While I don’t keep a firesteel on my key chain, I do keep one in my daily carry bag. In case you’re not familiar with the firesteel, they act like a flint to create sparks for lighting tinder. This is what Bear Grylls pulls out of his pocket every time he wants a fire. The Swedish firesteel has a few advantages:
A firesteel doesn’t go empty while it’s sitting in your pocket.
They create a lot of very hot sparks.
Firesteels are compact.
A firesteel does have some limitations though. First, they’re only as good as the tinder you’ve prepared. In wet conditions they will produce hot sparks, but if you don’t have dry, generally fairly fine tinder you won’t get fire. Unlike a lighter you can’t really light the end of a stick. So to go along with your firesteel pack some reliable tinder.
Popular Man Made Tinder:
- Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline (petroleum jelly)
- Alcohol based hand sanitizer
- Dryer lint
- Steel wool
- Paper Towel
Natural Tinder Sources
- Sap – particularly pine
- Dried leaves
- Fibrous bark
- Dry Pine needles
- Cat-tail fluff
- Dry grass
- Coconut husk
- Bamboo or dry wood shavings
Along with quality tinder, technique does come into play. When using the scraper take note of which side should be up. The under side of the scraper has a sharper edge. Hold the scraper at a 45 degree angle to the steel. Scraping hard and fast produces the most sparks. To get more leverage place the steel thumb on top of the scraper thumb. You can also use a knife as well.
Although most people don’t need to make a camp fire on a daily basis, I’ve lit quite a few charcoal grills with a paper towel and my Firesteel Scout. It seems that the lighter always disappears while the firesteel stays in my bag.
Swiss Army Classic
To kick off the every day carry series (EDC), we’ll start with the basic key chain knife. By far the most popular knife ever produced, the Victorinox Swiss Army Classic is one of my favorites. It’s hard to get more use out of $10. It comes with sharp scissors, a blade, nail-file, a toothpick, and a pair tweezers, all stainless except the toothpick. The great thing about a key chain knife is that it’s always with you. You won’t forget it, and it’s a little harder to lose than a pocket knife. Although the small blade isn’t quite so useful for shelter building, you’ll use it daily, and unlike most of my other favorites, no one looks at you like a serial killer when you do.
For the rabid ultra-light fans a classic can be stripped down from it’s diminutive 0.7 oz. By removing the plastic, you shave off 0.1 oz. For the truly hardcore, the scissors yanked from a Classic weigh in at 0.0145 oz, on par with a simple razor blade.
So what’s on your key chain?
Pocket Knife Sharpener
What’s more dangerous than a sharp knife? A dull one. How many people use a pocket knife or multi-tool daily but haven’t sharpened the blade since they bought it? We just never think about it. Even if you have a more elaborate knife sharpening kit at home, it probably collects dust. The only time you’re thinking about sharpening your knife is when you are using. So keep a sharpener with your knife or at least in your travel gear.
I use a little diamond sharpener that’s the size of an ink pen. It’s a decent medium grit (400) which won’t take you into shaving territory, but it won’t take you all day to get a beat up knife into shape either. This particular one allows you to sharpen fish hooks and serrated edges as well.
A Couple Tips
- Hold the blade so you can see the angle of your stone relative to the blade edge. You want consistency.
- Match your stroke to the type of blade. Use a circular motion for convex blades and a long straight stroke for flat edges.
Along with your multi-tool and pocket knife, what else have you been playing with that isn’t sharp? Last week I cleaned up the axe which has seen some tough times.
Knots – Prusik Hitch
The Prusik knot or Prusik hitch is most commonly used by climbers. Because the knot can be manually moved along the rope it’s attached, to but locks in place when pulled, it can be used for self belay.
A Prusik is made by wrapping a loop of rope around another the main rope and passing the ends through itself. This is done three to five times. You can then grab the barrel of the Prusik with one hand to move it along the main rope. Pulling on the end of the Prusik bends the main rope locking the Prusik in place.
Bamboo Fire Saw
Bamboo is one of the most versatile materials around. It makes excellent fire wood and can even be used to start a friction fire.
Basic steps for creating fire with a bamboo fire saw
- Select a dry length of bamboo light yellow in color roughly 2-3 inches in diameter.
- Scrape the outer layer of bamboo into fine shavings for a fire bundle.
- Kneed and stretch the shavings to loosen the fibers
- Split the bamboo in half lengthwise or alternatively cut out a 1 foot section (in between nodes)
- Cut a thin stick of bamboo to hold your fire bundle in place.
- Cut a notch in one section so that it barely pierces the inside of the bamboo
- Cut a sharp edge along one side of the other piece of bamboo.
- Place your fire bundle in the notched bamboo above the notch. Then place your thin stick over it to hold the fire bundle in place.
- Using both hands rub the notched bamboo against the sharpened edge of other piece. First slow then progressively faster.
- Once an adequate ember has formed, blow through the notch to ignite the fire bundle.