(NaturalNews) A fire can mean the difference between facing hypothermia or enjoying a warm night of sleep. (Story by Jeremy Knauff, republished from HowToSurviveIt.com)
It’s easy to start a fire with matches or a lighter, but since they won’t always be available, it’s wise to become skilled at other methods.
Don’t become dependent on any one technique or tool though–spend time learning and practicing several methods in various environments for the greatest chance of survival.
Here are eleven ways to start a fire.
My favorite way to start a fire is with a ferrocerium rod because they last damn near forever and will work even when wet. Simply scrape the metal striker or a knife down the rod to spray a shower of hot sparks onto your tinder.
Flint and Steel
This method has been used since the beginning of recorded history, and like the ferro rod, is a reliable way to start a fire. It’s a little more difficult though, because the sparks produced aren’t anywhere near as hot or plentiful.
Remember frying ants with a magnifying glass as a kid? Focus that heat on a bundle of tinder and you’ll have a fire in no time. The upside is that you can find these lenses in common equipment like binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras–even your eye glasses. The downside is that you can only use this method during the daytime.
The bow drill is a great primitive fire starting method because all you need is a couple of sticks and a piece of cord. Tie your cord to both ends of the bow and loop it around the drill twice, then a sawing motion will cause it to rotate rapidly between the base and hand piece and create a small, hot ember that you can drop in your tinder.
Battery and Foil
It should be pretty easy to find at least a single AA battery, whether in your own gear or in an abandoned building, and along with a piece of aluminum foil (or a foil-backed gum wrapper) you can quickly and easily start a fire. This method uses the resistance of electrons traveling through the foil to produce heat, which in turn, ignites your tinder.
This method is similar to starting a fire with a magnifying glass, in fact, the curves focus light in exactly the same way as it passes through the bottle. Just like with women, bigger curves are better. You can use a colored bottle, but you’ll get better results with a clear bottle.
Brake Fluid and Chlorine
Only use this method in a wide open space because the flame produced will vary depending on the concentration of the chemicals. Brake fluid (polyethylene glycol) can be found in your vehicle or garage, while chlorine (pool shock, also known as calcium hypochlorite) can be found with pool supplies. Mix them together and in about 2 minutes, you’ll have a powerful flame.
The unfortunate fact that soda and beer cans litter our wilderness could save your life in a survival situation. First you’ll need to polish the concave bottom. You can use chocolate, toothpaste, or even clay as a polishing compound, and then aim the bottom at the sun, focusing the concentrated rays onto a piece of char cloth or other tinder.
This fire starting technique uses friction, but it’s probably one of the more difficult way to start a fire. You form a groove or notch in your base piece and plow another piece of wood back and forth in that groove until you produce an ember.
Battery and Steel Wool
The resistance of electrons moving through the fine fibers of steel wool causes them to heat to the point of ignition. All you need to do is stretch a bundle of steel wool to bridge the positive and negative poles of a battery. It needs to be stretched thin enough to provide enough resistance but thick enough to produce enough heat to ignite your tinder.
People often ask where my ideas and where my knowledge comes from. When that happens, I chuckle a bit to myself because, just like the person asking, my knowledge comes from a variety of sources: first hand experience, books, online forums and of course, Backdoor Survival readers. So you see, it is not that I am more clever than everyone else but rather that I have taken my passion for preparedness and made it an active part of my life.
That leads me to the topic for today’s article.
Following my own article on Five Minute Prepping Projects, I asked readers to submit their own tips – namely something that we all can do to prep that takes 10 minutes or less. There were some really good suggestions and so I thought I would share some of them here so that everyone can learn from them.
Ten-Minute Prepping Tips from Backdoor Survival Readers
1. There are many times when trouble strikes and we have to deal with only what we have on our person and in our pockets. A BOB* is a luxury that might not be with us when the unexpected comes along, so I like to make sure I have a minimum of things on me before I leave the house even for a trip to the grocery.
Here’s what I carry, you’ll have to adjust for your own needs: 1) A small pocket knife, 2) A multi-tool, 3) A cigarette lighter, 4) A dozen Kleenex, 5) Chapstick, 6) A one quart Ziploc bag, 7) A black sharpie, 8) A small bottle of hand sanitizer, 9) Wallet with emergency cash and id cards, and 10) Keys, with small flashlight on keychain.
I can carry all of that in jeans or short pockets no problem, and its amazing how handy I find each of those items to be in day to day activities. In an emergency they could really make a difference.
2. The most important thing to have in a survival situation is water. The ten-minute thing I did was to buy extensions for the gutter down spout. At the time I put them in, I had a back yard above ground pool. Kids all gone now, pool gone, but I now have 10 55-gallon barrels.
3. Check your supplies and rotate them out as the expiration date comes due. Stock the foods you like, because if you don’t like a certain food, you won’t eat it.
4. I like to can water after using my canning jars in the winter. I then have good water if the electricity goes down and also if there is a drought in the summer, I will have water for canning.
5. My 10 minute prepping tip is to save all of your dryer lint in a zip food bag. Squeeze it down, roll it up and place it in your bug out kit.
6. My very first prepping project was getting a plastic tote box ready for myself for the vehicle. I went by the list in the book “Survival Mom” so it is packed full with a little extra than a BOB. Then my very next priority was another box fixed up for my mother who is 86 years old. She still drives and either she or someone else will be able to help with this very good vehicle emergency box. Survival is a daily challenge in northern Wisconsin.
7. The every-three-month 10-minute prep activity I do religiously is rotate my prescription meds. I have two weeks in my purse, 3 days in my 72 hour kit, 3 days in my car kit, and 3 days in my comprehensive medical kit. If it takes you longer than ten minutes to do this, you need to practice knowing where all these items are stashed!
8. The 10 min DIY water distillery: Using two, one liter clear soda bottles. Put 1/4 inch holes in both caps, insert 1/4 inch clear tubing thru each cap and down into each bottle (about 5-7 feet of tubing). Secure each cap onto bottles. Fill one 3/4 with water you want to distill, bring tubing about 1/2 inch from top. place in sunlight. Bring the tubing to the bottom of other bottle and place it in shade.
As the sun heats up the water and the water goes into a gas, expanding and going into the bottle in shade, it cools down and turns back into water, filling the bottle in shade, with clear drinkable water. This can also be used to remove salt from saltwater. Place a black band of tape around the input bottle, making sure not to mix them up.
9. Rinse out used soda bottles and fill with water. Save them for when the water is turned off or long term storage.
10. Dip cotton balls in petroleum jelly and put in a baggie or small plastic container (recycle old pill bottles) for your bug out bag. These make great fire starters and they burn long and hot.
11. My 10 minute tip: pack a small ‘emergency’ kit for your purse/pocket that you carry every day. Items to include *could* be a small flashlight (some LED ones are very tiny & bright), a few bandages, a BIC-type lighter, pocket knife, safety pins, pencil/pen, small notebook/Post-It notepad, paperclip, a paracord ‘survival’ bracelet, printable pamphlet of survival ‘tips’ (several available on the internet). Visit your local Red Cross for preparedness tips for your area. Often they have TONS of FREE information specific to your location to help families prepare BEFORE a problem arises.
12. Take quick check of your food supply, once a storm catches you by surprise, it’s too late, and it only takes a few minutes to make a quick list of the basic canned goods that you need to replace, better safe than sorry!
13. We all probably think that our BOB has what we need in it, and maybe it does. Take a quick look in it and see if there is some place to add a little easy redundancy, remembering that three is one and one is none. I took a Ziploc bag and put in it: a small candle, a pill vial with Vaseline in it, another pill vial stuffed with dryer lint, a disposable lighter and a magnifying glass. Easy to do and now I have several ways to start a fire in addition to the matches and the fire steel already in the bag without adding even a pound to the weight of the bag. I know there are a lot of other easy additions that can increase redundancy in all of our bags.
14. Never be without toilet paper. Put 4 rolls in 2 gallon Ziplocs and put 1 bag in each car, one in the garage, one under each sink in the house. That way, regardless of what disaster occurs – TP will be there.
15. Take ten minutes a day or even a week and learn how to use the things you have been accumulating for emergencies. This month I have been using the solar oven and rocket stove. Much easier to use the fifth time than the first.
16. Buy a large bottle of 5 to 10-percent iodine solution and transfer into those small, handy travel spray containers. Put one in each first aid kit in each bug-out bag. Besides being a disinfectant and medical treatment of cuts, a few drops per liter will purify water as well as keep thyroid function humming along in the absence of iodized salt.
17. Not a total of 10 minutes, but a great prep tip I have is to buy extra lumber, fasteners, nails, whenever you have a DIY project, and save the extra in your new “Mini-Lumberyard”!
18. Arrange to have a prepping partner call you randomly during the week and give you a surprise emergency drill of some kind. You have ten minutes to begin responding. Next week, return the favor.
19. Carry a small bottle of iodine and a small bottle of bleach with you in your bug out bag in the event you have to drink questionable water in your travels. Just add a bit to your canteen, shake it and let it be for a while and you are good to go. They have iodine pills but, take it from me being ex military; they taste bad but with this method it will do the job better and the water will not taste that bad.
20. Weigh your BOB. Put it on and carry it around the house. How long can you go without stopping? If it is too heavy which it is likely to be, here are a couple of things that you might consider doing: 1..Pack a half dozen of those freebie cloth satchels with handles in with the BOB. This way depending on how many people may be with you when you actually need to pack the BOB you can distribute the weight among everyone.
21. Make a list of the most important items to take with you if you are alone and safety pin that to the top of the BOB. In a real emergency you will not have time to think it through and you are likely to be too stressed to make the right choices. If alone, you must keep the weight down to a poundage that you can carry for long term.
22. I think my favorite quick prep is making a waterproof match container out of a mason jar. Glue a piece of sandpaper to the lid, fill the jar with stick matches, add a candle, tighten down the ring and there you have it. I’m sure the same could be done with a plastic jar if you’re worried about breakage but I like the decorative little mason jars spread around the house. I took the time to waterproof my matches but I don’t believe that’s necessary.
23. I take 10 minutes on Mondays to do a quick check of my food storage to make sure I add needed items to the grocery list. This keeps things pretty up-to-date for me.
24. Keep a running inventory of ammunition so you keep a good assortment on hand and track what you use. A little extra can be good for barter.
25. Most of us have items that use batteries. Flashlights, radios, etc. I have a laminated list of the items that I keep in my prep, with a section just for things that need to be rotated. Quarterly, I grab the rotation list and swap out old batteries for new. The batteries I take out of my prep kit are usually still good, so I put them into use in normal, everyday equipment. It takes almost no time, and makes sure I have good batteries everywhere I need them, not just my prep kit.
26. Every time I go to the grocery store, I add an extra $10 of items for my food storage.
27. Make a small fishing kit, cheap and easy. Take a small tin (preferably a round candy mint tin). Add fishing line, hooks, sinkers, small artificial bait and a couple of snubbers. (A snubber is a piece of surgical tubing with fishing line going down the center and clasps on each end to tie your fishing line to. You can pick this up at most any store that sells fishing gear).
If you need to use your fishing kit and do not have a breakdown or telescoping fishing pole you will probably be using a branch. A branch will not have the same flexibility as a fishing pole. Tie your fishing line to the end of your flexible branch (the length of line will be determined by your situation). Tie the other end to your snubber. On the other end of your snubber tie your leader (about 18″ to 24″ of fishing line) then tie on your hook. Add your sinker to the fishing line on the pole / branch side of the snubber about 12″ from the snubber. Add bait and you are set.
I have added the snubbers to my kit, because it acts like a shock absorber when you have a fish on the line. This has helped me to land the fish and not break off the hook or line due to not having the flexibility of a proper fishing pole.
28. I’ve been through two hurricanes here on the Gulf coast in recent years. Water, all you can reasonably store, is a must, along with some way to purify it if need be. I’ve carried a pocket knife for more years than I can remember, and in recent years I’ve started carrying a multi-tool. I always have a roll of toilet paper inside a zip-lock bag under the back seat of my truck. I also save dryer lint to use as tinder.
29. Gather up a few cans of veggies, fruits, and meats along with a jar of peanut butter. Store in your vehicle (under seat, in trunk) Throw in a “good” manual can opener or something strong enough to cut the lid in emergency. Can be eaten without heating or cooking.
30. Freeze and store milk in its container. I have been doing it for years with two pint semi-skimmed milk ones, full fat (cream) is not so good as the fat separates when defrosted. These have been handy already in extended power cuts as the freezer keeps cold, as does the fridge if you put a frozen one on the top shelf. It takes about twelve hours to defrost at 60F and the frozen milk lasts indefinitely in my experience, although I still rotate.
31. Get a caravan size chemical toilet and some Elsan Blue or Eco Green fluid as well for when there’s no sanitation or main water to flush the loo. This is one essential that is often overlooked.
32. You can fix up a go-bag a few moments at time by leaving it open in a place you will see it (I myself am an out-of-sight-out-of-mind person), say a corner of the kitchen, and dropping in the things you want to have at the ready. On laundry day, drop in clean socks and undies. On grocery day, buy a few easy to eat nibbles (that you like) – tuna in a pouch, nuts, dry fruit, plus a bottle of water and drop them in the bag. Make a list of other things you need to think about: first aid kit, flashlight, etc. As you go to the hardware store, purchase these things, drop them in the bag when you get home. This is your basic backpack which you can modify according to your needs (weather, for instance).
33. Place a pair of shoes, socks, work gloves, a whistle, and a light stick or flashlight with batteries under your bed for use during or after an emergency. Add to this a mobile phone to call for assistance, spare house and car keys in case you have to get out of the house from an upstairs window and need to get back inside to put out small fires safely with extinguishers you have placed at door exits. I also have a spare set of old clothes, shoes and a blanket packed in a suitcase in the caravan in the garden along with an emergency supply of bottled water and food in pull tab tins. A dry shed or outhouse would suffice for this no doubt.
34. Unless your home is 100% all electric, get a carbon monoxide alarm if you don’t already have one. And even then it’s not a bad idea as in an emergency you may want to use a propane device, and it’ll hopefully keep you from dying from the CO.
35. Stock up on calcium chloride ice melt. Get a 50# bag and fill the empty milk jugs with it. Keep one jug in each car.
36. Hurricane matches. Get a bunch. They aren’t cheap, but they’re the best.
37.GMRS/FRS radio. Regular CBs can become clogged with radio traffic. A good brand can also provide encryption so you can have private discussion with family. Depending on the make and model, it may come with frequencies that require a license. In emergencies I doubt the FCC will chase you down. And in regular times, I doubt they will chase you down if you’re not being obnoxious.
38. In addition to a flash drive, open a free “cloud” service account, many of which will give you 5-10 gigabytes of storage. An alternative to that would be to open up a new e-mail account, on Yahoo/Gmail/etc, and e-mail the documents to yourself. Unsure of what to make for a new username for an e-mail account? Take your first name + “documents” (i.e. “BillDocuments”), and use your last name as the password.
This way, if your house (and flash drive) are lost in a tornado/earthquake/fire/etc, you can still access those documents from, say, a public library computer.
39. Another tip along with freezing jugs with water to place in the freezer, is to fill a 2 liter bottle about 1/3 full. Freeze it upright, then lay it on its side. If you come home from vacation, and the water is frozen at the bottom (sideways) in the bottle then the power was off long enough that the food may have spoiled.
The Final Word
I have always maintained that Backdoor Survival readers are the most creative and resourceful folks on the internet when it comes to basic, common sense preparedness. No fear mongering types here – just ordinary folks doing their best to take care of themselves, their families and their comfort and safety, no matter what happens down the road.
I tip my hat to you.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
[*] For the uninitiated, BOB refers to a Bug Out Bag, a portable kit containing the items you would need to survive for the first 72 hours after evacuating an emergency.
Here in southwest Virginia, my partner and I take pride in growing and storing most of our fruits and vegetables. Knowing where our food comes from gives us confidence in its goodness, plus we save about $5,000 a year through our gardening and food storage efforts.
There is another benefit, which is the utter convenience of having a self-provisioned home. In early winter when our stores are full, I feel like I’m living in a well-stocked organic grocery store.
We bring many years of experience to this quest, and we’re still learning. Measured by weight, stored garden crops make up more than half of our overall harvest, with every onion and potato just about as fresh as it was the day it came from the garden. Our mix of storage vegetables and fruits varies from year to year and we’ve learned that putting by storage crops is something anyone can do — even if your produce comes from the farmers market. By making use of cold storage spots in your basement or garage, and perhaps adding a seasonal second refrigerator, you can use our charts to easily store 20 storage crops for winter eating using simple, time-tested methods.
Sleeping Quarters for Storage Crops
Success with storage crops hinges on finding methods that convince the crops that they are enjoying a natural period of dormancy in unusually comfortable conditions. This typically involves slowing physiology by controlling respiration (usually by lowering temperature) and/or providing moisture so crisp root vegetables sense they are still in the ground. Some staple storage crops, such as garlic, onions and shallots, need dry conditions to support prolonged dormancy.
Most storage crops need to be cured to enhance their storage potential. During the curing process, potatoes and sweet potatoes heal over small wounds to the skin, garlic and onions form a dry seal over the openings at their necks, and dry beans and grain corn let go of excess moisture that could otherwise cause them to rot. Harvesting, curing and storage requirements vary with each crop — see the charts in How to Harvest, Cure and Store 20 Storage Crops for full details. In my experience, harvesting and curing vegetables properly leads to much more flexibility when it comes to long-term storage conditions.
Seeking out good food storage spots in your home or on your property can lead to interesting discoveries. Take storing potatoes, for example. When we asked the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Facebook community to share favorite ways for storing potatoes in winter, we received dozens of great ideas, including these:
Place cured potatoes in a burlap bag, tuck the bag into a plastic storage bin left open a wee bit, and keep in an unheated basement.
Line plastic laundry baskets with newspapers, with potatoes arranged in layers between more newspapers. Place the packed, covered baskets in an unheated garage.
In the basement, make short towers of potatoes by stacking them between layers of open egg cartons. Cover the towers with cloth to protect the potatoes from light.
Place sorted potatoes in cloth grocery bags that have been lined with black plastic bags, and store in a cold space under the stairs. A similar method: Sort different potatoes into paper bags, then place the bags in milk crates to prevent bruising.
Use an old dresser in a cool room or basement for storing potatoes in winter. Leave the drawers partially open for ventilation.
In a shady spot outdoors, place a tarp over the ground and cover it with an inch of loose straw. Pile on potatoes and cover with more straw, a second tarp, and a 10-inch blanket of leaves or straw.
Bury a garbage can horizontally so that its bottom half is at least 12 inches deep in the soil. Place potatoes in the can with shredded paper or clean straw. Secure the lid with a bungee cord, and cover with an old blanket if needed to shade out sun.
Here in Virginia, we have vole issues that require us to harvest our early spuds promptly, so my buried garbage can gets plenty of use for storing potatoes. Buried coolers or even buried freezer bodies (with machinery removed) can work in the same way.
Storing Crisp Root Vegetables
Theoretically, root vegetables that grow well below ground can be mulched over in fall and dug as needed in winter. This often works well with parsnips, but most gardeners would risk losing much of an overwintered carrot or beet crop to wireworms, voles or other critters. Repeated freezing and thawing of the surface soil damages shallow-rooted turnips and beets. It’s always safer (and more convenient) to harvest root crops, clean them up and secure them in cold storage. In Zones 7 and warmer, you’ll probably need a second refrigerator, as you won’t have naturally cooled spaces that stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in winter. In colder winter climates, you have several options:
Bins, buckets or trugs packed with damp sand or sawdust and stashed in cold spots around your homestead, such as under your basement stairs or in an unheated garage or storage shed. This method works amazingly well if you can find a place with temperatures in the 32- to 40-degree range. Every few weeks, dump out containers and repack them, eating any roots that are showing signs of softening.
The previously described method of storing potatoes in a buried garbage container works well for root vegetables, but you’ll need a second one (or a buried cooler) for roots that need moist conditions. Pack these in damp sand or sawdust to maintain high humidity.
Working outside the fridge, the biggest challenge in storing crisp roots is maintaining high humidity without promoting molds and soft rots. That’s where packing materials, including damp sawdust or damp sand, come in handy. Sawdust is clean and lightweight, and the residue can be shaken out into the garden. Sand weighs more but is reusable — simply dry it in the sun and return it to a bucket or bin until you need it in the fall.
A seasonal second refrigerator is worth considering if you have a lot of carrots or beets to store, live in a climate too warm for underground storage, or want to store root vegetables to sell or trade later.
When preparing to store carrots, beets and other root vegetables in plastic bags in the refrigerator, sprinkle in a few drops of water as you pack each bag. Ideally, a few drops of condensation should form inside the bags after they have been well-chilled in the fridge.
Now for something really easy: storing winter squash. The hard rinds of winter squash protect them from drying out, so all they need is a cool spot where you can check them from time to time. Look for signs of mold, and promptly consume squash that have developed minor blemishes, such as discoloration or soft spots.
Some types of winter squash store longer than others, so it’s important to eat them in proper order.
Squash and pumpkins classified as Cucurbita pepo tend to keep for only two to three months. These include acorn squash, delicata or sweet potato squash, spaghetti squash and most small pumpkins. Eat these first.
Buttercup and kabocha squash (C. maxima) will keep for four months under good conditions, but after two months the fruits should be watched closely for signs of softening or mold. Many squash pie devotees bake up all questionable buttercups in early winter and stash the mashed squash in the freezer. This is a wise move, because it’s far easier to make a pie or batch of muffins if you have frozen squash purée waiting in your freezer than it is to face down a squash the size of your head.
The smooth, hard rinds of butternut squash (C. moschata) help give them the longest storage life (often six months or more), so butternuts should be eaten last. We grow more butternuts than any other winter squash because they are such a cinch to store.
A Second Fridge for Storing Fruit
As owners of six mature fruit trees, we couldn’t manage our harvest without a second refrigerator for storing apples and pears. Our Asian and D’Anjou pears will last to December, with apples going a bit longer — but only if they are refrigerated in containers that retain moisture. So we plug in an old, semi-retired refrigerator in August, then clean it out and turn it off in January. We don’t mix fruits and veggies in the same fridge, because fruits give off so much ethylene gas that they can cause vegetable crops to deteriorate in wacky ways.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) doesn’t exactly approve of second refrigerators, in part because most Americans already maintain more refrigerator space than they need. A more serious issue is the age of many second refrigerators and freezers. Newer models are often three times more efficient than older ones. According to the EPA’s Energy Star statistics, a refrigerator from the 1970s can cost an extra $200 a year to operate, while a 1980s vintage refrigerator may cost $70 more to run compared with a new model.
We will eventually upgrade our elderly, part-time fruit fridge to an efficient Energy Star model, but meanwhile, it earns its keep. Storing apples in a refrigerator often greatly improves their flavor, which is definitely the case with our midseason ‘Enterprise’ apples — three weeks in the fridge changes their flavor from good to spectacular. Sometimes how you store a crop is just as important as how you grow it.
I don’t mean to make self-provisioning sound too easy. Only top-quality produce should be stored, and every season some crop I planned to store either fails or doesn’t make the grade. These losses are soon forgotten as August and September whiz by in a blur, with one food storage project after another. Then October comes and we’re amazed at what we have: a basement brimming with homegrown winter squash, onions and garlic; a well-stocked pantry with organic dried beans, peppers and canned goods; and the fridge and freezer full, save for enough space for two turkeys grown by local farmers. If this is not the good life, I don’t know what is.
20 Vegetables and Fruits That Store for Two Months or More
Garden writer Barbara Pleasant provides detailed instructions for food storage, including curing and storing onions, potatoes, leeks, cabbage, apples, squash and other produce that will last all winter.