Being able to start a fire can save your life during a survival situation. You can use the fire to keep away bugs and predators, boil water, cook food, and stay warm. However, you can’t always carry around lighter fluid and a lighter.
A simple firestarter can start fires even in damp, unfavorable conditions. A firestarter works by running a metal striker over a ferrocerium rod, creating sparks. These sparks will not only dry out damper wood, but ignite dry wood.
The Gerber Bear Grylls Firestarter is one of the best firestarters on the market, especially for the price. The Gerber firestarter comes in a compact, waterproof container that pulls apart into the striker and rod.
The rod has a black coating that has to be scratched off before any good sparks will fly. The first few strikes won’t produce very good sparks, but once it’s been broken in, it will give off consistent, powerful sparks.
To use it, firmly place the sharp end of the striker against the rod. Then, quickly pull the rod towards you. This should give off a nice spark after a few tries. On the handles of the firestarter, it actually has instructions for signaling for help.
It includes the Morse code for SOS, the Alpine rescue signal, and hand signals to signal for air help. The SOS and Alpine rescue signals can be done with the loud rescue whistle on the lanyard.
The SOS signal is 3 short bursts of the whistle, 3 long bursts, and then 3 short bursts. Allow around a minute for a response, and then send the signal out again. The Alpine rescue signal is to be used in the event of mountain emergencies, and consists of six bursts, all with 10 seconds in between them.
After the signal, allow a minute for a response. A response will sound like 3 bursts, and should mean that they’re contacting rescue services for help. Inside the end of one of the handles is a waterproof compartment for tinder, with a cotton ball already inside.
You can fill the rest of that compartment with whatever tinder you choose to pack, though cotton balls are a great tinder. Optionally, you can rub some petroleum jelly on a cotton ball, which will make it burn longer and hotter.
When starting a fire, the sparks should land on the tinder, and once the fire starts, you should pile on kindling to keep the fire going, and eventually larger pieces of wood to burn as fuel.