Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bushcraft vs. Survival - The Importance of Fire

Hello blog readers! Muskrat Jim here, and today I'd like to talk about the difference between Bushcraft and Survival. Specifically, about the importance of fire.

I think we've all made fires with a magnifying glass on a bright sunny day when we were kids. I remember melting crayons, burning grasshoppers and melting those green plastic army figures.

Over the past few years, I've had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of Bushcrafters through the YouTube community. You guys (and gals) are AWESOME! Sharing your knowledge and practicing your skills, but most of all, helping and encouraging each other. I've learned a lot from you... especially in the area of primitive fire.

Before I discovered the YouTube Bushcraft community, I had never seriously tried making a fire by using a bow-drill, a fire piston, flint and steel, or a ferro rod.
Bow Drill
Ferro Rod and Striker


Flint and Steel

Fire Piston and Tinder

Each of these methods start with producing an ember either from heat or spark, then coaxing that little glowing ember into a flame.

However, a lot can go wrong in the process of bringing this ember to flame:
  • your tinder could be too damp or not fluffy enough
  • it may be too windy, raining, or snowing
  • or you may be trying to work in the dark
Mastering these primitive fire-starting methods are all great skills to have and they build your confidence when you're out in the bush.

During my time in Ground Search and Rescue, I talked to a lot of experienced woodsmen, hunters, trappers, loggers, fishing guides and other people who make their living in the woods. Without exception, they all say the obvious:
"It is so much easier to start a fire with a flame, than it is with a spark or ember."
If primitive man had the option of carrying a Zippo, or inexpensive, easily replaced Bic lighter, you can be sure he would have chosen that over any of his primitive methods.
Zippo Lighter

With a lighter you don't have to fuss with your tinder. Even if you're injured or your hands are numbed by cold, you can light a life-saving campfire in seconds instead of minutes.

In a true survival situation, seconds matter. Being able to get a fire going quickly can be a matter of life and death, or at the very least, between comfort and discomfort.

Am I saying you should stop using your primitive methods for bushcraft? Of course not!

Under controlled conditions in your back yard or out on the trail, go ahead and practice those skills.

Like I said before, nothing builds your confidence like being able coax a fire from nothing but a spark, or by rubbing two pieces of wood together releasing the fire within. It re-establishes our connection to our ancestors and also the natural world around us.

Building confidence in ourselves is a perfect remedy for the stressful world we live in today.

So go ahead. Carry a knife equipped with a ferro rod. Put a ferro rod or other fire making systems in your Bug-Out-Bag. But throw in a couple of lighters too... because fire is so crucial for survival.

ALWAYS carry a SURE method for making fire in a hurry, and in any weather condition.

No person should ever have to work hard to build a fire.


So until next time, stay safe. This is Muskrat Jim, signing out.