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Your Claim to Flame

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Hey, Fiery Camp Fans!

Summer camp teaches us many skills and provides us a lot of new experiences! Some are crafty while some are athletic, others are academic and some are survival skills. Building a proper fire is an essential survival skill and a very challenging process to perform. First we’ll go over a few fire building basics and then we’ll take a look at all the different ways you can get your tinder to smoke and then flame!

Creating a pit for your fire is the first step. Then, place your smallest pieces of dry wood on the bottom and lay your firewood on top around the small twigs and other kindling. Then there’s the tinder—that’s the very heart of your fire that you’ll use to get the kindling going. Tinder is a finely divided material that, if used to your benefit, you can get your tinder to smolder or burst into flame.

You can use lots of things as tinder:


  • Dryer Lint Packed into a Used-up Toilet Paper Roll
  • Tightly Rolled and Knotted Sheets of Newspaper
  • Potato Chips
  • Evergreen Sap (it can work even in wet conditions!)

Here are several different ways to get your tinder to flame:

Of course, a pack of matches or a pocket lighter will get the job done. These tools of technology technically belong in the Striking category, since they both use the same concept to produce the flame, but because of their modern convenience, I put them in their own category.

Good ol’ Fashioned Friction
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the utmost primitive means of stoking a spark with rubbing wood against wood. Creating heat through the friction is a difficult, but eventually productive method.

Striking Effects
Flint and steel with charcloth is a popular choice that’s a happy medium between matches and friction. Striking the softer steel against the harder flint will produce sparks enough to make your tinder smoke. A more primitive version of this would be striking quartz rocks against each other (if you can locate and identify these natural tools).

Harness the Sun
If the sun’s out in an open sky, a glass lens is probably the easiest way to get some tinder to start smoldering. Simply use your magnifying glass or what have you to direct the sun’s beam at your tinder collection until you see it smoking.

Once your tinder is smoking, you’ll want to blow on it to make the flames emerge. With the right prep work, your tinder fire will spread to the kindling and then spread to the logs for fueling the the campfire. Be sure to practice all these methods with the supervision of experienced adults. And, as always, thanks for reading!


- John


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