by Todd Walker
What’s in your pockets? If you look at the popular trend of pocket dumps on social media, the answer appears to be everything, except the kitchen sink. I seldom see fire tools in these pocket dumps. Of course, our Everyday Carry items will look different depending on our jobs, lifestyle, and skill level.
Several of us from the Prepared Bloggers are sharing different EDC (Everyday Carry) items we never leave home without. Being the pyro that I am, I choose fire. Be sure to read the other value-adding articles by my friends in the links below this article.
The concept of carrying essential items on one’s person is smart habit. If ever separated from your main preparedness kit, the stuff in your pockets, plus your skillset to use said items, may be the only tools available.
The tool doesn’t determine your success. Your skills determine the tool’s success.
The quote above applies to preppers, survivalists, campers, carpenters, homesteaders, accountants, school teachers, and, well, all of us.
Pockets of Fire
If you frisked me, no matter the locale (urban or wilderness), you’d discover a minimum of three ignition sources in my pockets…
- Mini Bic lighter (open flame)
- Ferrocerium rod (spark ignition)
- Fresnel lens (solar)
L to R: Key chain Exotac fireRod, mini Bic lighter, wallet fresnel lens, and two wallet tinders: duct tape and waxed jute twine.
Let’s break these down and discuss the advantages, disadvantages, and a few tips to successfully use each fire tool. Keep in mind that these are simply ignition sources and do not guarantee a sustainable fire. For more info on the importance of fire, you may find this article useful.
Bic Lighter – Open Flame
Since a road flare isn’t practical for EDC, I carry a mini Bic. The resemblance of road flares to dynamite puts people on edge, especially law enforcement officers. I do have them in my vehicle kits though.
The times you really need fire is usually when fire is hardest come by. I’ll take an open flame over sparks, solar, and especially fire by friction every day of the week and twice on Sundays! As mentioned previously, you must put in deliberate practice to hone your fire craft skills by actually Doing the Stuff or these fire tools just look cool in pocket dumps on Instagram.
To learn more on building sustainable fires, browse our Fire Craft Page.
Cold hands loose dexterity and make normally simple tasks, striking a lighter, difficult. Modify your EDC lighter by removing the child-proof device wrapped over the striker wheel. Pry it up from the chimney housing. Once free, pull the metal band from the lighter. Two metal wings will point up after removal. Bend the wings down flat to protect your thumb when striking the lighter.
What if your lighter gets wet?
On a recent wilderness survival course, I taught our boy scout troop how to bring a wet lighter back to life. Each threw their non-child-proofed lighter into the creek. After retrieval, they were instructed to blow excess moisture out of the chimney and striker wheel. Next, they ran the striker wheel down their pant leg several passes to further dry the flint and striker. Within a few minutes, lighters were sparking and each scout had a functioning fire tool again.
The lighters I carry in my bushcraft haversack and hiking backpack are more tricked out than my plain ole’ EDC Bic. Here’s a few ideas I’ve picked up for adding redundant lighters which may be of interest…
This full-size Bic is wrapped in duct tape holding a loop of cord which attaches inside my haversack. The green cap (spring clamp handle end) idea came from Alan Halcon. It keeps moisture out and prevents the fuel lever from being accidentally depressed.
The cap removed reveals the child-proof device missing.
- A mini Bic will give you approximately 1,450 open flames.
- A wet Bic can be back in service within a minute or so.
- So easy to light a five-year-old can use one.
- Designed to be used with only one hand.
- It’s difficult to monitor the fuel level unless the housing is clear.
- They are consumable… eventually.
- Extreme cold limits a Bic. Keep it warm inside a shirt pocket under your overcoat.
- A mythical disadvantage is that lighters won’t work in high altitudes. If Sherpas use them on Mt. Everest, this lowland sherpa is sold.
Ferrocerium Rod (Firesteel)
In the bushcraft/survivalist/prepper community, ferro rods have the hyped reputation of being a fail-safe fire maker. The device is simple and won’t malfunction, they say. Scrap the metal off the rod, and, poof, you have a fire, even in the rain. Sounds good but don’t buy the marketing hype!
“Much of the social history of the Western world, over the past three decades, has been a history of replacing what worked with what sounded good.”
~ Thomas Sowell
In my experience teaching both children and adults, using a ferro rod for the first time ends in failure more times than not. Yet everyone is told to add one to their emergency fire kits. I carry a small one on my key chain because I enjoy practicing fire craft skills. They’re a novel way of making fire but, like any skill, require practice to become proficient.
The fireROD by Exotac has a watertight compartment which will hold a full cotton makeup pad for tinder.
Of these three ferro rod techniques – push, pull, and thumb lever – the latter is my favorite on softer firesteels. It offers more accurate placement of sparks. The drawback is that the thumb lever requires more fine motor skills and coordination which go bye-bye in an adrenaline spiked emergency scenario. That’s why I carry a Bic!
If you’ve never tried the thumb lever technique, here’s a short video demonstration which may help…
One of the many reasons I practice fire by friction is the fact that it teaches the importance of preparing proper tinder material. Marginal tinder takes more heat to combust. Even with 3,000 degree ferro rod sparks, you may fail to ignite damp, finely shredded tinder. The amount of heat needed for ignition depends on the amount of surface area compared to its volume. Think in terms of small hair-like fibers. When you think you’ve got fine tinder, shred it some more.
Even without a “proper” striker or knife, any object hard enough to scrap metal off makes a good substitute.
A ferro rod/metal match is not my first choice in fire starters. It’s a fun bushcraft tool to use though.
- Scraped with a sharp rock, broken glass, or any object sharp enough to remove metal particles, 1,500º F to 3,000º F sparks spontaneously combust as they meet air.
- Sparks even in wet conditions.
- The average outdoors person will never use up a ferro rod.
- Can ignite many tinder sources.
- For more info on ferro rods, click here. My EDC rod is way smaller than the one in the link.
- They are consumable… eventually.
- They’re difficult to use if you’ve never practiced with this tool.
- Intermediate skill level needed.
A quality fresnel lens is useful for starting fires, examining plants and insects, splinter and tick removal, and reading navigational maps. I carry a 4 power lens in my wallet. It takes up about as much space as a credit card. I ordered a 3-pack from Amazon for under $7.
Sunshine is loaded with electromagnetic energy in the form of photons. A fresnel lens simply harnesses the energy to a focused point creating enough heat to start a fire.
A few tips I’ve learned may help here. Not all tinder material will combust. You’ll get smoke and char but may never have an actual flame. In the short video below, within a second you’ll see smoke on crushed pine straw. Once a large area was smoldering, I had to blow the embers into a flame.
Increase your odds of solar ignition by keeping the lens perpendicular to the sun’s rays and the tinder. Move the lens closer or further away until the smallest dot of light strikes the target. Brace your hand to steady the spot of heat. Smoke should appear almost immediately. Afternoon sun is stronger than morning sun. Keep this in mind when practicing this method.
Keep the lens perpendicular to the sun’s rays to concentrate the most radiant energy on your tinder.
Just for fun, I discovered that cocoa powder, which I carry in my bushcraft kit, makes a useable coal with solar ignition. Have fun playing and experimenting with fire!
- Beginner skill level. Ever drive ants crazy with one as a kid?
- Can ignite different tinder materials
- Saves other ignition sources on sunny days.
- Never wears out. Always protect your lens from scratches and breakage.
- Dependent on sunshine.
- May only create an ember which can be coaxed into flame.
EDC Fire Tinder
Duct tape and waxed jute twine ride alongside my fresnel lens in my wallet. You’ll also find a full-size cotton makeup pad stuffed inside the cap of my ferro rod. Wrapping a few feet of tape around an old gift card gives you an emergency tinder source for open flame ignition. Setting fire to a foot long strip of loosely balled duct tape will help ignite your kindling. There are so many multi-functional uses of duct tape, fire being one of them, that you should always carry at least a few feet in your wallet.
The waxed jute twine can be unravelled to create surface area for spark ignition. Unraveled, it can also be used as a long-burning candle wick. Either way, it’s nice to have another waterproof tinder in your pocket/wallet. Here’s a link if you’re interested in making your own waxed jute twine.
If all you have for ignition is a ferro rod, duct tape will ignite, but again, don’t count on it if you haven’t practiced this method. See our video below…
It never hurts to have multiple fire starting methods on your person. Drop us a comment on other EDC fire starters that I haven’t mentioned.
Be sure to scroll down and check out the other articles by my friends at the Prepared Bloggers.
Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,
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The Prepared Bloggers are at it again!
Everyday carry, or EDC for short, refers to items that are carried on a regular basis to help you deal with the normal everyday needs of modern western society and possible emergency situations.
Some of the most common EDC items are knives, flashlights, multitools, wallets, smartphones, notebooks, and pens. Because people are different, the type and quantity of items will vary widely. If you have far to travel for work or have young children, your EDC could be huge!
But, even if you’re just setting out for a walk around the neighborhood, taking your essential items with you in a pair of cargo pants with large pockets, may be all you need to be prepared.
Follow the links to see what a few of the Prepared Bloggers always carry in their EDC.
Shelle at PreparednessMama always carries cash, find out why and how much she recommends.
John at 1776 Patriot USA tell us the 5 reasons he thinks his pistol is the essential item to have.
LeAnn at Homestead Dreamer won’t be caught without her handy water filter.
Justin at Sheep Dog Man has suggestions for the best flashlights to carry every day.
Bernie at Apartment Prepper always carries two knives with her, find out what she recommends.
Nettie at Preppers Survive has a cool way to carry duct tape that you can duplicate.
Todd at Ed That Matters tells us about the one item you’ll always go back for…your cell phone
Erica at Living Life in Rural Iowa knows how important her whistle can be when you want to be safe.
Todd at Survival Sherpa always carries 3 essential fire starters wherever he goes.
Angela at Food Storage and Survival loves her Mini MultiTool, it’s gotten her out of a few scrapes!