18 July 2011

Survival Tinder: Pitch and milkweed down

Survival Tinder: Pitch and milkweed down

Many of us carry petroleum jelly-soaked cotton balls or cotton pads, or even commercial “wet fire” type waterproof tinders in our kits/bags.

Here is an alternative that can be produced in the wilderness out of easily procured materials if/when we run out of such conveniences, and carried as quick, waterproof tinder.

What you will need:

Milkweed down, gathered in the fall. Cattail down, thistle or dogbane down or a number of other similar materials will work

Spruce or pine pitch, collected from porcupine damaged or, in this case, rock-scarred trees:

Materials: Milkweed down, spruce pitch, deer leg bone for melting pitch

Melting the pitch over a fire. It works well to set the bone on a warm rock beside the fire and allow the pitch to soften. If you have a tin can or pot that you would like to use, take care not to allow the melting pitch to get too hot, as it can easily catch fire if you set the can directly on the stovetop. If you happen to have two cans/pots, a double boiler setup, with hot water in the bottom pot and the sap in the top one, is a great way to melt pitch.

Pouring liquefied pitch onto milkweed down. The split deer bone acts as a handy spout:

Rolling the pellet… The sap is hot, sticky and wants to stick to your hands and anything else it comes into contact with. Work quickly, getting the outside of the pellet covered with pitch and then rolling between your palms to cement everything together and smooth it out.

Finished “fire pellet.” Light, waterproof and, despite looking rather like an elk dropping….works quite well!

Broken open, ready for use…

Striking sparks…

Burning brightly…

I would be very interested in hearing your tinder ideas and tips! Thanks...