Excerpts from a comment by ‘Mountainmanrick’:
I am a very practical outdoors man with 50 years experience.
I have lived outside everywhere from the deserts of Baja Mexico to the High Sierras to the soaking tundra of Alaska.
I chime in here because of this:
Emergency fire starting does not take place under ideal conditions!
When you are so cold and wet your fingers don’t work anymore and your own thoughts betray you, you don’t need gimmicks.
You need a way to get a roaring fire burning when everything in your environment has been dampened by rain and fog for weeks on end.
When the best tinder you can find is damp, you must sustain a flame for several minutes to ignite it. Sparks or a flash from magnesium chips won’t get it done.
A paraffin candle on its side, dripping into your tinder has been successfully used since the days of the mountain men. I still carry one in my kit…
…but I have found the standard road flare is the best bet now. If weight is a concern, break it off, down to 5 minutes worth. Keep the end with the striker and cap of course. If it gets wet, light the striker end with your trusty Bic lighter or waterproof matches and you are still in business. The 3800 degree blasting flame will ignite the most stubborn tinder and in fact, you really don’t need tinder.
Take it from me; all of the imaginary scenarios under which “survival experts” build their fires pale in comparison to the misery of hypothermia setting in because you slipped crossing a creek, fell through the ice or simply because you have been rain soaked for days and are starting to wear out.
Keep it simple!
[Ken adds:] How many of you have had fingers so cold that it becomes very difficult to do almost anything? I have! It doesn’t take long for exposed fingers to cold weather or soaking wet cold to start getting numb. When I read this comment from ‘Mountainmanrick’ I felt compelled to post it separately. Great point regarding a road flare!