Last Fall, my buddies and I went on a camping trip to a coworkers farm in southeast Missouri. It was wonderful… a nice, crisp Fall night in late October. Leaves changing, coolness in the air, deer running and grunting around the camp site at 4AM. We prepped our site, pitched our tents, and set up our fire before dark so we wouldn’t have to fumble around the site once the sun went down. Despite waking up shivering at 2AM when my “10°-rated sleeping bag” suddenly wasn’t so warm when the temperature dropped into the lower 40’s, it was great weekend. I can’t wait to get out in the open again… maybe I’ll take the wife to a State Park this upcoming spring or Fall. Maybe not.
Even though we were out on the farm, by no means were we roughing it. We loaded up a Toyota Tundra with everything we would need… including pillows, garbage bags, a cooler with all our food and drinks, and bricks to build a firepit. That’s actually how I like to camp… car camping… get out into the controlled-wilderness with all/most of the things you’ll need to be relatively comfortable and well fed within arms reach. By no means am I planning on hiking the Appalachian Trail and living off the land like that idiot character in “Into the Wild”. But, just because I have a proclivity towards making my life as easy as possible, that doesn’t mean I don’t understand that if something really terrible were to happen, that I shouldn’t be prepared to be able to start my own fire, filter my own water, build a shelter, and generally “survive” on my own (my wife can come, too) until order can be restored or I am evacu-lifted on a helicopter or something like that (even the people stranded during Hurricane Katrina were *eventually* rescued, right?)
By no means am I some sort of ” doomsday prepper”, but I understand the value in being self-sufficient and prepared for any emergency… kind of having the knowledge and a few of the supplies to “tip” the odds of making it in my favor until reinforcements arrive. I don’t have a basement full of MREs and ammunition cans, but I do have a survival knife and a manual fire striker, a kit of emergency fishing equipment, some water, and a first aid kit at the ready, should anything happen where the conveniences of modern living are suddenly unavailable and my wife and I are left to survive on our own. Missouri experiences 45 tornadoes per year, on average, so there is a real possibility that we could be subject to power outages and storm damage. We live in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, making the possibility of a large earthquake occurring very real… which subconsciously scares me (I was in DC when the 5.8 magnitude quake struck… not very fun, and a real wake up call to get ready for an emergency). St. Louis has experienced lengthy black outs… imagine the power is out for a week, not a few days, in the middle of a 100° heat wave… think things wouldn’t get very dangerous very quickly?
So, realizing the need to be prepared, should the power go out, I’d still like to have a way to cook food and sterilize water. I’d still like to keep warm should the power go out in the middle of winter or after a tornadic cold front blows through during storm season. The answer to theses needs, obviously, is fire. Plus, a fire has an inherent comfort factor (one of the reason everyone is putting firepits in their backyards)… and if you ever find yourself roughing it in the wild (even if you’re car camping) it “keeps the Boogey Man away”, as Les Stroud always says on his Survivorman show on Discovery Channel. Like I said, I believe in tipping the balance without having to go to extremes. So to tip the balance in my favor when it comes to the essential need of making fire, I made some tinder capsules… waterproof caches of fire tinder that my fire striker can easily light… which can help you get your fire going lickety-split. Btw, I absolutely realize I’m more likely to use these things to get a camp fire going during a trip to a State Park than I am to ever have to break one open to start a fire in a survival situation… but still…
Here’s how I did it…
1. Gather your supplies… you’ll need:
- A plastic drinking straw
- Needle nose pliers
- A tea light candle
- A pencil
- A couple of wash cycles worth of dryer lint
- If you don’t have dryer lint on hand (and why wouldn’t you?), you could substitute some fluffed-up cotton ball or cotton pads, or the guts from a tampon.
2. Cut the drinking straw into 2 or 3 inch sections.Light the tea light so it can get burning for a minute or two. Use the pliers to clamp down on one of the ends of the straw section, while still leaving a millimeters worth of straw sticking out past the pliers.
3. Keep holding the straw section with the pliers, and pack it full of dryer lint. Use the pencil as a ram rod to compress and pack the lint in there.
4. Once it’s three-quarters filled with compressed lint, melt the end sticking out past the pliers by holding the plastic close to the flame (but not in the flame… we’re melting, not burning).
5. Once the plastic is melted, use the pliers to “clamp” down on the end of the straw… it should seal it, like this:
6. Repeat on the other end of the straw. It should now be sealed on both ends… and voila… fire tinder capsule!
7. Repeat until all the straw sections are turned into fire tinder capsules
8. Add the capsules to where they’ll be handy. I put all of mine into my Altoids Survival Tin, which I keep in a pocket on the sheath of my survival knife. Also included in my tin are: a small Leatherman multitool, a small bobbin of braided fishing line, a wire chain saw, a bobbin of snare wire, a small LED flashlight. It’s not complete, yet, but it’s better than not having anything.
To use the capsule, simply crack or cut it open, take out the tinder, fluff it up, and use at the core of your tinder bundle to grab your sparks or embers… like this:
- Artofmanliness.com – Making Fire Without Matches
- Willowhavenoutdoor.com – Tinder Bundles
- Artofmanliness.com – Three Essential Types of Fires
- Willowhavenoutdoor.com – Survival Fire