In theory you should be able start a fire with just a couple of sticks and some elbow grease. But those of us who only occasionally venture out into the great outdoors don’t have the time to perfect and hone our manual blaze starting skills. We need a little help.
So here’s everything you’ll need to start a fire — anywhere. And no, it’s not cheating. Who needs to prove they can create a little flame using nothing but mother nature’s tools when proving you can stuff more toasted marshmallows in your mouth is far more enjoyable?
We’ll be honest, a good supply of matches is the easiest way to start a roaring campfire. But they eventually run out, and carrying a box of combustible sticks in your pack isn’t the smartest idea. So consider a Swedish FireSteel stick instead.
We’re not entirely sure why Sweden has become a world leader in survival gear, but the country’s pocket knives and fire starting tools are well respected. Every strike on this FireSteel metal stick produces sparks over 2760C, which is hot enough to light tinder even in windy or damp conditions. And when not in use the FireSteel is completely inert and safe to carry anywhere. $US16. [clear]
The name Zippo is synonymous with fire, but the company’s iconic lighters aren’t necessarily the best tool for the job in a survival situation. And that’s why it created this emergency kit that houses a flint ignition wheel and water-resistant wax tinder sticks inside a weatherproof orange case.
It’s overkill if you’re just lighting a cigarette, but absolutely essential for coaxing twigs, leaves and other combustibles into a roaring fire. And every time you open the case you get to quote Bruce Willis from Die Hard. Yippee ki-yay. $US10. [clear]
Most people don’t realise that a simple piston is able to produce enough heat to start a fire. And it’s all thanks to pressure. When the plunger is quickly inserted into the shaft of this manual piston, the air inside gets compressed and can instantly reach temperatures of over 260C.
And if you happen to insert a small piece of cotton into the shaft beforehand, you’ll be left with a small burning ember that can be skillfully grown into a raging fire. It works even in the worst of conditions, as long as you have the strength to push the plunger. $US125. [clear]
Like something concocted up by a wizard, these small cubes are able to burn at over 704C, even when soaked. In fact, they burn even better when wet, making us wonder what kind of ancient alchemy created the classified material they’re made from.
The WetFire cubes burn hot enough to ignite even wet tinder, and you can either shave off a few flakes to get a fire going, or set the whole thing ablaze. It takes a while to burn through completely, and when snuffed out it’s almost instantaneously cool to the touch. It’s sorcery we tell you, sorcery! $US10. [clear]
When the weather isn’t co-operating, or you simply don’t have the patience to get a fire going from a spark, it’s time to call in the big guns. The Looftlighter is kind of like an over-cranked hair dryer, and in 60 seconds it can set everything from logs to charcoal briquettes aflame with nothing but hot air.
It lets you skip the dangerous chemicals like lighter fluid, and it’s as easy to use as pointing the business end towards whatever you want to see in flames. The only catch? It does require an external power source, so unless you’ve got access to a motorhome a few feet from your firepit, it’s not going to be much use to you. $US70. [clear]
So if you’re really roughing it, and don’t have access to AC, Wicked Lasers’ Torch is the next best thing to the Looftlighter. It looks like your typical torch, and works like one too. But like the company’s high-powered lasers, the torch has bit of extra oomph.
How much extra oomph you ask? The torch’s 100W halogen bulb is able to kick out 4100 lumens, which is more than enough to ignite paper, or other tinder, at close range. But as long as you’re careful, you can still use it in the middle of the night as a regular torch without setting your tent ablaze. The downside? That much brightness will drain a set of batteries in just five minutes. So it’s a good thing the beam’s adjustable. $US180. [clear]
Of course, if you’re looking for advice on how to start a fire, you need to turn to the experts. And we’re not talking firemen, or even scientists. Nope. You need the advice from a bona fide pyromaniac.
Author William Gurstelle has collected 25 different fire-based experiments in his book, The Practical Pyromaniac, which should leave you with all sorts of unique ideas on how to start a roaring campfire no matter what you have at your disposal. They say knowledge is power, and once you understand the basics of fire, you’ll be a genuine MacGyver the next time you head out into the woods. $US17. [clear]