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What is the Best Fire Starter for your Bushcraft Camp

Posted by Jamie Canterbury on September 30, 2019   •   bushcraft, bushcraft camp, Ferro Rod, fire starting, flint and steel

Is the Ferro Rod the Best Firestarter for your Bushcraft Camp?

A fire pit or fire ring at your bushcraft camp will likely be a place of gathering. It will be where meals are cooked and eaten, and it might be a place where stories are exchanged. To be effective in this space you are going to need a reliable fire starter. Storm proof matches or a ferro rod are two great options.

Fire changed everything for humanity. Some scientists believe that our brains grew exponentially from the ease of digestion from eating foods that were partially broken down by cooking. This freed up energy that was used to gather, chew and digest things raw roots and leaves.

Suddenly, cooked meat flooded our system with a vast array of nutrients that were easily absorbed. This extra nutrition, some scientists believe, was the catalyst to rapid brain growth in our species.

In many ways, fire delivered us from the animal world. Not to mention it also afforded us rapid increases in technology.

That is a lot of history and pie in the sky regarding fire starters in your bushcraft camp. It's important for you to understand how fire has followed us through the millennia. Its multi-function nature has much to do with that.

Fire Uses Around the Bushcraft Camp

It is common backpacking procedure to avoid carrying anything that doesn’t have several uses. There is only one exception and that is if the item starts fire. The reason? Its because fire does everything! While a ferro rod is not going to do many things other than start fire, that’s good enough and it earns its weight and space in your pack.

Cooking

Whether you are boiling water to rehydrate camping meals or cooking ribeye steaks on a grate, its important that you have fire for cooking. You might not want actual flames licking up at your food. This tends to give it an off taste or a burnt taste.

Instead, you want your fire to reach the point that it has a bed of hot coals beneath it. Into the coals you can nestle some cast iron cookware, or you can hold some hotdogs over the top of these hot coals.

You will likely use fire for cooking more than anything else.

Heating

Another very important function of fire is that of heating the air around you. This could be for drying wet clothes or for keeping you warm in cold temperatures.

What most bushcrafters get wrong is that you need a serious fire to really heat an area, or you need a way to reflect the heat back to you. This can be some high rocks, or it can be a simple wall made of poles that you cut down to size.

A small fire is just not going to do much heating.

Hardening

Fire is also a great way of hardening wood. This can be for several uses, but the hardening of wood happens over an open flame. Many people who use primitive skills to hunt use this method. It can be used to harden things like spears and atlatls.

While this is not something the average person will be doing around the fire, it’s a great use that is impossible without fire.

Smoking

Smoking meats and fishes is essential to storing protein for the long haul. You need a means of making your catch last and smoking it goes a long way. Without fire, there can be no smoke and thus no smoking of protein.

Boiling Water

Boiled water is safe water. It is really that simple. There is a reason that filters come with that 99.9999 stipulation on the packaging. The only means of killing 100% of the bacteria in water, is to boil it. If you can filter and boil water than you have a solid water treatment process.

Light

Have you ever camped out on a night with a new moon? It can be eerie depending on where you are. The darkness of a suburb is very different than the darkness of a lowland in the Eastern woodlands. You just need to be aware of that.

Fire can shed some light on your camp throughout those dark nights. You can also make that light mobile by creating a torch.

Predator Management

If you are in an area where there are animals like bears and wolves, it can be hard to get to sleep or even relax. Every twig that snaps alerts you to the possibility that something is lurking in camp. Now, chances are it’s a raccoon but to you, it seems like something much worse.

Fire is a natural deterrent to animals. It’s not 100% protection and animals have stormed camps with a fire going but its much better than having no protection.

The Best Fire Starting Methods for your Bushcraft Camp

The best fire-starting methods for your bushcraft camp are going to include simple methods like flint and steel but also more modern methods like lighters. You might ask, ‘why lighters?’ Well, as we mentioned earlier, fire is essential and if you find yourself struggling with your new flint and steel setup its good to have other options.

Ferro Rod

Why am I so fond of the ferro rod? Well, its basically an unstoppable means of throwing sparks. It works with your knife, a striker or anything sharp enough to shave a fine layer away.

The ferro rod is also unaffected by water. A wet ferro rod only needs a wipe on a shemagh or shirt before it becomes functional again. It is almost immediate.

They are also light, and you can pack multiple. Something like the HD6 Ferro Rod is a great option that will likely outlast YOU if you know how to make fire.

Flint and Steel

Flint and steel are one of the older methods for starting fires. It requires a piece of high carbon steel, some flint or chert and a bit of charcloth helps too! Flint and steel are another method of making fire that is so very sustainable.

The steel itself can come in the traditional handheld form and the chert or flint can come from riverbeds in your area, depending on where you live. There are some parts of the nation where you cannot find flint.

However, much of the western, southwestern and mid-south regions of the nation are not going to naturally contain flint. The good news is a little goes a long way.

The Pocket Fire Starting Kit comes with everything you need to make fire with flint and steel and much more! If you are not confident in your ability to find flint this kit comes with a nice piece of steel, flint and even a carrying bag and some cloth to make charcloth with.

This kit also contains:

  • Ferro Rod and Striker
  • Pocket Infernos
  • Magnifying Lens
  • MOLLE Compatible Carrying Case

Lighter

While it might not seem like the right method for someone practicing bushcraft, a lighter is foolproof. And when it comes to fire you want to make things foolproof because you never know when you will need fire in an emergency.

If you experience some kind of a cold water immersion or an unexpected rainstorm or cold front rolls in, fire might be the difference between life and death. So, while it is very exciting to practice with bow drills and ferro rods, be sure you have something that can get you a flame with a couple flicks.

Do not depend on the skills you have yet to master!

Storm Proof Matches

Some quality storm proof matches are another great item to have on hand at the DIY bushcraft camp. Storm proof matches can be purchased in safe containers or they can be made at home. One of the simplest ways to make them is to purchase some high-quality wood matches.

These can be then dipped in some melted wax to cover the matchhead and some of the matchstick. Leave a little bit to grab and then allow cool. The whole lot of matches can then be stored in a small carrying case, preferably with an o-ring or some way to keep water out. Even though these matches are called storm matches you still don’t want them sitting in water for a long time.

Matches are a very effective means of getting fire to tinder.

Essential Parts of Any Fire

If you are going to incorporate fire into your DIY bushcraft camp than you will need to understand a few things about fire. There are several parts and pieces that make up every successful fire.

Fire Lay

Where you start making your fire is of the utmost importance. This is a step that can be easily overlooked when it comes to setting up a bushcraft camp. It’s easy to concern yourself more with the location of your fire than what lies beneath it.

A fire lay is the starting block for your fire. It's basically how you set your fire up for success using kindling or small sticks.

On wet ground, you might create a fire lay that is built between the ground and your fire. In dry conditions, you might use any number of different methods for laying your fire.

Tinder

One of the most critical parts of starting a fire is tinder. Now, you can make great tinder from all sorts of things in the wild. Bark, dry grasses, fluff from several different plants all work well.

A quick and easy tip on tinder is to save all that dryer lint that comes out of your dryer and throw it in a big Ziploc bag. It weighs next to nothing. Take the bag with you. This stuff is supreme tinder. You can even mix it up with some petroleum jelly.

You need to have some type of reliable tinder at your camp.

Kindling

Once you spark or light that tinder you need to have a fire lay nearby or a pile of pencil-sized sticks that you can throw on that initial flame. These should be dry and ready to take fire. The kindling will build your first base of coals.

If you don’t have enough kindling you are going to have trouble getting the fire to its full potential.

Fuel

Once your kindling is burning down its time to add fuel. Start small with your fuel and gradually add more as the fire gets stronger.

Always have way more fuel than you think you will need. This is a critical part of the process. You do not want to be scanning the dark woods in the middle of the night for wood fuel to keep you warm because you didn’t store enough.

Patience

There is one part of fire building that I don’t read enough about. It is patience. There are times when you just need to sit back and let the fire develop. Don’t add anything, don’t blow on it, don’t poke at it, just sit there and let it be.

It is easy to kill a fire in its early stages by assuming you have the magic touch. Let it be!

Conclusion

Fire is going to be an essential part of any camp. Even the most stringent, backwoods, national forest camp is going to require some sort of a jetboil to warm or cook food. While a propane born fire is not the desire of those practicing bushcraft, its an important example to communicate the need for fire at camp.

Your DIY bushcraft camp is going to have a certain attitude to it. Stepping into your camp will be very different than stepping onto a car camping tent site where the fire ring is waiting for you and the picnic table is set up.

In some ways you want your camp to feel like a step back in time. You want the tools and gear in that camp to reflect that woodsman mentality. That is why we have taken such a close look at fire-starting tools and how they measure up.

The flint and steel are arguably one of the most primitive means we mentioned on the list. Of course, it would do the job just fine, if you had something to catch the spark. However, the ferro rod is a more reliable and more effective fire starter that does not carry the mechanical look of a lighter.

Again, we want fire and that is the priority but at a bushcraft camp you made yourself, you also want things that reflect a certain time period or a certain hardiness. Maybe this isn’t your motivation but for many it is.

Depending on your skill level, it really is a toss up between the ferro rod and the flint and steel. Both fit the setting and will get the job done. If you are on the fence about tinder making, well, stick with the ferro rod. It gives you lots of sparks instead of a couple at a time.

If you really wanna go primitive, you could always try your hand at the bow drill fire!


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