Story by Darrell Holland
In our modern age we seldom think of fire as being life-saving. Modern technology has sheltered us from the elements, and with the flick of a switch or the turning of a dial we can be instantly hot or cold. This convenience has dulled our senses, and many outdoorsmen and women no longer appreciate the importance of fire in our lives. The only time we hear about fire is when a subdivision or an exclusive neighborhood is in jeopardy.
If you spend much time in the great outdoors, perhaps a wake-up call is in order. Take a minute, close your eyes and visualize the following: It’s early October in the high country and the leaves are shimmering in the morning sun. A stunning canvas of reds, yellows and oranges dilate your eyes to the beauty of nature. Standing inside your rental cabin with a cup of “Joe” in hand, it looks like a perfect day to take a hike, get some exercise and inhale plenty of life-giving oxygen. Yesterday’s temperatures were in the high 60s and there is no reason to think today will be any different. You don your shorts, a lightweight cotton jersey and lace up those new Nikes. On the way out you grab your water bottle and a protein bar and hit the trail.
Before long, its noon and you decide to take a break. You finish off the last of your water and eat that new Razzle-Dazzle protein bar from REI and continue your hike. If your memory is right, it’s only another couple of hours to the summit and you can turn around and head back. The wind has started to pick up and now the sun is blocked by intermittent clouds, causing the temperature to drop. Yet, you push on.
Upon reaching the summit, you raise your arms overhead as if in victory and fail to see the sharp rock in your path. You twist your ankle and feel the gut-wrenching pain extend up to your knee. The sun has now disappeared from the sky and it is starting to sprinkle. Your ankle is swollen and walking is very difficult. The pain is considerable, but this isn’t the first time you’ve sprained an ankle; you’re confident you can tough it out. The sprinkle turns to a steady rain and the wind increases as the temperature begins to plummet. Your cotton jersey and shorts are now soaked and water gushes from your new running shoes with every step. Your ankle has swollen to twice its size.
You’ve been hobbling along for over an hour and maybe covered a mile and a half. At this rate you’ll be back to the cabin in 4 or 5 hours, well after dark. Goose bumps cover your legs and the intermittent chattering of your teeth reminds you of the cold. Your ankle is throbbing so you stop to give it a rest; your core temperature continues to drop from inactivity. You press on, only to stumble and fall over a slight rise in the trail. Numb hands break your fall and you struggle to get back on your feet. Despite the fact that the wind and rain haven’t let up, you are feeling warmer now. Inexplicably, you remove your shirt and tie it around your waist. Little do you know but Mother Nature is calling you home.
The next morning the storm had passed and a rescue crew finds your stiff body in the trail. You are the first victim of hypothermia this fall. The rescue team searches high and low for your day pack and any other belongings you might have had with you, but discovers nothing—not even a wallet to identify who you are. The team leader utters, “What a shame; if he had only been prepared!”
When it comes to outdoor survival, I feel FIRE-BUILDING is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT SURVIVAL SKILL you can possess. Our unlucky hiker could have survived for days without food and water. However, in this all-too-realistic example, hypothermia killed him in a few hours. Had he the ability to make a fire he’d be alive today and telling the story of how he twisted that ankle.
Types of fire starters
There are a multitude of fire starters out there and many folks still carry a lighter and possibly a few matches with them in the outdoors. People are confident these items will ward off disaster, but will they? Try starting a fire with a wet book of matches, or try lighting those “strike on box” wooden matches against a rock or rough surface. Good luck! At high elevation a lighter often doesn’t work either; get it wet and see how the flint works then. With cold hands and numb fingers, try making that lighter work now.
Serious outdoor survival types don’t rely on matches and lighters to keep them in the gene pool. They know from experience what works and what doesn’t. Striking a match or flicking your Bic does not guarantee you’ll get a real fire going. A spark doesn’t necessarily equate to a roaring fire. Longer burn time is often needed from a tinder source.
What about a magnesium fire starter, or a flint and steel? In reality you need to be pretty skilled to get a fire going with these items in tough conditions, as they lack tinder. But wait you say, our TV survival expert always finds a bird or rats nest to make a fire with. REALLY! How many times do you find or see a usable rat or birds nest in the woods? Are you going to risk climbing a tree when you are cold, in order to retrieve a bird’s nest? Sparks alone from a ferro-rod will not ignite wet twigs or larger fuel sources. Magnesium burns hot, but only for a few seconds and it takes a large amount of shavings to do any good. Beware of “charm bracelet” fire starters that serve as a flashlight, knife, beer opener and compass.
Having worked with the Boy Scouts for decades and taught hunter survival courses around the country, I’ve tried most every fire starter out there and found them lacking to one degree or another. It was time to bring a little common sense and some thoughtful design features towards the goal of constructing a REAL FIRE STARTER!
My main desire was a fully functioning, self-contained unit that worked under inclement conditions and allowed the user to build a fire with just one-hand, in the event of being injured in the field. Most all fire starters lacked a tinder storage compartment, produced limited spark output and made it very difficult, if not impossible, to build a fire with one hand and do so in a few seconds.
Introducing the LIGHTNING STRIKE FIRE STARTER
This ingenious design incorporates all of the aforementioned features and is American-made. The large tinder storage compartment allows you to ALWAYS have a supply of long-burning tinder with you; no more rummaging around in the snow and rain trying to find something that will burn. The striker is large enough to function well, even with cold hands. The striker stop and guide make it simple to generate spark and the stop feature prevents you from scattering your tinder in the event of an errant strike. The spark output is TREMENDOUS and unequaled by any ferro-rod on the market. By surrounding the ferro-rod with a tube we now concentrate the entire spark directly to our tinder. Take a minute to watch our YOUTUBE clip, It’s an amazing product.
Anytime we leave the security of our vehicle or home, we should always have a means of building a fire at our disposal. You never know when Mother Nature is conspiring against you and it takes just one little miss-step or goof-up to become a victim. Use a day pack, a fanny pack, or belt pouch to carry some simple survival tools with you. In the northern states, savvy residents have a sleeping bag, water, fire starter and other tools in their vehicles. Do you? Having an accident, running off the road, or running out of gas can all be life-threatening situations under the right circumstances. Dialing 911 does not always bring about a timely rescue in dire situations. Mother Nature shows no favoritism in the wild; you are the responsible party for yourself and family. Shown below are some different packages to consider.
Practice Makes Perfect
No matter what fire starter you purchase, take the time to make sure you can get a fire going with it. Don’t put yourself or your family at risk by opening the package of your new whiz-bang gizmo when an emergency arises, only to discover it doesn’t work! Practice under tough realistic conditions, making sure you can generate a roaring fire in the rain, snow or other inclement conditions. In a survival situation don’t take risks that may result in you being injured, thus complicating your survival situation.
A little common sense goes a long way. Why compete with the rest of the civilized world for the coveted Darwin Award? Life is tough enough as it is.
It’s worth noting that your ancestors were proficient in that art of building a fire. If they weren’t, you wouldn’t be here. Do your part, and don’t let them down!
Until Next time, be safe and enjoy the great outdoors in a responsible fashion!
Darrell Holland is a life-long outdoorsman and survival expert. He has created the Lightning Strike fire starter that makes it easy for anyone to start a fire under the harshest conditions.
Holland has regularly ventured into the wilderness for 40 years. He has taught outdoor survival in Oregon and conducted seminars on shooting & survival across the country for over 18 years. He knew there was a serious need for a quality fire starter that worked consistently under any conditions. More importantly, it needed to be so easy to use that even a child could start a fire with minimal training.
“Being in Oregon, the weather can change drastically and a fire is one of the first things taught in survival training. The fire starters available commercially were nothing more than charm bracelets. In a life or death situation, you need something that will function,” said Holland.
Holland personally tested at least 15 different types of fire starters in actual field conditions. He found that they were too small, the spark output was weak and they included no tinder. Under perfect conditions they might work, but when the chips were down they did not perform.
“Cold, numb hands in subzero temperatures with a blowing wind and lack of dry tinder is a recipe for disaster. I wanted a product that would work anytime and anywhere,” said Holland.
He set high standards for his new fire starter. All of the sparks are focused on the tinder and the fire starter can be used with one hand. The tinder is self-contained and once lit, it burns for several minutes. Each kit is CNC machined from 7075-T6 Aluminum and anodized for long lasting service. Enough tinder is included for a dozen fires.
“The reason for the one hand use is because people are often injured in the field. One hand operation is more of a necessity than a convenience,” said Holland. “A fire is the difference between life and death in a survival situation.”
Darrell has developed many innovative products for the shooting, hunting and survival community. He has done consulting work for various companies in the industry.+ Check out his website at www.hollandguns.com