Fire starting is an invaluable skill, and one of the most important ones to master in the wilderness, especially in the Pacific Northwest. We discuss basic and advanced methods of Firestarting in our Wilderness Survival classes. That said, having the right gear will make firestarting much easier.

Scouts should have at least 2 methods for starting a fire on them on all outings.


In order to start any fire, you need to create a flame. There are many ways to achieve this and a scouts should have 2 methods on them.

Butane Lighter

A lighter is hard to beat for starting a fire. It produces instantaneous flame and can be used to start many fires.

Butane lighters do have some limitations

  • Easily blown out by wind

  • Fail to work in subfreezing temperatures

  • Stop sparking when wet

But with some basic Wilderness knowhow, Scouts will learn how to use these in harsh environments as well as advanced techniques of starting fires with working and dead lighters.


  • Bic Mini

  • Most lighters work fine

  • Bic is a dependable brand

  • Also comes in many colors - bright ones are preferred

BIC Mini Lighter


Stormproof Matches

Quality windproof matches are hard to beat.


  • 12 jumbo sized windproof and waterproof matches

  • Each match burns for 25 seconds - which is a big deal

  • If you can't start a fire with these, you can't start a fire

UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit



A ferrocerium rod is a classic way for starting a fire with a spark. It takes a good amount of skill and practice to master. And once learned, a ferrorod can be used to start a 1000 fires.

Ferrocerium rod are waterproof (although you should not store wet) and very durable.


Swedish FireSteel BIO scout 2in1


Magnesium Bar

Magnesium burns at around 4000°F and is easily ignited with a spark from a ferrorod. This is a favorite survival tool used by the US military as it works well in many environments and is durable and waterproof.

The catch is - use requires knowhow, prep work and patience


  • Doan Magnesium Fire Starter

    • Used by US Military

    • Excellent survival tool but difficult for most scouts to use

    • Good for older scouts

    • NOTE: Chinese copies of this particular fire starter often don't work

Doan Magnesium Fire Starter Tool



This is a favorite for ultralight hikers and has been included in many military survival kits. The Spark-Lite is good minimalist/aviation option, but requires special tinder or advanced firestarting skills.

For scouts, this system teaches them how to use basic skills to start a fire. With these skills, they can use an empty lighter to start a life-saving fire.


  • Spark-Lites

    • Used by US Military

    • Minimalist system

    • Requires special tinder and skill to master

Spark-Lite Firestarter


Other Fire Starters

There are many other fire starting tools available, and we discuss use of these in our Wilderness Survival Classes. Other systems are not listed as they may not be practical for various reasons:

  • Not suitable for local environment

  • Requires high level of skill to use

  • Impractical

  • Undependable

  • Excessively expensive

  • Dangerous for younger scouts

  • Silly

ESEE Fire Steel



Tinder and fuel is needed to get a fire going. We show scouts how to make natural tinder, but this can be challenging when it is wet out.

Scouts should have at least one of these and know how to use it.

Fiber Tabs

There are several different versions of these. Fibers can be fluffed up to take a spark, They burn long enough to get a fire started.

Homemade versions can be made out of cotton balls/pads/lint and petroleum jelly.


Ropes and twine made from natural fibers also burns well and easily takes a spark once unraveled. Ropes treated with paraffin will burn much longer.

TinderQuik Fire Starting Tabs


Fuel Tabs

Used to cook meals, these are great at getting stubborn fuels to burn. Alone they can be used to heat up and nice hot brew.

These will generally ignite with a spark after being roughened up with the back of a knife.


TinderQuik Fire Starting Tabs


Treated Biofuel

There are many options that combine wax and sawdust or rope to make a long burning candle of sorts.

Scouts can make these at home with a little supervision.

These generally need a flame to ignite, but with proper processing, these can be started with a spark.


Lightning Nugget Firestarters



Resinous wood from Pine Trees and some other conifer trees makes an excellent fire starter. Techniques used for this tinder requires a bit of knowhow and is taught it in our Wilderness Survival classes.

Process fatwood can be easily ignited with a spark. Slivers of fatwood make great long burning matches for firestarting.

A little stick goes a long ways.

If you are savvy, you can harvest this from a rotten Fir stump or a fallen Pine.

Doan Magnesium Fire Starter Tool


Duct Tape

Duct Tape as many uses. It is also very flammable and can be used as a firestarter. It produces nasty smoke, it is great option in an emergency situation.

With proper processing, these can ignite with a spark. That said, most scouts will need a flame to set this tinder on fire.

Duct tape can be wrapped around a water bottle of pencil for easy storage. Wrapping some around your butane lighter creates a nice firestarter/tinder combo.

Duck Tape


Rubber Bands aka Ranger Bands

Wide rubber bands made from bicycle innertubes have multiple uses. They can be used to hold gear together and are also very flammable. Once lit, it produces a nasty flame, but works great for starting fires if needed in an emergency.

A flame is needed to start this tinder option on fire.


5col's Skog Ranger Bands