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334 Hiking Skills - The Ten Essentials - Fire 2011-01-17

small campfire

Nothing soothes the savage beast more than a good fire. When you are cold, wet, and tired there is little better than a fire to soothe all that ails you.

When we climbed Snowmass Mountain a couple of years ago, we opted to save weight and not carry a stove. On the approach hike a cold rain chased us all the way to Snowmass Lake. We were cold when we started setting our little tent and never got warm. Never. We could have built a fire or at least attempted to build one, but opted not to because we were camped in a no fire zone. Going to bed cold, we shivered for hours before finally falling to sleep.

Being, wet and cold is miserable. We should not have let our body cores get so cold on the approach hike; but we kept thinking the climb to the lake would warm us. It didn't. This incident reminded us that even with the best of gear and with no injuries or distress, being cold is still serious. We needed a fire - either on a stove or in a fire ring.

Fire is one of the most important ten essentials. Always bring a fire igniter and starter as a part of the essentials.

A few fire tips ...

  • We have one of the steel-magnesium strikers; but have only had marginal luck using it.
  • Lighters can be effective, but some do not work at high altitude, when wet, or in the cold.
  • Waterproof matches are adequate. The regular kitchen match at least makes good tender.
  • Matches seem to work best for us. Of the matches, the waterproof, windproof, stormproof matches REI sell are the best we have ever used. If you really need a flame, these matches are a small torch. You do need a striker with these matches.
  • Ray suggests using bits of waxed juice cartons as a fire starter.
  • Cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly are very effective.
  • There are many fire tender products, that I am sure all work well.
  • The Fire Ribbon is a great product. It helps with starting a stove or a fire. We store a little in a plastic pill container. The Fire Ribbon does dry out, so check and refill the container as needed.
  • Keep in mind "Leave No Trace Principles". When you do not carry a stove, building a fire seems more important.
  • Consider carrying a stove on all cold weather hikes.

What we use ...

Matches - Even if our stove has an igniter, we carry matches for cooking (generally just strike any where kitchen matches) and the REI Stormproof Matches in our Emergency Kits.

Fire Starter - The Fire Ribbon by Mautz is easy to use and very effective. It is simply the best. We store the Fire Ribbon in a small plastic pill vial.


Happy 'I hope I can start a fire' trails.



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