Skills – Fire Starting I


We all like doing stuff outside!

Part of doing stuff outside, for me anyway, is practicing essential skills, such as making a campfire. Sometimes that campfire is for cooking, keeping warm, or just because campfires are part of camping! Many folks say that having the ability to start a fire is one of the most essential outdoor skills.

fire starting I

Fire Starting Skills

I have been a longtime fan of Les Stroud and his Survivorman series. I am also a big fan of Creek Stewart and his hit show, Fat Guys in the Woods. Both of these shows have gotten me thinking about how I would react if I were in a situation where I didn’t have my usual assortment of gear. Or, maybe some of that gear breaks down.

So the thought is to figure out ways to practice these handy outdoor survival skills in my own backyard, — or close to it anyway.

After a bit of thinking, I decided I could light up my Kamado Joe grill to make some tasty brats, and at the same time, try lighting it without using my typical fire starters, a match or a lighter.

Normally, I just light up one or two of these Weber cubes to get the lump charcoal going. I think they are made with paraffin wax. They run less than $3.50 for a box of 24 starters. They light right up when hit with a match.

Fire Starting

Weber fire starting cubes are inexpensive and make the job of starting up the Kamado Joe a lot easier.

Fire Starting Skills – The Tools

Today, I am going to use some my homemade “char cloth” and a fire steel to light those Weber fire starter cubes. In my next post, I will describe how I made the char cloth. Wikipedia has a bit of information on char cloth. I have no dry grass around here or anything similar to use as tinder other than some dryer lint. Creek Stewart cited on a recent episode that birch bark is one of nature’s best fire starters. I know of a few river birch trees growing nearby, so I peeled off a few pieces to see how that would work out.

Lots of companies make prepacked fire starters for your camping gear or survival bag. They might be the same or similar to the Weber fire starter cubes, and heck, they might be the same things?

The fire steel I am using is also called a Swedish Fire Steel. Other terms for the same item is a ferrocerium rod, or ferro rod. To use one, you run a striker down the rod and it produces a shower of hot 5000 degree Fahrenheit sparks. I picked up the one pictured below on Amazon for about $15.00. It’s advertised to last for 12,000 strikes, and works in any weather. This one has over a 1,500 of mostly 4 and 5 star reviews at the time I wrote this post. Many happy customers is evidence of a good product!

Fire starting

Before setting out I need to practice using the fire steel.

Fire Starting - practice

Wow, this does throw a lot of sparks!

Fire Starting Skills – Preparation

Now to prep the grill….

Fire starting - prepping

Okay, I am all set. The Kamado Joe has been topped off with enough lump charcoal for a lunchtime cook. I have a fire starter cube under the piece of the river birch bark that I have shaved up a bit. On top of that is a bit of the char cloth.

Creek shaved the birch bark with his knife, but never really said why. Trying this myself, I see what happens. Shaving the underside of the bark flakes bits and pieces of it making for more surface area.

Fire Starting Skills – Practice

Not shown here is the hot shower of 5000 degree Fahrenheit sparks that rained down on the char cloth.

Fire starting embers

I was not sure what to expect. Some of what I read online suggested that the char cloth would catch fire. Well, that did not happen, not without a bit of help anyway. I had to blow some air onto the char cloth, then things started to happen.

Fire starting

Now to get that brat and beans cooked up! Yum!

Kamado Joe Brats and Beans

So, you can read about this stuff all day long, but you need to get out and practice these skills and pick up on things not readily apparent from reading all of those books!

I think tomorrow I will try again without the char cloth and use just the birch bark!

With this success, my next step is to forage for materials to make a bow and drill setup and try a friction fire.

So pick up one of these fire starters and look for opportunities practice using it, — such as whenever you need to light up your grill.

One thought on “Skills – Fire Starting I

  1. Dana

    Fire starting skills is something that everyone should master. If only I could get my camping friends more interested.

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