The big earthquake shook you awake in the wee hours of the morning. Thankfully, everyone got out the house safely. But now, you must stay out of your home as the aftershocks have made it unsafe to be indoors. You’ve been busy setting up camp in your backyard and helping your next-door neighbor craft a tent out of survival blankets. You’re whipped.
And you just want a hot cup of soup and a cup of coffee.
When you’re in survival mode, one of the skills you need to know is how to start a fire. Cartoons that show people rubbing two sticks or two rocks together don’t show how difficult this sort of friction fire starting can be. When you’re trying to survive, you don’t have time for cartoon-inspired methods, no matter how cool they seem. You need to start a fire now and with minimum effort.
The best fire starting options for survival are simple ones. No matter how skilled you yourself are, you’ll want something that’s easy to do because you want any member of your family to be able to start a fire and make that cup of soup. And you may not have time to impart your wisdom upon Grandma and the (grown) kids.
First, we’ll start off with fire tinder – the things you light with fire starters:
Cotton Dryer Lint + Petroleum Jelly
Many survivalists know that cotton dryer lint that has been coated heavily with petroleum jelly can be used successfully as fire tinder. The petroleum jelly keeps the lint ball burning. If it’s completely coated, the dryer lint will burn for several minutes.
Be sure to use lint from cotton dryer loads only – man-made fibers will not do the trick. We make fire starter kits by coating our dryer lint in petroleum jelly (we buy multi-packs from Amazon) and stuffing it into toilet-paper roll cores. This helps keep the lint packed neatly so it doesn’t fall apart. We then use our vacuum sealer (a prepper’s best friend – this is the model we like) to seal up small fire starting kits – keeping them dry and compact.
Once you start collecting dryer lint for tinder kits, you’ll never grumble about cleaning the lint trap on the dryer again. Try it – you’ll see it changes your entire outlook on this little daily chore.
Twigs + Lighter Fluid
You can also pre-soak small, dry twigs that you find in the woods in lighter fluid. Keep these stored in a special container away from heat and when you need to start a fire, these twigs will catch very easily.
Tinder tablets are small, lightweight fire starters that will burn even if they get wet. Because they’re small and lightweight, they won’t take up a lot of space. You can buy these on Amazon for less than $10.
Fire paste is a favorite of hikers and outdoorsy folks. This is a flammable compound that comes in a handy tube. It quickly starts a fire but won’t flame up like a liquid fire starter.
Fire starters are the little devices you use to light your tinder. Here are my favorite options:
My favorite fire starter is a magnesium block. This one is excellent because it’s lightweight and easy to take along, and lasts for a very long time. It can even be attached to your key chain. The block comes with a scraper to shave the magnesium onto your tinder of choice. It takes some practice, but since it requires no fuel it’s great to have in case of an emergency.
A good, old-fashioned lighter
While I have a stock of disposable lighters that I plan on giving out or using for barter, I also keep a good, old-fashioned refillable lighter both in my home and my car. If you don’t yet have one, get the Zippo in bright orange so it’s easier to find (the picture above is mine that I keep in my car). The fuel is inexpensive and can be found just about anywhere. Scan your local convenience store, you might be surprised to find it there!
Windproof and virtually waterproof, a good storm-proof match – especially when used with good tinder – will serve you well in a storm. I’ve opted for the kind in a waterproof case that I got from Amazon. I’m a big believer in fire-starter redundancy, so I have several of these. There’s even a cotton ball and room for a spare in the bottom of this storm-proof match kit. In the end, you were smart. You have several of these easy methods to start a fire already on hand when the big quake hit. And now, you gather around a toasty fire and have a warm cup of soup and a reviving cup of coffee.
*Please also be very careful with fire and keep at least one fire extinguisher on hand. Here’s one of many fire extinguisher available on Amazon – I have it in my budget this month to get one so I have a spare.