sharif and Camp Leatherneck. He now writes on a variety of topics including current affairs and military matters.
Fergus Mason

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