you always wanted to be put to the test,

burn, burn, burn mother*****r, you” (the Mourning Sons)

I read somewhere that there are jungle survival instructors who recommend that anyone lost in the jungle should not even try to light a fire (by friction methods) unless they are already reasonably expert at it, and that they should invest their time in other aspects of their survival instead.

I know what they mean – the rain, damp, decay and heat (the uncomfortable humid kind that saps your energy and makes you sweat) are not a great combination if you are trying to put into practice a fire starting method you only read about or saw on youtube… not only will failure at friction-fire lighting make you physically more tired, the frustration can also lead to very negative feelings towards the situation you are in (and particularly towards whichever bushcrafter you watched on youtube demonstrating how easy friction-fire-lighting is)

And yet, the one thing I would really like to have going if I got lost in the jungle is a fire.  Quite apart from the fact that a fire makes you easier to find (woodsmoke can be smelt from quite far away), allows you to boil water, dry clothes, cook food and drive away mozzis etc…. a fire will also make you feel psychologically more comfortable in the jungle and more in control of your situation.

I can light a fire in the jungle without a lighter or matches, nevertheless I always carry a lighter (and inner tube) with me because if I get in a tight spot I want to be able to light a fire quickly and easily and with the minimum of fuss and preparation.  At the same time, the fact that I can light a fire without a lighter makes be feel more confident when I’m alone in the jungle.

So here is my advice:

  1. Always carry a lighter and inner tube with you in the jungle (hang it round your neck if you are the sort of person who misplaces things).
  2. Better still, carry two lighters and extra inner tube
  3. Learn about friction fire methods for the jungle: learn about tinders, kindling, feather sticks and charcloth; about carrying fire; flint-and-steel and how to make fire torches (I’ll cover all these later on)

And remember:

  • The place to learn these techniques is in your backyard (with cold beer/s at hand)
  • The place to test these techniques is at base camp in the jungle when you are relaxed and don’t need them to work.
  • The place where you’ll be tested is deep in the jungle when you’re alone, lost and find you’ve forgotten your lighter.

In the video below I outline the very basic steps for getting a fire going in the jungle.