Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fieldcraft - Fire Starting

Another field craft skill a back country trail rider or packer needs to have is to be able to build a fire. It’s pretty easy to build a fire when there is no wind or rain lashing your face, but when you’re soaking wet and the wind is honking it’s a different matter. If you are out a long ways from any civilization and get caught in a gully washer then your horse goes lame, getting out of the rain and building a fire may keep you alive if the weather turns cold. Even in moderate temperatures a person can lose enough body heat to become a hypothermia casualty. Another good use for a fire is to signal any rescue crews looking for you. If you are riding with a partner and they fall or get hurt, keeping them warm is in order to push off shock.

I always carry a magnesium fire starter in my saddle bags. It takes up very little room and is much easier for me to light a fire compared to a store bought butane lighter, especially without burning your fingers in the process. Besides the plastic housing on a butane lighter can break and leave you without fuel. Lint from your dryer rolled into a ball and carried with your magnesium starter is a great aid to catching sparks and starting that first little flame.

If you forget the lint, maybe you can locate a bird’s nest to use, although bird feathers don’t catch very well – you may have to remove all the accumulated junk from the nest to leave just the dried grass. Some ticking from your socks, vest or coat will usually also work as a tinder as well.

Building the fire in a hole helps protect it from the wind until it gets going good. Be sure to stack all the kindling, twigs and bigger than twigs, branches and logs nearby so you can feed the fire to a point where it will sustain itself before you go looking for more wood.

There are other things you can do such as building the fire against an embankment, dirt mound or rock wall to help reflect heat. Ensure you have adequate ventilation if you build a fire in a semi–full enclosed space like a cave. Safe Journey and safe fires.

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