Best fire lighting equipment

One of the most important things we hikers need to have with us at all times, is the means of making a fire.

I don’t need to tell my readers about it, but fire is the one thing that can boost our morale when we are at an all-time low, be it through being lost, injured or just plain cold!

But factor into this the fact that you may have just climbed out of a cold, freezing river, that could well have rendered your matches etc totally useless. And let’s assume that you are so tired that the last thing you want to do is to rub 2 sticks together to make a fire.

In that scenario, you need to have an ultra reliable fire-making mechanism with you.

In the years that I’ve been hiking, I can fairly say I have tried most everything under the sun that is used to make a fire..but sadly, many of them fail miserably. However, here are a few which have been proven to work in almost any adverse condition. I have tried them myself as well, so you have my proof on that!


Here they are:

Ultimate survival Fire starting tinder–even burns when wet    $7.00

Firefly fire starter     $4.25

Light My Fire FireSteel 2.0      $11.25



What to eat to save your life in the wilderness




























A rather disturbing title and one which is even more important than some of the subjects we’ve covered here before, like fire, water or shelter.

Without food, and especially if we are stuck in a very cold or very dry situation, our survival will depend on what we have available to eat, be that in freeze-dried packs that you managed to bring with you, or whatever may be around you.

Let me say straight away here that if you’re a vegetarian, and you are very definitely not going to eat any animal matter to survive, then it could well be a case of kissing goodbye to your life!  In a life or death situation, life is more sacrosanct than ideological standpoints. Harsh as it may sound, given the choice of starving to death or surviving by eating animals, I know which one I would opt for.

So, let’s assume that you have decided that you will eat whatever is nearby or at hand. What do we eat?

Well, the biggest group of live food is the insects. Ok, ok…I know….instant yuck! Despite being some of the most horrible or ugly-looking creatures on the planet, once we overcome our very natural aversion to eating them, it’s surprising how much nutrition they can provide in an emergency.

Fine; now a little friendly advice…if you have a weak stomach and get queasy just at the mention of eating insects, look away now! I’m about to tell you how to go about collecting, preparing and eating various creepy-crawlies!

Where do you find them? Depending upon terrain, the most likely places will be under stones and rocks, in rocky crevices, in rotting trees or logs, even under loose bark of live trees.

Beetles, grasshoppers etc all have hard shells, so either remove them before eating or throw them onto a fire if you have one going; they will die almost instantly and be ready to eat in less than 30 seconds or so. If you are in a dire emergency you can of course eat them as they are.

Th taste will vary, but remember we are not interested in that at the moment…it’s a pure survival thing we are aiming at.

If you cannot eat them as they are, they can be ground up into a paste and eaten that way, or by heating them in a pan over the fire. Earthworms can be washed and eaten raw or thrown in a pan and boiled.

If you are stranded in a watery environment, then water-living creatures are a good bet. Almost all kinds of fish can be eaten, but do remember that some species may be carrying dangerous parasites, in which case always cook the fish first. Some fish may have poisons within their bodies, especially saltwater fish, so you should either know which types of fish are poisonous or if unsure, leave well alone.

The same goes for shelled molluscs. Most are harmless, but beware of eating molluscs that are not covered by water at high tide, as these may be poisonous. All molluscs can be eaten raw, but it’s better to boil them in water to kill any parasites that may co-exist within.

Which insects and animals do we need to avoid? Well, Nature provides us with a very important signal — any insect or animal that is brightly coloured should be left well alone; the colour is a warning sign! The same goes for any insect, frog, lizard etc which smells bad….

I have deliberately left out any information regarding bigger animals such as deer, hogs, etc etc as capturing these may not be possible when you are stranded, and indeed may well take far too long, by which time your energy levels will be severely diminished. Leave that prize moose you always wanted to shoot for another day!

At the end of the day, your survival depends on preparation. Always, always make sure you pack enough emergency rations. That way, you may not need to fall back on the horrible critters we’ve been talking about here!






Basic wilderness survival — Shelter

Continuing with my recent post about some of the very critical things we just cannot do without when hiking in the wild places, is shelter.

I once read somewhere that the number 3 quantifies a whole range of actions that wilderness users are always up against. For example,  a person can supposedly live without air for a max of 3 minutes, without shelter for 3 hours, without water for 3 days and without food for 3 weeks. So shelter is the second most important thing that governs how long we can survive in the open.

And of course, if hiking in extreme cold, I wouldn’t like to bet that I’d last even 3 hours….I well remember being caught out in the extreme cold in Ontario once, when the temperature was -25C and with the wind chill factor added to that, it was -35C…yes, -35C! At that temperature, any exposed skin freezes solid within seconds.

So anyway, shelter, and knowing how to construct it with whatever is available, is of paramount importance.

Here, I’m going to talk about a very simple, but potentially life-saving shelter that can be constructed quite quickly and will keep you safe and snug for many days, until such a time when you decide to move on or can construct a more solid version.

This kind of shelter relies on us finding a fallen tree, under which all that needs to be done is to gather a few long branches, lay them at an angle with one end resting on the tree or log and the other end on the ground.

ONce those branches are in place, the gaps between them are covered up with smaller branches, moss or twigs — if these have leaves on, so much the better as they keep the rain out and act as insulation, too.

Again, depending on your location, you can use a pile of leaves for floor insulation as well, or if no leaves, then smaller branches or dry moss will do just as well. The reason for this is that the worst you can do having made your shelter, is to lie on the bare floor. Doing that will cause loss of body heat, which is the last the thing you need in a life-threatening situation.

One final idea is to keep a small fire going in front of the entrance to your shelter. Just having a fire going will be enough to keep you warm and dry and also allowing you to prepare your meals. The heat from the fire will be reflected to an extent into the shelter, keeping that dry, too. The simple diagram below shows how to go about building this shelter.


If you happen to be carrying a tarpaulin and rope with you, then your task is so much easier. All you have to do is tie the rope between two trees and simply throw the tarpaulin over the rope and put some rocks or weights to hold it down at the edges. Easy as that!

There are as many variations on this theme as you can imagine, but the main point is that having a shelter will do wonders for your morale, aside of keeping you warm.




Basic wilderness survival — Fire

photo courtesy

It’s all very well posting new and never before tried walks or hikes, but if you happen to be caught out in a storm or inclement weather, and are wet, cold and hungry, the first thing you will need to have is a fire.

A fire has always been the main prerequisite for campers and hikers. There’s nothing else in this world that boosts your moral more than a fire you’ve made yourself.

In this series of posts, we’re going to be talking about some of these very important points, and today we’ll choose fire.

I always like writing from a worst case scenario, so let’s assume the weather is very cold, possibly in icy or snowy conditions, or raining. And yes, you’ve located your matches…but they’re soaking wet and useless.

So, how do you make a fire in this circumstance? Well…with difficulty, is the short answer! But it’s not impossible, so here we go.

Of all the methods that I know of, the very best one that uses just pieces of wood you’ve found, is what I call the Groovy-Slide method (call me a groovy dude!). There are other methods as well, such a using a long stick and turning it like a drill with both hands onto another piece of wood…very ahrd work!

Then there is the lens method, whereby you use a small magnifying lens to start the first spark, but what if you’re caught out in complete darkness….? Another method is to use a carbon steel rod on a piece of flint, a very easy method, but I’m assuming you didn’t pack this!

Ok, so we’re assuming you’ve been lucky in being able to locate some dry wood to use; if you haven’t got any dry wood, then you are in deep trouble really, as dry wood is an absolute essential here, unless you can somehow dry it out. The method I’ve been successful with is what I’m going to describe here, but I warn you now — it’s not easy, no siree!

Right, so you have found some dry wood; one big piece and one long slim piece. Firstly, try and chop the big piece in half lengthways; this will be the bottom half of the firemaker. Then try and trim the end of the longer piece with your knife, and end up with a slightly tapered end, but this is not essential.

Next, with your knife, cut a shallow groove in the bottom piece; this groove is where you will slide the long piece, which hopefully will create some embers relatively quickly and allow you to start the fire.

With the 2nd half of that big piece of wood, scrape some shavings off it with the knife again and put to one side in a dry place; these shavings will be your tinder.

Now holding the long piece of wood at a slight angle, begin sliding it up and down the groove. You will find that after a few strokes, some powderish shavings will begin to build up at the far end of the bottom piece with the groove in it; once enough friction has built up, these scrapings will start glowing as embers and it is these embers you will use to add to the shavings that you saved earlier, to start the fire.

Continue sliding the stick up and down until you can see little puffs of smouldering embers in the bottom wood. Next, very carefully add the shavings to the smouldering embers and very gently at first, blow on them, and soon the shavings will burst into flame.

Once the flame has caught, quickly pile on small, dry pieces of wood or shavings that you saved up earlier, and then gradually put bigger pieces of timber on.

There you are! You’ve started the fire with nothing but 2 pieces of wood, and you now feel really safe, your dark mood has lifted, you are warm, any animal nearby will not dare come near the fire and you can prepare some food. I’ve dredged up a little drawing explaining all this below; hope you can understand it!

But remember, before setting out on your hike, always, always have a back-up plan in case you are drenched and all your fire-making equipment is soaking wet. I always carry a flint and steel set, with which you can start a fire very, very quickly. My suppliers, MEC of Canada, sell a very cheap and thoroughly reliable set here.