Friday, March 9, 2012

Fire Kit

Come On Baby, Light My Fire!

Weight: ~58g
Time to Build:  1hr
Cost: <$10

This is more of a work in progress.  When I'm on the trail, especially for a hike of anything more than a couple nights, making a fire isn't truthfully that great of a thought on my mind.  Granted, some people can't seem to reach their evening resting place without thinking of building a fire, and others rely on a camp fire for cooking, but the fascination isn't really there for me.  Occasionally I take my son on some lengthy hikes (Old Loggers Path was a good one), and for him hiking/camping isn't complete without a camp fire.  He gets the greatest satisfaction out of building a fire, rummaging through the forest for wood, and tending the great beast.  Myself, on the other hand, I get little out of the intense effort required to build and maintain a fire.  However, it has occurred to me lately that should my stove fail, or if I were to be in dire need of warmth, I should be able to start a fire with relative ease to get me through.

With that comes the fire kit.  Like always, I consulted the internet gods on my fire building chitaqua.  What I found were kits consisting of redundant fire starting materials from birch bark, waxed jute, etc to unstoppable matches, peanut lighters, fire steel and acoutraments like birthday candles.  I certainly understand the need for redundancy in fire starting materials, but to me, if  a pile of lint won't light, neither will birch bark.  So why, if you're going to carry multiple methods of fire starting, would you carry multiple highly sensitive methods?

So I'm going to play around with this one.  For a container, I like the soda bottle capsules that I used for the fishing kit, but the standard soda bottle capsule is too small to use for this purpose, so i made one out of large Gatorade/Vitamin Water bottles in the same way, but used a divider between the two compartments like in this tutorial.  The blaze orange lids from the Gatorade bottles clearly indicate that this is my fire kit and, if dropped on the ground, will stick out like a soar thumb.  The compartment allows me to separate my "dry starter" and starting materials from my "wet starter".  For my main fire starting material, I'm using cotton balls soaked in Petroleum Jelly.  This stuff gets messy, which is why the divider is necessary.  I'm able to fit four soaked balls in the one side of the kit. Since this is an emergency kit not an everyday use kit, I think four balls will be fine.  It takes at least 5 minutes for one of those cotton balls to burn down to ash and I'm more than confident that I can start a fire using these in all but the most soaked conditions.  That brings me to the ranger bands.  I'm still playing around with these.  A little vaseline does wonders,  and these things will catch in almost any situation except high wind.  The burn time isn't quite as good as the cotton balls, but their versatility is what has attracted me to them.   Again, we'll see how it goes.
I'm accustomed to bringing my magnesium bar along with me, but I would never need that much magnesium in one instance, so I cut the bar down to fit in the other side of the kit. Dry tinder like jute, cotton starter, etc is going on the other side.  I bring waterproof matches and a lighter in my cook kit, but since this kit is water proof, a cut down paper match pack fits well curled around the inside of the dry side.  I'd like to cram a Split Pea lighter into this kit, but I'm not sure that all can fit.  A full Split Pea lighter can burn for about 10 minutes fully filled with lighter fluid, which is perfect for a fire kit.

Melt the petroleum jelly in a double boiler and pour over cotton balls.

The Gatorade bottle provides for one of the largest capacities in the soda bottle capsule world.  This was taken before the lip was removed and sanded flush.

Stuffing the balls into the capsule before the petroleum jelly allows the liquid jelly to squish out.  I wonder how much difference there is between the balls left to cool then stuffed in and the balls stuffed in wet.  Notice the ranger bands... just in case, they always catch with a naked flame.
On the other side goes a cut down piece of magnesium bar with striker built in as well as some dryer lint.  Other misc dry tinder could also fit in here.  I prefer dryer lint because it ignites easily and doesn't weigh much and it is free every time I do cotton wash!  Other commercially available materials work well too.

You can see that quite a bit of lint or other tinder can fit.  A cut down pack of paper matches will also fit, but I pack matches in my cook kit along with a lighter so I don't feel it too necessary to pack substandard materials redundantly.
Everything together: 58g