Being able to start a fire is one of the basic skills that everyone should have. Making a fire in the wild will help you stay warm, cook food, treat water, have emotional comfort and so much more. Making a fire under challenging scenarios is a drill that people should practice because things won’t always go as planned.
When making a fire, one should learn to identify which ingredient in fire making is missing (air, heat and fuel) and test his abilities to start a fire even when the odds are against him. The following scenarios will put your skills to the test and will make you discover if you have what it takes to succeed. Some may react to the challenge with emotional responses rather than pragmatic and logical solutions. Real world scenarios create high stress and by trying the following challenges you will improve your fire starting skills.
Even the most advanced survivalists can be challenged by these methods and their fire making skills will develop even more after completing these challenges.
Making a fire with cold and wet hands
Capsizing in a canoe or kayak and even slipping through the ice in the spring are all common accidents in the wild. Cold water immersion will take heat from your body in a matter of minutes. You will need to make a fire in order to escape hypothermia and this will be no easy task in the wild. The challenge here is to start a fire when you are cold and your hands are borderline numb. You shouldn’t try this method out in the wild unless you have a heat source ready and waiting for you. You can do it in a controlled environment and you can submerge your hands in an ice bucket. If you want to increase the difficulty you can take your fire starter and hold it in the ice with your hands. Making a fire with cold and wet hands is not easy and you need to keep in mind the following: always remove excess moisture from your hands and from your fire-starting tools and try to warm your hands a little bit by placing them under your armpits.
Suggested reading: Various types of fire that one should learn how to make
Making a fire while being injured
In the wild, accidents will happen and most people will simply fall and injure themselves. The common reaction to falling is bracing your fall with your hand and this will result in a broken hand or injured wrist. If that would happen, you will need to rely on the use of a single hand to start a fire. The challenge here is to make a fire using only one hand and various fire starters. It is certain that using lighters is easy, but the situation changes when needing to operate other fire making tools that require the use of both hands. There are many methods to start a fire and it is better to try it yourself and see how your imagination can help in a crisis scenario. If you have a metal match, you can use your feet to hold the scraper and you can use the rod with your good hand. If you are using a ferro rod you can hold it near the tinder with your boot and operate the striker with the hand. You just need to pay attention and avoid knocking over your tinder while doing so.
Making a fire with just one match
Last summer, I went hiking with some of my friends and one of them had the idea to challenge us. We were supposed to start a fire with a single match, a round of wood and a knife. Many of us failed because the match burned out too quickly and the wood splits didn’t ignite. The trick to starting a fire with just one match is to approach the situation from various angles. Splitting a match worked for some while shaving the wood with a knife to create fast burning fuzz sticks worked for others. You need to split the wood into smaller quarters using your knife and a piece of wood, and then shave the smaller parts into fast catching fuzz sticks. This will also test your blade handling skills. Another condition to establish the winner was the duration of the fire and knowing to make various types of fires made the difference for the winner.
Making a fire on varying bases
This is one of the challenges that gave me a headache and it requires a lot of imagination. While a dry and ready to use fire pit with a good amount of wood nearby is a perfect scenario. The reality of the wilderness will challenge you in ways you never imagined. Things change considerably when needing to start a fire atop varying bases and when elements such as snow, mud and water are involved. Making a fire on varying bases teaches you about the necessity of building a platform and how important it is to know which platform may be the right one for your environment. Making a fire atop snow and mud requires a base, while making a fire above water requires an elevated platform. The trick here is to make sure that the platform doesn’t burn and you need to add a layer of isolative sand, dirt or even flat rocks (although it’s not always indicated since the rocks could explode when being heated for long periods of time).
Making a fire in complete darkness
This is another great challenge that every survivalist should try and you don’t really have to go into the woods to try this. You need a dark night with little moonlight and the environment is not that important. The challenge here is to build a fire without a flashlight. Making a fire based on feel rather than sight is not easy and you will learn that using a ferrocerium rod will disrupt your natural night vision. The sparks have a blinding effect that will impair your sight and aiming capacities. The trick here is not to look directly at your tools and materials and use mainly your peripheral vision. Squinting your eyes will also help and scrapping with the ferro rod, rather than down into it will prevent you from disrupting the fire setup.
Suggested article: How to develop night vision for survival
Making a fire using the two is one, one is none rule
Making a fire in the wilderness during the winter season is not easy and snow falling from an above evergreen can ruin your setup. This scenario may seem easy, but for some it proved to be quite a challenge. The idea here is to throw water or snow over a fire that is lit but hasn’t settled yet. Depending on the construction some fire setups will shed water and shield the flame while others will be exhausted. You will have to relight the fire as quickly as possible without wasting precious time. The solution is a simple one, but many fail to see it because they focus on the end result rather than on the process itself. The two is one, one is none rule is simple and it means that one should never use all the fire-starting material in a single effort and leave some aside in case they need to relight the fire.
The fire signal challenge
This trial is somehow different from all the above and you require a team to succeed. This is a survival training exercise and involves more than one person. A group of people is divided into teams of two or three people and they are asked to build a fire that needs to reach a certain height in an established time frame. A paracord is attached between two trees or posts and the fire that is hot and high enough to burn through the paracord wins. To make this challenge even more difficult, when making the fire, a neutral party should add pressure on the teams to increase their stress level. Mistakes will be made and it is the perfect exercise to create a good after action discussion to expose those mistakes. It’s also a bonding exercise and will teach you how to collaborate and communicate with your survival group. Once again, knowing how to make the right fire type is a decisive factor in completing this challenge.
Making a fire under difficult conditions and against all odds is the next step in developing your fire starting skills. You should never become too comfortable with your training and believe that you know it all. Scenarios like the ones listed above will become real possibilities during a long term crisis event and it’s better to know how you should handle them. Never forget how the basics influence your success because it will help you deal with frustration and find practical solutions to your problems.
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