Tinder - the best tinder to use for fire-lighting is cotton wool which can be carried dry in a tin or bag. In the wild we have used the seed-tops of rosebay willow herb, old man's beard, and catkins from the hazel tree in the spring (when they have gone over and dried off). Also the seed-tops of thistle can be used, though this takes a bit more to start. One tip here is to use any of these mixed with some dry birch-bark, taking the very thin slivers from a live tree (this will not hurt the tree). Make sure this is dry. Birch bark will light when wet with a lighter, but with a steel-striker this needs the dry and fine form - this will light by itself but is aided by adding the seed-tops as mentioned before. In the above photo we also see small pieces of dead fir-wood which makes good first-stage kindling. There is also some birch-bark from a dead tree, much courser and which will like after the initial firing-up even when wet.
The above photo shows the type of birch-bark to use; these small slivers of very dry birch can be lit with the steel-striker alone if necessary.
Fire-Lighting - place some 1" pieces of wood underneath the tinder to keep the fire dry if the ground is wet. Here we have used birch-bark slivers and some dead bracken that will be lit after the initial fire-up with the steel-striker. This will give a good blaze to the fire from the start.
In this photo we can see that the weather is bad, after a fall of snow, and everything around was wet and cold. In this case we used some fire-lighters that were packed in a special tin together with cotton wool for tinder. Birch-bark was taken from a dead tree to help to get it going. This is perhaps not the most difficult situation since heavy rain makes things almost impossible - we shall come back to this at the end of this post.
In the above we see the tinder and kindling has been collected and prepared before starting the fire; small kindling should also be collected, and then larger and larger pieces in order to ensure that the fire is kept going and does not run out of fuel.
Note that the small pieces are again placed on the ground, then the fire is started with a steel-striker, with the tinder being under small twigs as above. This makes a wigwam fire which is the most effective way to start one - it lets a lot of air into the centre. This is not the most effective shape to keep a fire going for a long time due to the air-intake which makes it burn very quickly, but it is best used to start the fire.
Here the fire is well under way and is enclosed by a diamond-shape which holds the upright sticks in place.
Here the larger logs are placed parallel to each other, which makes a good cooking-fire. They can also be placed one way and then another layer placed over them the other way, thus making a criss-cross fire that allows lots of air to get in and burns efficiently.
Here we see a cooking-fire which has been made from two large logs, over which are placed two steel rods (found in the same woodlands), and a wire-mesh (also found in the same woodlands). We have cooked beans in a mess-tin, and beefburgers on the wire-mesh.
The use of a fire-shield is recommended since it reflects the heat from the fire into the shelter, and also acts as a wind-break so that the fire does not burn too quickly if needed overnight. This one was made up of a pile of logs placed between two upright steel poles (found in the woodlands).
Full details have not been given here because this post is meant as a 'taster' and we shall cover these things in much more detail using separate posts for each section covered. Remember the runic-formula for fire -
F-A-H = Fuel/Air/Heat
It is first necessary to prepare by taking with you dry tinder that you can use even when it is wet. Cotton wool is the best tinder, and carry some firelighters too for when it is really wet. This can be carried in a small tobacco tin, but when doing so close the tin securely by using pieces of inner tube from a bike cut into strips. This secures the tin properly and can be used to light a fire in extreme wet conditions - rubber burns very well.
In really extreme wet weather it may be necessary to build some form of 'shelter' over the area that you are going to light the fire, since we have tried to do so in such weather and it is extremely difficult, even when using fire-lighters. When it is pouring with rain it becomes almost impossible to light the fire - so ensure that you have as many different materials as possible - carried with you. In such circumstances it may well be necessary to place a tarp over the area at such a height that the fire causes minimal problems (burning holes in it). The fire can be lit at the outer edge which keeps the rain off.