A short video sequence showing the technique for fire lighting using birch bark and a steel fire-striker.
On a recent Canoe Camping trip I found myself without any dry tinder or kindling to hand in the cold early morning, and the small fire from the night before having burnt out during the night. I remembered a Ray Mears episode where he used a charred log from an old firepit and using a flint-striker he got a spark going into the blackened wood and created an ember that he blew into flames in no time at all.
So with that piece of TV-derived Bushcraft knowledge in mind I used my Swedish firesteel and tried the same thing. Ray had said that it worked best where there were white ash bits on the charred logs due to the “free radicals” which he said he thought “sounded like revolutionaries” (very droll Ray…;-)) Anyway, whatever they are I tried that and to my great delight with some focussed blwoing sure enough the spark began to glow right away and was soon building up a good deal of glowing red charcoal – shortly after that and after positioning some other twigs and and burnt stick-ends on top the fire suddenly burst into flames! We put the Kelly Kettle right on top and shortly after had hot coffee while the small fire took the chill off the early morning air in the valley.
I did some further ‘Backyard testing’ on this since and yes it’s a great technique especially when you’re staying more than one night in one place, but if you are travelling downstream each day then you can use it as I did to get your breakfast on, or simpluy take a small piece of the prievious campste’s fire with you (allow it to cool of course) and apply this technique at your next stop! Here’s some pictures of this simple technique in action: