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Making A One-Match Fire

Updated: Mar 25

Ever read "To Build A Fire" by Jack London? A man and the dog's relationship is followed throughout the story. He doesn't treat the dog very well, and the man has a lack of respect for nature in general. His dog seems to be trying to tell him not to cross thin ice, but the man persists, and ends up perishing because of it.

Also part of the story is the man using up all of his matches. First he is able to build a fire, but due to his lack of awareness he builds it under a snow-laden branch, and ends up losing it. All of his matches are gone but one. If you had only one match would you be able to build a fire in arctic temperatures?

The one-match fire is a challenge I recommend you take and one we give all of our survival course participants. Try it on a summers day, try it in the winter, try it in the rain.


Tip #1 - Preparation is everything. I recommend building your fire structure first, leaving a hole or gap to put your dry tinder bundle in to later. The best fire type for all weather fire starting is the teepee. Start with pencil sized sticks and plenty of them, eventually building up to finger or even wrist size if you like. You can find pieces of bark to shingle your structure while you search for dry tinder if it's raining.

Tip #2 - Find dry tinder. A dry bundle of sappy spruce tips, or dry grass, or dry pine needles, or... The key is DRY and SMALL. Larger tinder isn't tinder, it's kindling. You need tinder. The biggest problems I see when people try to light tinder is that it's wet. Even a couple of green pieces of grass in an otherwise dry looking grass bundle with put out your spark. I find dry tinder under the outer bark of dead Basswood, Aspen and other trees.

Tip #3 - Don't be in a rush. Get everything ready before hand. You can have your tinder bundle in a pants pocket so your body heat helps and final drying needed. This would also heat up the bundle if it's cold out, a plus!

Final Tip - Don't be the man in the story. Respect mother nature and pay attention and she will teach you what you need to know to survive. This is probably the least known but most needed skill modern humans are lacking.

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