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There is something primal, almost magical, when it comes to being able to make fire. We sometimes take it for granted that all we need to do is flick our lighter and we’re on our way to roasting marshmallows. It wasn’t always that way. There was a time, not all that long ago, that making fire took a fair amount of effort, though a far greater percentage of people were experienced with it as compared to today.

Fire can be critical to survival. It will boil water to disinfect it for drinking so you don’t get dehydrated. It can keep you warm and dry you out if you get wet, reducing the risk of hypothermia. There is a psychological component at work with firemaking, too. In a true survival situation, you may feel as though everything is spiraling out of hand. Being able to build a crackling fire can give you a sense of control and help calm you down. Let’s face it, sitting in front of a campfire can be tremendously relaxing.

Over countless centuries, mankind has developed several of what we might call primitive methods for making fire, including things like a bow drill or a fire plough. As a general rule, these rely upon friction to generate a small coal or ember. This is added to some type of tinder and gently coaxed into flame. These techniques are definitely worth learning, no question about it. However, there are other ways to skin the proverbial cat. Assembling and carrying a small fire kit can make your life infinitely easier in the field.


Think of fire as a living thing. It requires three things to survive: heat, fuel and oxygen. Without any one of those things, it will die. If the fire doesn’t get enough air, it will be smothered. No heat from a spark or other type of fire starter, it’ll never flare up. No fuel and there’s nothing to burn.

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American Survival Guide January 2020,