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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Urban Survival Skills - Fire Starting with Magnesium and Steel received a comment on a recent Bug Out Bag Post,...."Anonymous said...Good information and good tips on all the bug out items. Can you do a couple short videos on fire-starting for those if us who don't do it very often? Also with the metal sticker creating sparks technique? Thanks."

UrbanMan replies: Fire Starting should be a basic skill for all. However, I imagine there are thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people who either have not started a fire or have only used a butane lighter to start a fire and then maybe using a flammable source (I'm thinking charcoal briquets, propane grills, etc.)

I carry several butane lighters in my kit. I use green duct tape over the plastic part of the lighter to protect against cracks and crushing. I also carry several boxes of wooden stick matches in my Bug Out Bag, and, Strike Anywhere Storm matches in my small, complete Survival Kit. Wow, alot of fire starting tools, but starting a fire is so important.

The key to starting a Survival fire is to have a flame source, igniter material (something that catches on fire easy and burns with a flame, and your tinder. I carry small strips of newspaper rolled up and dunk in liquid wax, compressed cotton wads and a small bag of dryer lint (save that dryer lint!). You should keep your igniter material in a water proof container.

You need to have tinder (dry wood works best) from small pieces to feed into your ignited material to increasingly larger pieces and fuel (larger pieces of wood to burn longer). Wet wood makes a sizeable amount of smoke which can give away your position if this is a concern. So be careful with your tinder material and fuel. Have this available so you can rapidly use it as your igniter material may quickly burn out, and no sense using more than you have to.

I also carry a magnesium stick and steel. The steel is struck against the magnesium to produce sparks onto your igniter. Why the magnesium and steel if I have more lighters than I can use at one time plus matches? Same reason why you learn to navigate by the stars, tell direction from the sun's shadows and filter water with expedient means such as charcoal and sand. You may need this skill.

I am traveling right now, so I asked a friend of mine to shoot a video using magnesium and steel to start a fire. He is very familiar with living off and reading the land and if you are into horses you may enjoy his site:

Hope you can get something out of his fire starting with magnesium and steel video.

Oh and my apologies to Xcalbr8 I told the Functional Horseman, who shot the video, that a reader named Xcaliber8 asked for it. Sorry buddy.


  1. Good stuff. Can you do some more how to vids, more fire starting, maybe how to do rabbit traps, how to stop the bleeding if case I'm shot. Anything survival related.

  2. cotton balls and vasaline.light weight and will ignite .carry in a plastic bag in your bug out bag

  3. Fire starting is absolutely essential.
    Low lands = wet wood for fuel. Lost on a river wetland is no fun. Fire is essential.
    Dry, rotted wood, found under fallen trees, limbs that have been downed, and interior rotted bark, make good fire starts.
    River overflows with attendant downed timber make excellent off road temporary location sites. One can live relatively secure in these areas, as migrants from civilized areas avoid them like the plauge.
    Semper Fi

  4. I used shoe goo to secure a magnesium
    firestarter to the Mora knife sheath.