Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Weekly Survival Skills Challenge:Making and Using Charred Material

This weeks survival challenges remains in the vein of fire craft and is quite simple, make some kind of charred material and make a fire with it. Now before you say, oh that's too easy (or its fire season please comply with the fire code this whole challenge can be done over a grill if you are out west) let me through this out there, this challenge series isn't about having you do something you haven't done its about getting out there and practicing. So with that in mind if char cloth is too easy then make char cloth without a metal container, if that is too easy char natural materials, if that is too easy char the first five things you come across in the woods (some may work, you never know until you try), if that is too easy char natural materials without a container.

If You Missed A Live Show Or Survival Challenge Be Sure To Catch Up On Them Here: 
Weekly Survival Challenge: Week 1- Knife Selection, Maintenance and Use (LINK-HERE); Week 2- Water Gathering and Purification (LINK-HERE); Week 3- Ferro Rod Skills (Link Here);Week 4- Twig Fire; 
Weekly Radio Show: Doing The Stuff of Self Reliance w/ Todd "The Survival Sherpa" Walker (07/28/15- LINK HERE); The quality of knives and outdoor gear w/ Indy Hammered Knives (7/14/15- LINK HERE)Obtaining Suitable Water (07/21/15- LINK HERE); First Live Show (07/07/15- LINK HERE);
Making Char Cloth:
So where do we start and what will you need? If you're new to this traditional fire starting method start with some 100% cotton swatches (old undershirts or blue jeans work best for me), in addition to the cotton material you will need a metal container (I like to use Altoids tins or old cookie tins for natural materials) and a fire source (grill, alcohol stove, camp fire, etc.). Here is my tutorial for making Char Cloth: So for those of you new to char based fire I highly recommend you use this method, please feel free to use a grill or camp stove to make the char cloth if there are fire restrictions in your area. Below I will show you a few means for obtaining fire utilizing this charred material.

Natural Char Material:
This is one of my favorite things to while in the woods for a long-term outing. Weather you're using a ferro rod or some other traditional fire making method having charred material will allow you to use marginal tinder bundles and can reduce the wear and tear on your ferro rod (you will only need one scrap vs. multiple). I have experimented with several materials but generally anything that will work in a tinder bundle (highly fibrous materials) will work as char. I find that this is about the only way I use cattail as it is much easier to control as it moves from a flash tinder to a much easier mean of effecting a fire. Technically char can be made of any natural carbon life form but I have had limited success with barks and other materials. If this is your first time charring natural materials use inner barks or cattail for best success and stick to one type of material to char as natural materials very greatly in the amount of time they take to char. If you want a little more information on charring natural material aside from the video above please feel free to check out my tutorial:

Magnification + Charred Materials = Fire:
The great thing about charred material as you can see is that you can use much more sustainable methods for fire starting, thus increasing the amount of time you will be able to save your kit (ferro rods, lighters, matches, etc. for emergencies). I'm a sucker for these traditional methods of fire making and often find myself pulling them out of my kit. The lens in the video above is small enough to keep in your wallet and will make a fire easily with just a few seconds of sun. So for this fire starting method just add the charred material to a tinder bundle (marginal should be fine as long as it is highly fibrous), then position the lens so that there is a small single point of light in the center of the charred material. Once you see a red ember simply blow that ember into flame (this may take awhile if the material is very marginal) you then flip the tinder bundle over on it's self and add to your fire lay. Here is the full article using the lens in the video above:
If you are planning on adding a larger lens to your kit check out this tutorial using one:

Flint & Steel Fire Starting:
Now my favorite method for fire starting method- good old flint and steel. This can be done with a high carbon steel blade, old tools and a variety of dedicated strikers. Simply pick up a hard rock and start hitting it off the steel (watch the video for the method- this should yield a decent amount of sparks) if you don't get sparks from the method you need a harder rock or a higher carbon steel. I keep some flint in each part of my kit, in my micro 10 C's kit I have a knife/striker combo, my large kit has a "C" striker in it and all of my belt knives are high carbon steel. If you haven't tried this method you will either love it or hate it, but either way you should learn and master the skill. Take a look at this tutorial for a little more information:

Need To Build Your Primitive Fire Skills:

This week's survival skill challenge is to take advantage of charred material to extend the life of your fire kit for long-term self reliance. Remember this challenge is what you make of it, you can make it as easy or as hard as you choose. If your an expert start with charring natural materials without a metal container, if you're new to this fire making method start with char cloth. So get out there, practice your skills and keep improving your self reliance skills!
Be sure to join us each Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern Time on American Preppers Network's: Prepper Broadcasting Network for the 7 P's Survival Radio Show ( If you have a suggestion for a show topic or know someone who would like to be a guest then please feel free to contact me by email ( 

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