I came across this old article on starting an emergency campfire that I found pretty interesting, as I do most articles from the past when they relate skills that we need today for surviving in an emergency or disaster situation. The drawings are from another work, but I felt them relevant so inserted them for art’s sake, by the way. I think one of the ways we fall short in our planning is to forget about how things were done before the advances of technology made things easy for us modern day outers. Oh, an outer was a term used in the late 19th and early 20th century to describe a fellow that loved to spend as much time roughing it in the woods as he could. But at any rate, my recommendation to you as you develop your emergency preparedness plans as to learn as much as you can about pre-technology ways. That way, when technology fails, you will still be able to continue on.

Your Emergency Camp Fire

By L. E. Eubanks
Indicating Ways and Means of Doing the Things Our Ancestors Had to Do

THERE is not a great deal of art in building a fire, either a stove fire or an open fire, if conditions are right and, the proper fuel at hand. Most readers of this magazine have read all about fire building in the ordinary camp, under the usual conditions.

Old campers know, and prospective campers should be warned, that very much of the pleasure and profit from an outing depend on the camper’s maintenance of a comfortable temperature in the cabin or tent. The novice should guard particularly against being misled by the bodily warmth he feels when he first returns to camp from a vigorous tramp. He will cool quickly; even after a nice day the evening often grows unexpectedly cool, and a fellow, particularly if not used to roughing it, may take a cold that will spoil his fun—if it does nothing more serious.

An old woodsman with a big streak of humor has said that the best way to dry matches is not to let them get wet. The best drying treatment for “the last match” when it is damp is to rub it in your hair. The best way I know of to increase the chances of getting a fire from the last match is to cut some splinters the size of a toothpick from a piece of dry pine, if such is procurable, and bind them, say six or eight, around the match—their points within about an eighth of an inch from the fulminating end of the match. Even if a wind is blowing, at least one of the sticks is quite certain to hold flame.

I believe the most certain way to get a fire when it is raining is to find a rotten stump, gouge a hole into its heart, and start your kindling in the cavity. If you have a cartridge, cut it open carefully, dampen the powder slightly, and sprinkle it on the tinder.

But how about the tinder, you may ask; suppose even it is not to be found in a dry condition? A good many outers, hunters, trappers, etc., have learned to provide against such a contingency as that by carrying some kind of fire-starter in the camp outfit. A small roll of birch bark is fine: even if it gets wet the dampness does not penetrate beyond the outer layer, because of the oil in the bark.

But I know of something for “pocket kindling” even better than birch-bark—and a little more dependable, since the latter is not easily procurable in all sections. I refer to celluloid, a few little pieces of which will start a dandy fire in jig time. It is not only very inflammable but waterproof, and much more compact than bark. A few pieces of an old celluloid comb or of the white composition used to cover some harness rings can be carried in one’s pocket without the slightest inconvenience.

When the fire has to be built on snow—and of course it is impracticable to scrape away three or four feet of snow for a hasty, temporary camp—the novice at such work may fail even when he has at hand plenty of good starting material. Nine times out of ten he will place his dry wood directly on the snow, and by the time he finds out his mistake he may not have any dry stuff left.

He should make a bed of green logs on which to build the fire. Small logs will do, six or eight inches in diameter; and balsam is good because it is very sappy. The fire that is to be kept all night ought to be self-feeding; there are several arrangements of logs that permit the fuel to slip down into the fire as that below it burns out, and any thoughtful camper can soon devise a plan.

Remember too that a fire-back—a ledge of rock, bank of earth, or a big green log—will greatly increase the effectiveness of a fire that is built for warmth, by reflecting the heat. So pitch your tent, with reference to the fire-back’s position, so that when you build the fire you will get its full force.

But without a match! In that case, the outer, if he has a gun and ammunition, can even yet start a fire, if he goes at it right.

Sprinkle a little powder on the dry leaves, then put in but a small charge and do not pack it. Do not poke the muzzle into the leaves and twigs, but hold the barrel flat on them.

But if a fellow has neither match nor gun!! Pretty bad, if the weather is cold or he has to cook something; but he mustn’t give up. If there are two watches in the party, and if the sun is shining, you can make a burning-glass that will ignite dry leaves, by removing the crystals and placing them together, enclosing a little water between them. According to the historian Pliny, the ancients used a sphere of rock crystal as a burning glass for collecting the sun’s rays to a focus.

Starting a fire with a piece of ice is not at all impossible; in fact, it is easy if one has clear, pure ice, and knows how to shape it into a double convex lens—a lens that bulges on both sides. Sometimes the ice lens will act on fine, inflammable material even more quickly than a glass.

Take a piece of ice shaped like a silver dollar but a little bigger and a little thicker, and so hold it between your warm palms as to melt off the edges and bring it to the desired convex shape. Now catch the sun through it right, and see how quickly you can make a bit of tissue paper smoke. When the fire appears, a little later, gently blow it into a flame. Have additional fine fuel handy.

Among primitive peoples, there were two principal methods of starting fire—both used yet when emergency cannot be met otherwise. They were, by striking two suitable mineral substances together, or secondly, by rubbing two pieces of wood against each other. The principle was the same in both—ignition by friction. Fine, dry material like grass or punk was ready and the spark transferred to it.

It is said that in some parts of Alaska the natives rub sulphur on two pieces of quartz and strike these together to produce flame. Eskimos sometimes strike a piece of quartz against a lump of iron pyrite, with the same result.

Friction of two pieces of wood is still being used in some parts of the world. It is not likely that you and I will ever have to revert to these methods, but if the necessity should —well, it can’t do any harm to remember them.

Surviving the Times is now available, and until September 30th you can save 10% on your purchase by going to my book page and click “Buy” and enter the code word  ‘ FOUND ‘ at the checkout stage. Click on the title below to go to my bookstore and a secure ordering site.

Surviving The Times

Surviving The Times

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Surviving the Times takes you through the steps to make your own preparedness planning binder. You’ll learn how to guage the level of various threats as the relate to your preparedness planning by using the three P’s of preparedness, the SaWaFo pyramid and more.

 
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  1. […] Making an Emergency Campfire From Surviving The Times […]

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