Winter Survival: Fire Starting, Part I

Winter Survival: Fire Starting, Part I

Surviving in the winter. Surviving in the cold. Surviving in the snow.

At various times in your life, both personal and professional, this could happen to you. Stuck, alone, cold, in the wilderness, and without immediate assistance.

You can live for a few days without water and longer without food. But not if you become severely hypothermic. And frostbite can incapacitate you and lead to eventual death. Heat is the most essential element for short term survival in extreme winter conditions.

Winter Survival

Stay dry, stay warm. Start a fire.

All fires consist of essentially 3 basic elements:

Ignition Source, Oxygen and Fuel.

You could just start with a military white phosphorous grenade – makes a great fire starter for winter survival. They torch everything within a 25-foot radius, including you, so be sure to give it a hefty toss after pulling the pin! Let’s get back to reality. I’m certain your company would frown on you carrying “Willie Pete” grenades for starting an emergency fire some winter night.

But there are simpler items you can carry that are very reliable, far cheaper, and a lot safer.

Ignitors are any flame, spark or heat producing devices that can ignite burnable materials. Common ones are matches, cigarette lighters, flint rods, and road flares.  It‘s tragic a lot of people believe they can start a survival fire with book matches, kitchen matches or cigarette lighter. Maybe they can during fair conditions but the odds drop considerably as the weather depreciates. Their confidence can be quickly shattered when they find out how poorly these items function in harsh winter conditions. When your hands are shaking and the wind is blowing 40 mph, it’s too late to discover what you relied on doesn’t work. Don’t trust your life to cheap, unreliable junk. Give yourself a fighting chance with proven, dependable items. If you ever need an emergency fire, you want to have the right stuff in your survival kit to do the job.

A number of manufacturers produce a variety of storm proof matches for that initial ignition of a fire. We will address my favorite and I believe the best on the market in my next blog post. ( Read Part II here.)

Don’t get cold!

Nick Weighton

Lieutenant Colonel, Special Forces, U.S. Army (retired)

 

 

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