Adventures With Lloyd

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Gear and Kit


Fire Lighting

There are all kinds of really good ways to light fires but most of them are totally unreliable for trips in the canoe. Anything that gets wet and doesn't work when in that condition is useless to bring. This includes matches of most varieties. Waterproof match containers are a good rig but could get lost in adverse conditions or be crushed in an accident. Most lighters also can be broken if you accidentally step on them or they can be crushed in your pocket. The good wind and waterproof lighters that are built like a tank are great but also sink like a rock if lost in the water. All lighters require maintenance. They need to have their fuel toped up regularly and should be tested often when not in use and before a trip. I just don't much like lighters because I inevitably forget to fill them before a trip.



There are a few really good waterproof, windproof, and shock proof lighters but they are really expensive so it is best to look for one such as the one in this picture that can be fastened to your body with a cord so that you don't lose your investment. Also the Piezoelectricity ignition system is the way to go as the battery and flint lighters wont work when wet. A small piece of bicycle inner tube is sometimes carried for tinder by rainforest firelighters because it will ignite even if soaking wet.


Friction or  Flint and Steel

Fire lighting with sticks, if you can do it, whether with a bow drill or a hand drill is time consuming and best used for showing off. It's a good skill to know but not reliable if you are cold and wet, trying to avoid hypothermia. The same goes for flint and steel with char cloth. This is a great way to light a fire, but you need to have a sealed fire lighting kit containing your tinder which needs to be kept completely dry. A good thing to have, but such a container could be lost or swept away in an emergency and lost. I always go for the low tech approach whenever possible but this is a bit too low tech even for me.


Ferrocerium Rod

The Flint-Magnesium fire starter is a great thing to have if you know how to use it proper. First because it is cheap, available at most camping stores for under $10, second because even if you soak it in water for days it will still give you fire, and third because it is small and light and can be worn around the neck or tied to the belt and stuffed into a pocket. I wear mine on a nylon lanyard and even clip an old pocket knife to it to use as steel. The way that you are supposed to use this, is to shave up a quarter sized pile of magnesium and strike a spark into the pile to ignite the fire. This works, but you had better have a lot of really good tinder piled around your magnesium because the flame is gone in an instant. The main complaints that people have is that the magnesium dulls their knife, and burns away too fast. Magnesium burns at about 5400 degrees though so a few drops of water are actually more fuel as the temperature will separate water into pure hydrogen and oxygen, both of which are highly flammable. That's the theory anyhow, in practice the water does not do much of anything.


I don't even use the magnesium side though, I use birch bark instead. I only use the flint side and save the magnesium for when there is no birch bark, which in Canada is almost never. The trick to igniting birch bark is to take your knife and scrape the bark to get at the dry fibers inside. After scraping for a couple of seconds you should have plenty of dry fibers to scrape a spark into. The dry fibers will catch fire instantly to which you can add small pieces of birch bark and tinder. This method of fire lighting is about as reliable as it gets. The Ferro Rods that are also available work exactly the same. If you find yourself entirely without good tinder to catch a spark you can scrape a bit of fluffy cotton off your socks and ignite that.


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