Build A Bad-Weather Fire
December 20, 2012; 8:38 AM
It's an axiom of survival that when you need a fire-really need it with the snow blowing and the evening drawing down like a burial shroud-you need it now. And you need it big.
No futzing around with a bow drill. No trying to spark fire with a rock and a hunting knife. No miniature sparking wheel that will fumble out of your numb fingers. What you need are no-b.s. methods to ignite fire, utilize tinder, render kindling, and gather enough fuel to keep hypothermia at bay. And you need them in the opposite order, because the secret of generating a warming fire is to build it from the outside in.
First order of business is gathering fuel. Doing so will warm you up so you have steady hands to actually start the fire later on. Plus, it will be harder to find once it's dark. How much? For an all-night fire, a stack of logs as long as you are tall and waist-high. With an ax, you can lay in a supply by toppling one standing dead tree. No ax and you'll have to haul in deadfall and break it into reasonable lengths by wedging the ends between two trees and pulling. Don't neglect burned stumps, which are full of pitch, and for every three dry logs haul in one green one. It will burn once the fire is established.
Tip: Pack pigskin work gloves. Wool or fleece hunting gloves will shred under the demands of gathering fuel, leaving you with mangled fingers to try to start a fire.