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Build A Survival Fire With Condoms and Underwear

Keith McCafferty tests reader's fire-starting and tinder tips—and tells you which are the best.

When my wife notices the small, square foil wrapper on my desk, she regards me with a coolly level gaze.

“I can explain,” I tell her. And I do, but she remains skeptical. After all, it’s not the kind of wrapper she’s used to seeing when I’m conducting research for this column. She becomes even more skeptical when I tell her I need it to start a fire.

After discovering the mess I’ve made of the kitchen—steel wool strewn on the floor, several unwrapped condoms, spent shotgun shells dripping wax onto the countertop—she admits that just possibly I’m telling the truth. But she banishes me to the backyard anyway, where a picnic table offers a more appropriate base of operations.

Each year, Field & Stream readers send us a truckload of fire-starting tips, ranging from the practical to the absurd. My editor has asked me to test a handful of the most promising, or at least the most interesting. The goal is to find the best tools in two categories: ignition and tinder.

The Spark: Ten minutes into the morning’s work and already I’m stumped. Following the reader’s instructions on how to start a fire with steel wool and a D battery produces heat, but no sparks. I decide to test the method using AA batteries, which a hunter is more likely to have handy in his GPS or headlamp. Holding two batteries end to end—with the base of one touching the terminal of the other—I press the steel wool to the extreme ends, which produces a fizz of sparks and glowing wire. The tricky part, I find, is placing a tinder nest on the wire, which glows for only a few seconds, and blowing it to a flame. Because the sparks are an indication that you are shorting out your batteries, you have to get it right quick. With numb fingers and core body temperature falling on a zero-degree night, my bet is you’d die trying.

A letter from a metallurgist spurs the next test. A few years ago, this man wrote to express his disgust with the magazine for printing an article I had written about starting fire with a knife and a flint, asserting that for steel to be hard enough to spark it would be too brittle to make a knife. I refute his argument in three flicks of the wrist. It’s true that you need a knife with a hard, non-stainless blade. But knocking around my basement are several knives, including Swedish Mora blades and some tarnished folding knives, that spark when struck against quartzite or flint. The knack is the flicking motion that scrapes steel against stone to produce the sparks, and catching the sparks on a piece of char cloth. Then you must transfer the glowing char cloth to a tinder bundle and blow it to flame.

By now the sun is high, which means it’s time to test the condom. The method, which the reader calls Forbidden Fire, involves filling the condom with water and using it as a lens to focus sunlight onto a pile of tinder. Unfortunately, this R-rated version of the old magnifying-glass fire falls into the wouldn’t-it-be-pretty-to-think-so category. I finally turn the trick after an hour of trying, having figured out that you have to fill the condom to the breaking point so that it makes a large, transparent sphere in order to concentrate the light into a small enough point. But even then you need strong overhead sun, bone-dry tinder, steady fingers, and time—none of which are likely in a survival situation (for video of this trick, click here).

Winner: Sparking fire with a knife and stone is far and away my favorite, but it’s really just a trick. To spark a fire, you’re better off going commercial. A steel striker (like the Brunton Striker Fire Starter; ­brunton.com) is easier to use and will produce a thicker shower of sparks.

The Flame: The first tinder experiment finds me holding a match to lint deposited by a dryer load of hunting wash, including a fleece jacket and Thermax underwear. The reader who submitted this tip has called lint the “perfect tinder,” but mine provides only anemic flame before subsiding into hot goo. Lint from a load of blue jeans flames up much higher. The secret is the fabric: Cotton lint makes excellent tinder, whereas lint from synthetics, like fleece, merely melts.

Next, I try out a couple of ­recipes for making candles. Pouring wax into a spent shotgun shell is the sexiest, but the simplest and most effective is the bottle-top candle. Pour candle wax into a plastic soda bottle cap and insert three wicks. The result will sustain a long-lasting flame.

Cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly are another popular suggestion—and a good one. They are lightweight, compactible, and easily ignited. The jelly is fuel to a minute’s worth of tall flame that resists being blown out by the wind.

One reader suggests shredding up a bunch of cedar bark and rolling it into a ball. It flames all right, but a ball of shredded birch bark will burn even when wet and makes a better tinder.

I save the most bizarre tip, burning underwear, for last. Ducking under the lilacs for privacy, I shuck my drawers, strike a match under the crotch and behold—flames shoot 4 feet into the air. Holy Fruit of the Loom! Seriously, this is a great idea. Most hunters who have succumbed to hypothermia were found with matches in their pockets. They died because they couldn’t get tinder to stay lit. Many might have survived if they’d thought of burning their cotton y‑fronts, which flame like a blowtorch to start even damp firewood. The lesson? If you want to be safe, don’t worry about getting chafed.

Winner: The briefs are the hands- (or pants-) down winner.

The day has produced a couple of useful tips. The cotton balls will undoubtedly be in my hunting pack this fall. Beyond the specifics, what I’ve learned is there are a lot of ways to make a survival fire. Some methods are better than others. But the more resourceful you are with the gear you have at hand, and the more you practice making fires, “forbidden” and otherwise, the more likely you are to be rewarded with that candle of light and warmth to see you through a bitter night. 

Comments (37)

Top Rated
All Comments
from Brian W. Thair wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Cotton balls get damp. 5 minutes collecting and shredding a stash of birch bark (tarry and waterproof submerged for 30 days) is a far more reliable bet.
The again, you could use the condom to trap the methane in the underwear for a clean, natural gas fire. Will baked beans be the best fire-starter?

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from jcarlin wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I'd be a little leery of a buddy who came out to spend time in the woods or camp with me and brought a condom.

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

My son has been creating fire in his underwear for years. haha.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from USA Outback Out... wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

As far as natural tinder found in the woods for a survival situation- birch bark is #1 in my book for tinder. The natural oils within the bark are quite flammable and this is excellent tinder- even when wet- to start your fire. Another option for 'take along' tinder is the lint collected from the dryer after a load of towels BUT it should be kept bone dry in a 35mm film cannister.

As far as the mysterious condom wrappers laying around the house-if they aren't yours, guaranteed your significant other will find a way to use all of your stuff for tinder....

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Silver birch is even better than paper birch, though both work fine. The secret to flint and steel is -charcloth. Tale an Altoids tin or something similar. Punch a single pinprick hole through the lid and place a piece of cotton fabric within. Close the tin and heat it over a candle flame till you see a puff of smoke come out from the pinhole. Let it cool, the charcloth is within. I have found that if you hold the steel in one hand and the scrap of charcloth in the other hand with the flint on top and strike your spark thus, you will have a better chance of catching the spark in the charcloth, which will then turn into a rapidly expanding coal that you need to put right into your tinder ball. Blow on the tinder ball and coal and you will have made fire!
Condoms in the woods are handy things (if unlubricated), Hunting with my muzzleloader in the rain, I often do the old Nam trick and put a rubber over my gun muzzle. The waterballoon fire starter does seem awkward though.
I can do the fint and steel thing, or I can use a magnifying glass. I have even made a fire drill and used that, but usually I just whip out my trusty Bic.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Fine steel wool and a 9 volt battery will start a fire. Just remember to store them separately in your pack or saddlebags. A friend had a fire ignite spontaneously in his backpack via this method with both items placed in a zip lock plastic bag prior to the hunt.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Christian Emter wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Wow, I thought it was genies on how you could use a spent shot gun shell to make a candle. Not only will it give you light but it can also be used to start a fire.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from nerffodder wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

it not a good idea to hold the steel wool when you put the battery onto it. And would it be possible to make a shell that only has gunpowder to start a fire
??

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from madtrapper wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

the resin or pitch found in the "bubbles" under the bark of a balsam fir bark ignite very very well, and you are more apt to find balsam around the edges of those swampy areas than you would a birch.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from charlie elk wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Holy Fruit of the Loom is right!
Exactly how was this discovered?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Fisher Boy wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

creative

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from panfishman wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

cotton burns good, cotton soaked in flammable stuff burns really good, a soda can filled to the very top with gasoline will light a fire that is buried under ten inches of snow. the trick is finding what burns best and what lights it easiest.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from markalf69 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

This is an old military trick. Assuming you like your coffee black after getting the fire going, try powdered creamer. Adding sugar is just a bonus that makes the flame hotter, but harder to see and robs your flame of oxygen. A fat-free creamer may not have the calories needed to be sufficient, but most hunters I know aren't on a diet.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from BioGuy wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

A 9-volt battery works best with the steel wool...I know this because I almost set the kitchen on fire one day trying it out :-). Moral of the story...try all fire starting techniques outside, no matter how obscure they sound!

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from HuntingLife wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Here is a great video on starting the fire with the 9-volt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eT-buIKUpY

I also like this survival kit quite a bit for it's ability to start a fire.

http://www.huntinglife.com/blog/detail/ultimate-survival-technologies-aq...

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from steveh1990 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

wut me and some buddies do is get a tube of pringles throw in a couple matches and throw it on timber works like a charm every time. Some of em also taste pretty good i guess. MY buddies reuse the pringles for food as well and they say they r pretty good so if u have go fishin or huntin carry a small can of pringles chips and matches and u can stay warm for hours

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hapmyster wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

In the south where there are pine trees, just find a old rotten pine log laying on the ground and chop through the rotten part to get to the center. You will find what we call "ligher pine". Orange in color, water resistant, and burns like kerosene.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tufftoyz41 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

You know I am always reading these bizarre and unpractical ways of starting fires in the wilderness. I say unpractical because even if you decide to go hunting with a pocket full of dryer lint, and you burn your thermals thats really only two days of warmth if your actually trying to find your way back to civilization when a lot of the time you may run the risk of being lost for multiple days. A good alternative to burning your cold weather gear or wasting your light source batteries is to just go to the outdoor section of your local Wallmart or most outdoor and hunting suppliers and get your self a magnesium stick. They are extreamly light weight with an approximate size of three inches long by an inch and a half wide and a eighth inch thick, and they usually come with a ball chain (similar to those on your short chain dog tag) that you can clip onto your belt loop and stick in your pocket for security and sound suppression. You just use your field knife to scrape a tiny pile of magnesium and flip over and scrape the flint on the other side to create spark. Once you've lit the magnesium you have approximately two seconds to ignite your kindling, plus if you don't succeed you have almost unlimited use you will almost never run out of this handy little gadget. The best part of the whole thing is besides it being light weight and almost impossible to lose it will usually run you about a whole dollar.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tufftoyz41 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

You know I am always reading these bizarre and unpractical ways of starting fires in the wilderness. I say unpractical because even if you decide to go hunting with a pocket full of dryer lint, and you burn your thermals thats really only two days of warmth if your actually trying to find your way back to civilization when a lot of the time you may run the risk of being lost for multiple days. A good alternative to burning your cold weather gear or wasting your light source batteries is to just go to the outdoor section of your local Wallmart or most outdoor and hunting suppliers and get your self a magnesium stick. They are extreamly light weight with an approximate size of three inches long by an inch and a half wide and a eighth inch thick, and they usually come with a ball chain (similar to those on your short chain dog tag) that you can clip onto your belt loop and stick in your pocket for security and sound suppression. You just use your field knife to scrape a tiny pile of magnesium and flip over and scrape the flint on the other side to create spark. Once you've lit the magnesium you have approximately two seconds to ignite your kindling, plus if you don't succeed you have almost unlimited use you will almost never run out of this handy little gadget. The best part of the whole thing is besides it being light weight and almost impossible to lose it will usually run you about a whole dollar.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hjohn429 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I always just use a Magnesium fire starter. It is like flint and steel. But first you shave off some magnesium shavings and then catch them on fire with sparks. It is pretty cool and cheap.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from AlaskanExile wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I use the magnesium stick with the flint down the side too. It works great and it lasts for years. It only works with a carbon blade knife, not stainless. I think it's closer to $5 though, but that's still cheaper than a pack of underwear.
I also use "tea light" candles. You get them at Wal-Mart in the home decor section in bags of 100 or so for less than $5. Each candle has it's own tin, and will keep burnging for several hours. It's perfect for warming a shelter (your poncho) in an emergency or starting a fire. It will get most anything burning. It's small and flat so you can easily carry 3-4 in your pocket in a ziplock bag. I always carry cottonballs soaked in petroleum jelly too.
I usually carry a couple of Bic lighters too, even though I don't smoke. They're cheap and they always work.
You can soak your kitchen matches in hot paraffin wax, and it waterproofs and adds quite a lot of heat (btu's) to each match, but this is definetly something you want to do on your camp stove in the backyard, not in your kitchen.
AKX

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Two GirlScout tricks, one, waterproof your strike-anywhere matches with clear nail polish. Two take a cat food can (or small tuna fish can) fill it with a strip of corrugated cardboard coiled into a spiral (so the corrugations are aligned with the axis of the can), once the can is filled with the cardboard coil then fill the can with melted parrafin wax. This is called a "Buddy Burner" and it is smaller than a sterno can and burns way hotter. Insert those previously nail polished strike-anywhere matches in some of the holes in the cardboard and you can strike the whole burner on a rock to light it up. Save the can lid to snuff it out. One of these will burn for hours!

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Hunt_Hard wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

haha
Very creative.
I really wonder how this was discovered though?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from arkrube wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

In that most of outdoor types like to snack when we hunt...try this:

FRITOS OR THE ORIGINAL CHEETIOS.

You read it correctly.

My method: Fill an eco-unfriendly styrofoam cup half full of snack food, fill the remainder with lint, pitch, paper (if available) and tip it on it's side and cover the cup with tender and torch the contents.

How much grease is in these things?..strange, huh?

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from jessandwaz wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I love the idea another way condoms can create warmth

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from m40 wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

All of this supposes you're stupid enough to have remembered to pack steel wool, condoms, magnesium rods, etc... but didn't bring a disposable lighter?!? Come on, let's get real. The topic of 'survival' tends to get absurd, and particularly when people are discussing fire.
Using ice lenses, batteries and steel wool, or any of these other strange methods are interesting parlor tricks, but none of them are valid survival topics unless you're discussing ways to endanger your survival.
Survival is about preparedness, and no sane person should recommend you prepare your gear by adding extra underwear, condoms or other less than optimal gear. Want a backup to that lighter? Here's a tip... PACK ANOTHER LIGHTER!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from m40 wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

As to cotton balls or dryer lint as tinder... here's a tip.

Heat a few tablespoons of vaseline on low heat in a pan until it turns to a clear liquid (sort of like like melting butter). Drop the cotton balls or lint in there. Keep adding cotton balls or lint and pressing into the liquid with a spoon until all of the free liquid has been absorbed.

The vaseline not only makes your tinder waterproof, but provides a great fuel source. You can keep a dozen or more of these in a small film container.

These will take a spark and ignite very easily, and they burn brightly for several minutes as the vaseline is re-liquified and consumed (like a large candle). Add to this that the vaseline has some medical uses to protect exposed/chapped skin.

Finally, I use these vaseline swabs to protect my blades and other gear from corrosion in the field. Vaseline is a great NON-TOXIC rust preventative. I will not use gun oils or other anti-rust treatments on blades that may be used to cut my food. After cleaning my knife, gun action, etc... the dirty cotton ball is still fine for use as tinder.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from lmfansler wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

This is definitely interesting.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Happy Myles wrote 4 years 32 weeks ago

Building a fire with condoms and underwear?

Reminds me of the old May West line. She was asked if she smoked, She thought for a moment and replied "not quite".

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 4 years 32 weeks ago

I close my hand over all the fire starting supplies I carry: magnesium stick with spark bar insert. Cheap folding knife. Several thick shards of birch bark. Disposable butane lighter.

Birch bark can be shredded into wonderfully fine (greasy) layers.
The best fix? Buy half a dozen disposable lighters and put one on each pack & coat.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from SD_Whitetail_Hntr wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Boy I love survival tip topics.. Best possible topic in my book.. Never can learn enough on survival from people who have had their experiences.. Thanks folks!!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

I am not sure if this would make a difference but it was stated that more water was needed to make the beam of light more concentrate to be effective... to the point where the condom was about to break. I wonder if the Magnum/XL condoms would of made the difference?

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from slickyboyboo wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

A 9 volt battery works much better with the steel wool trick than any AA or C type batteries, because the poles are closer together. Also you can keep a mean fire lit, or move fire with a few Fritos. The oil that they use to fry those things in will hold fire for a while.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from earlyriser81 wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I keep both dryer lint and cotton balls in my mini survival kit. Both have worked, but the cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly really light up.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from natureguy wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

Another good idea for a firestarter is to carefully melt wax in a tin can. Then dip small peices,(2-3 " squares or any size you wish),cut off a cardboard box into the melted wax untill coated on all sides. Place on a heat resistent plate to cool. Several dozen can be made at a sitting. Stash a dozen or so in a ziplock bag with a bic lighter or 2 and you have a small, light waterproof fire starter kit to take with you. Use the lighter to ignite a corner of the waxed cardboard peices after gathering all your wood and tinder etc. to make your fire.
You even have a few such packages stashed at the cabin, in the car etc.for emergencies etc. Try it,you might find it usefull.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from philly123 wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

just bring a dowel and a piece of wood with a whole drild in it

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from grant77 wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

I prefer a zippo!

+1 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from jcarlin wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I'd be a little leery of a buddy who came out to spend time in the woods or camp with me and brought a condom.

+10 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Silver birch is even better than paper birch, though both work fine. The secret to flint and steel is -charcloth. Tale an Altoids tin or something similar. Punch a single pinprick hole through the lid and place a piece of cotton fabric within. Close the tin and heat it over a candle flame till you see a puff of smoke come out from the pinhole. Let it cool, the charcloth is within. I have found that if you hold the steel in one hand and the scrap of charcloth in the other hand with the flint on top and strike your spark thus, you will have a better chance of catching the spark in the charcloth, which will then turn into a rapidly expanding coal that you need to put right into your tinder ball. Blow on the tinder ball and coal and you will have made fire!
Condoms in the woods are handy things (if unlubricated), Hunting with my muzzleloader in the rain, I often do the old Nam trick and put a rubber over my gun muzzle. The waterballoon fire starter does seem awkward though.
I can do the fint and steel thing, or I can use a magnifying glass. I have even made a fire drill and used that, but usually I just whip out my trusty Bic.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tufftoyz41 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

You know I am always reading these bizarre and unpractical ways of starting fires in the wilderness. I say unpractical because even if you decide to go hunting with a pocket full of dryer lint, and you burn your thermals thats really only two days of warmth if your actually trying to find your way back to civilization when a lot of the time you may run the risk of being lost for multiple days. A good alternative to burning your cold weather gear or wasting your light source batteries is to just go to the outdoor section of your local Wallmart or most outdoor and hunting suppliers and get your self a magnesium stick. They are extreamly light weight with an approximate size of three inches long by an inch and a half wide and a eighth inch thick, and they usually come with a ball chain (similar to those on your short chain dog tag) that you can clip onto your belt loop and stick in your pocket for security and sound suppression. You just use your field knife to scrape a tiny pile of magnesium and flip over and scrape the flint on the other side to create spark. Once you've lit the magnesium you have approximately two seconds to ignite your kindling, plus if you don't succeed you have almost unlimited use you will almost never run out of this handy little gadget. The best part of the whole thing is besides it being light weight and almost impossible to lose it will usually run you about a whole dollar.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Bella wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Two GirlScout tricks, one, waterproof your strike-anywhere matches with clear nail polish. Two take a cat food can (or small tuna fish can) fill it with a strip of corrugated cardboard coiled into a spiral (so the corrugations are aligned with the axis of the can), once the can is filled with the cardboard coil then fill the can with melted parrafin wax. This is called a "Buddy Burner" and it is smaller than a sterno can and burns way hotter. Insert those previously nail polished strike-anywhere matches in some of the holes in the cardboard and you can strike the whole burner on a rock to light it up. Save the can lid to snuff it out. One of these will burn for hours!

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from Brian W. Thair wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Cotton balls get damp. 5 minutes collecting and shredding a stash of birch bark (tarry and waterproof submerged for 30 days) is a far more reliable bet.
The again, you could use the condom to trap the methane in the underwear for a clean, natural gas fire. Will baked beans be the best fire-starter?

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from 007 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

My son has been creating fire in his underwear for years. haha.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from USA Outback Out... wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

As far as natural tinder found in the woods for a survival situation- birch bark is #1 in my book for tinder. The natural oils within the bark are quite flammable and this is excellent tinder- even when wet- to start your fire. Another option for 'take along' tinder is the lint collected from the dryer after a load of towels BUT it should be kept bone dry in a 35mm film cannister.

As far as the mysterious condom wrappers laying around the house-if they aren't yours, guaranteed your significant other will find a way to use all of your stuff for tinder....

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from steveh1990 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

wut me and some buddies do is get a tube of pringles throw in a couple matches and throw it on timber works like a charm every time. Some of em also taste pretty good i guess. MY buddies reuse the pringles for food as well and they say they r pretty good so if u have go fishin or huntin carry a small can of pringles chips and matches and u can stay warm for hours

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Tufftoyz41 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

You know I am always reading these bizarre and unpractical ways of starting fires in the wilderness. I say unpractical because even if you decide to go hunting with a pocket full of dryer lint, and you burn your thermals thats really only two days of warmth if your actually trying to find your way back to civilization when a lot of the time you may run the risk of being lost for multiple days. A good alternative to burning your cold weather gear or wasting your light source batteries is to just go to the outdoor section of your local Wallmart or most outdoor and hunting suppliers and get your self a magnesium stick. They are extreamly light weight with an approximate size of three inches long by an inch and a half wide and a eighth inch thick, and they usually come with a ball chain (similar to those on your short chain dog tag) that you can clip onto your belt loop and stick in your pocket for security and sound suppression. You just use your field knife to scrape a tiny pile of magnesium and flip over and scrape the flint on the other side to create spark. Once you've lit the magnesium you have approximately two seconds to ignite your kindling, plus if you don't succeed you have almost unlimited use you will almost never run out of this handy little gadget. The best part of the whole thing is besides it being light weight and almost impossible to lose it will usually run you about a whole dollar.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from AlaskanExile wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I use the magnesium stick with the flint down the side too. It works great and it lasts for years. It only works with a carbon blade knife, not stainless. I think it's closer to $5 though, but that's still cheaper than a pack of underwear.
I also use "tea light" candles. You get them at Wal-Mart in the home decor section in bags of 100 or so for less than $5. Each candle has it's own tin, and will keep burnging for several hours. It's perfect for warming a shelter (your poncho) in an emergency or starting a fire. It will get most anything burning. It's small and flat so you can easily carry 3-4 in your pocket in a ziplock bag. I always carry cottonballs soaked in petroleum jelly too.
I usually carry a couple of Bic lighters too, even though I don't smoke. They're cheap and they always work.
You can soak your kitchen matches in hot paraffin wax, and it waterproofs and adds quite a lot of heat (btu's) to each match, but this is definetly something you want to do on your camp stove in the backyard, not in your kitchen.
AKX

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from m40 wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

All of this supposes you're stupid enough to have remembered to pack steel wool, condoms, magnesium rods, etc... but didn't bring a disposable lighter?!? Come on, let's get real. The topic of 'survival' tends to get absurd, and particularly when people are discussing fire.
Using ice lenses, batteries and steel wool, or any of these other strange methods are interesting parlor tricks, but none of them are valid survival topics unless you're discussing ways to endanger your survival.
Survival is about preparedness, and no sane person should recommend you prepare your gear by adding extra underwear, condoms or other less than optimal gear. Want a backup to that lighter? Here's a tip... PACK ANOTHER LIGHTER!

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from m40 wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

As to cotton balls or dryer lint as tinder... here's a tip.

Heat a few tablespoons of vaseline on low heat in a pan until it turns to a clear liquid (sort of like like melting butter). Drop the cotton balls or lint in there. Keep adding cotton balls or lint and pressing into the liquid with a spoon until all of the free liquid has been absorbed.

The vaseline not only makes your tinder waterproof, but provides a great fuel source. You can keep a dozen or more of these in a small film container.

These will take a spark and ignite very easily, and they burn brightly for several minutes as the vaseline is re-liquified and consumed (like a large candle). Add to this that the vaseline has some medical uses to protect exposed/chapped skin.

Finally, I use these vaseline swabs to protect my blades and other gear from corrosion in the field. Vaseline is a great NON-TOXIC rust preventative. I will not use gun oils or other anti-rust treatments on blades that may be used to cut my food. After cleaning my knife, gun action, etc... the dirty cotton ball is still fine for use as tinder.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from ishawooa wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Fine steel wool and a 9 volt battery will start a fire. Just remember to store them separately in your pack or saddlebags. A friend had a fire ignite spontaneously in his backpack via this method with both items placed in a zip lock plastic bag prior to the hunt.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Christian Emter wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Wow, I thought it was genies on how you could use a spent shot gun shell to make a candle. Not only will it give you light but it can also be used to start a fire.

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from nerffodder wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

it not a good idea to hold the steel wool when you put the battery onto it. And would it be possible to make a shell that only has gunpowder to start a fire
??

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from madtrapper wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

the resin or pitch found in the "bubbles" under the bark of a balsam fir bark ignite very very well, and you are more apt to find balsam around the edges of those swampy areas than you would a birch.

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from charlie elk wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Holy Fruit of the Loom is right!
Exactly how was this discovered?

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from panfishman wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

cotton burns good, cotton soaked in flammable stuff burns really good, a soda can filled to the very top with gasoline will light a fire that is buried under ten inches of snow. the trick is finding what burns best and what lights it easiest.

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from markalf69 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

This is an old military trick. Assuming you like your coffee black after getting the fire going, try powdered creamer. Adding sugar is just a bonus that makes the flame hotter, but harder to see and robs your flame of oxygen. A fat-free creamer may not have the calories needed to be sufficient, but most hunters I know aren't on a diet.

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from BioGuy wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

A 9-volt battery works best with the steel wool...I know this because I almost set the kitchen on fire one day trying it out :-). Moral of the story...try all fire starting techniques outside, no matter how obscure they sound!

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from HuntingLife wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

Here is a great video on starting the fire with the 9-volt.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eT-buIKUpY

I also like this survival kit quite a bit for it's ability to start a fire.

http://www.huntinglife.com/blog/detail/ultimate-survival-technologies-aq...

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from hapmyster wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

In the south where there are pine trees, just find a old rotten pine log laying on the ground and chop through the rotten part to get to the center. You will find what we call "ligher pine". Orange in color, water resistant, and burns like kerosene.

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from hjohn429 wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

I always just use a Magnesium fire starter. It is like flint and steel. But first you shave off some magnesium shavings and then catch them on fire with sparks. It is pretty cool and cheap.

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from Hunt_Hard wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

haha
Very creative.
I really wonder how this was discovered though?

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from arkrube wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

In that most of outdoor types like to snack when we hunt...try this:

FRITOS OR THE ORIGINAL CHEETIOS.

You read it correctly.

My method: Fill an eco-unfriendly styrofoam cup half full of snack food, fill the remainder with lint, pitch, paper (if available) and tip it on it's side and cover the cup with tender and torch the contents.

How much grease is in these things?..strange, huh?

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from jessandwaz wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

I love the idea another way condoms can create warmth

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from Happy Myles wrote 4 years 32 weeks ago

Building a fire with condoms and underwear?

Reminds me of the old May West line. She was asked if she smoked, She thought for a moment and replied "not quite".

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from Brian W. Thair wrote 4 years 32 weeks ago

I close my hand over all the fire starting supplies I carry: magnesium stick with spark bar insert. Cheap folding knife. Several thick shards of birch bark. Disposable butane lighter.

Birch bark can be shredded into wonderfully fine (greasy) layers.
The best fix? Buy half a dozen disposable lighters and put one on each pack & coat.

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from slickyboyboo wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

A 9 volt battery works much better with the steel wool trick than any AA or C type batteries, because the poles are closer together. Also you can keep a mean fire lit, or move fire with a few Fritos. The oil that they use to fry those things in will hold fire for a while.

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from lmfansler wrote 4 years 33 weeks ago

This is definitely interesting.

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from SD_Whitetail_Hntr wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

Boy I love survival tip topics.. Best possible topic in my book.. Never can learn enough on survival from people who have had their experiences.. Thanks folks!!

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from FloridaHunter1226 wrote 4 years 30 weeks ago

I am not sure if this would make a difference but it was stated that more water was needed to make the beam of light more concentrate to be effective... to the point where the condom was about to break. I wonder if the Magnum/XL condoms would of made the difference?

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from earlyriser81 wrote 4 years 28 weeks ago

I keep both dryer lint and cotton balls in my mini survival kit. Both have worked, but the cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly really light up.

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from grant77 wrote 3 years 41 weeks ago

I prefer a zippo!

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from Fisher Boy wrote 4 years 34 weeks ago

creative

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from natureguy wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

Another good idea for a firestarter is to carefully melt wax in a tin can. Then dip small peices,(2-3 " squares or any size you wish),cut off a cardboard box into the melted wax untill coated on all sides. Place on a heat resistent plate to cool. Several dozen can be made at a sitting. Stash a dozen or so in a ziplock bag with a bic lighter or 2 and you have a small, light waterproof fire starter kit to take with you. Use the lighter to ignite a corner of the waxed cardboard peices after gathering all your wood and tinder etc. to make your fire.
You even have a few such packages stashed at the cabin, in the car etc.for emergencies etc. Try it,you might find it usefull.

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from philly123 wrote 4 years 26 weeks ago

just bring a dowel and a piece of wood with a whole drild in it

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