I’m sure a lot of you are like me. At one point or another you’ve been on a hike, camping trip, or other outdoor adventure, and cursed the items you deemed ‘essential’ when packing. I will admit to doing it more than once. In the past 6 months or so I’ve really been whittling down those ‘essentials’ in my kit to the items that I actually need. My PSK (Personal Survival Kit) has been lightened a bit, but is still required carry as far as I’m concerned. In other cases, I’ve carried better items instead of more. Or I’ve simply carried less of one particular item. The most notable of all the trimmed items has been my match cases.
I know what you’re thinking, "How heavy can a few matches be?" To be honest, they’re not. I’ve unloaded gear after a trip and found two or three match cases I never even touched. Heck, I’ve found some I don’t even remember loading up. I eventually pared the match cases down to one. A water proof plastic case stocked full of strike-anywhere Penley brand matches will suffice when other methods fail. I’ve also stashed a Mini Bic ligher in my small zipper bag that carries my odds and ends when out and about. In my PSK is a small baggie of vaseline cotton balls and a cut down BSA Hot Spark. But the majority of my fire starting, and my ‘on my person’ method to make fire should I be seperated from my gear is a small 1 oz. Nalgene bottle stuffed with vaseline impregnated cotton balls and a BSA Hot Spark with a trimmed handle. All this is well and good, but there’s a problem that’s cropped up because of my shift in gear. It’s difficult to light a camp stove, candle, or lantern without a match or a lighter. There is, however, a simple solution.
The first thing you’ll need is a handy twig. I’d like to take a second and suggest a green twig, as they are much less likely to catch on fire while you’re holding it. That’s a handy tip. Next, produce your vaseline smeared cotton balls and your ferro/flint rod you use to light them. While you’re at it, get out your knife. Now take your knife and split the last inch or so of the twig. Second tip; put the twig down on something and split the end like you’re cutting something on a cutting board. I’d avoid the urge to simply pinch the end of the twig in your fingers and split it from the end with your knife. Another handy tip. You now need to pinch off a pea sized piece of your vaseline cotton ball and wedge it in the split. Fluff it up sufficiently to ensure it will easily catch the spark. Strike your ferro rod and light the vaseline cotton ball. Now you can easily light your lantern, stove, candle, or etc without having to root through your gear to fine a match. Your cotton ball match can even be re-used. Simply blow it out and lay it aside. If you need to re-light your equipment, just re-use it. The same pea sized piece of vaseline cotton ball will last 30 seconds to a minute. That’s sufficient for several uses.
I’m not one of those ultra-light fanatics by any means. I still carry more than I’ll need on any trip. Hopefully with this little trick you can carry a bit less on your person and add versatility to an item you already have. I find this especially handy to light a camp stove while keeping my fingers safely away from the initial ‘poof’ of igniting Coleman fuel. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of uses for it too.