The Hootchie – Part 1 – An Adventure Through Time

A current issue Australian hootchie shelter. Image from www.raymears.com. Uncle Ray loves the Aussie hootchie.

A current issue Australian hootchie shelter. Image from http://www.raymears.com. Uncle Ray loves the Aussie hootchie.

“Hootchie” or “hutchie” is the slang term for the Australian Army’s Shelter, Individual – NSN 8465-66-013-5032.

The hootchie is a sheet of 70D nylon or PU-coated cotton with various press snaps and webbing tape loops attached around the outside which allow it to be used in a variety of configurations such as –

  • Tarp tent
  • Hammock tarp
  • Improvised hammock (heavyweight ones only)
  • Swag (bedroll cover)
  • Sleeping bag (best used with a wool blanket or nylon poncho liner)
  • Groundsheet
  • Fighting position cover
  • Waterproofing sheet for bundling up equipment during water crossings
  • Trailer or open-top vehicle cover (when stationary)
  • Solar still sheet (so says the Australian army’s survival pam)

And that’s just the ones I’ve tried or heard about. If you have alternate uses for the hootchie or its NATO/ANZUS cousins, post ’em in the comments.

The hootchie concept is widely used by military forces around the world as well as by outdoor enthusiasts such as bushcrafters and recreational hikers.  Here’s some military users –

United States – Poncho and Field Tarp

The new USMC field tarps are flooding the surplus gear markets. It's a pity I don't use camouflaged equipment or I'd grab one to test it out.

The new USMC field tarps are flooding the surplus gear markets. It’s a pity I don’t use camouflaged equipment or I’d grab one to test it out.

In the US, service personnel, outdoor enthusiasts and bushcraft practitioners have been using the venerable rain poncho in place of the hootchie for decades. These do an admirable job, but are just that little bit too small to be an effective tarp tent or hammock tarp. Recognising this, the US Marine Corps has recently introduced the “Field Tarp” it has a digital woodland camouflage print on one side, and is coated with “coyote” tan polyurethane. By all accounts it works well, but is a little heavy.

Poncho Shelter ideas from a US military manual. These work great if you're a midget (no offence to any of our smaller-statured readers). But if you're tall like me, a hootchie format works much better. For more uses for the military poncho (and therefore the hootchie) see http://www.hardscrabblefarm.com/vn/poncho.html

Poncho Shelter ideas from a US military manual. These work great if you’re a midget (no offence to any of our smaller-statured readers). But if you’re tall like me, a hootchie format works much better. For more uses for the military poncho (and therefore the hootchie) see http://www.hardscrabblefarm.com/vn/poncho.html

New Zealand – Kiwi Hootchie

Like the Aussies, our Kiwi brethren have long been advocates of the simple utility of the hootchie format for their shelter sheets. The Kiwi hootchie is camouflaged and is bigger than a standard Aussie one.

The United Kingdom – Basha

A British military-issue desert DMP basha. Smaller and more shoddily made than an Aussie hootchie, but appear to do the job.

A British military-issue desert DPM basha. A little smaller and more shoddily made than an Aussie hootchie, but they appear to do the job. Image from http://www.zombiehunters.org – user Kommander

The British call a hootchie a “Basha”. In British service, the idea was copied off Australian and Kiwi troops operating in Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation in the early 1960s. Back in the early to mid 1960s British bashas were identical to Australian hootchies of the same era – solid green in colour. Later they were made in British jungle camouflage, which is a sort of yellow-tinged camouflage pattern. And for desert operations they were made and issued in British desert camouflage.

Cropped image of a current-issue British MTP basha showing the pattern.

Cropped image of a current-issue British MTP basha showing the pattern. As you can see, the pattern doesn’t work too well in hot/wet and cold/wet environments unless you set it up in the middle of the track. This will cause problems for the British, US, Australian and others who use Multicam-based clothing and equipment patterns if called upon to fight outside the arid zones.

They are currently being made and issued in the British Multi-Terrain Pattern (MTP) camouflage, a variant of American Multicam. Although never as widely used by the Brits as it is by the Aussies, the Basha/hootchie remains a well-loved piece of equipment for both tropical and arid climates, particularly since the British Ministry of Defence’s procurement people seem to have specified a much higher standard of materials and construction for the new MTP equipment.

Australia – Hootchie

The original and best, the Australian hootchie evolved from experience gained over decades of previous wars and other military operations.

SOurce - http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=157548

A British specification for the Commonwealth-issue WWI-era MKVII ground sheet/rain cape. Source – http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=157548

During the First and Second World Wars, Australian (and other British Commonwealth) troops were issued with a rubberised canvas ground sheet / rain cape. It was far from suitable as an individual shelter in the trenches, although a couple could be laced together to provide a shelter for two men, or as a cover for a fighting position. As a ground sheet and as a rain cape, it did sterling work despite it’s heavy weight.  It was state of the art for its time.

Along with the rain cape format, WWI and II era Australian and Commonwealth troops were issued with a ground sheet, which was essentially the rain cape without the triangular section and the collar accoutrements. Like the rain cape, an individual ground sheet was too small to be of much practical use unless used as a dry surface to bed down on or if laced together with another ground sheet as a cover for a sleeping or fighting position.

An Australian 1945-vintage groundsheet. Image from a now-defunct eBay listing.

An Australian 1945-vintage groundsheet. Image from a now-defunct eBay listing.

During WWII Australian forces fighting the Japanese in the Islands had an urgent requirement for a decent individual shelter. The rubberised canvas groundsheets and rain capes continued to be used (now issued separately), but these were less than effective in the tropics.

Groundsheet shelter from a WWII Australian jungle warfare manual. Great sun shade, but what if it rains?

Groundsheet shelter from a WWII Australian jungle warfare manual. Great sun shade, but what if it rains?

A better solution had to be found, and quickly.

Shelter Halves. From the AWM collection.

Shelter Halves. From the AWM collection.

To improve the troops’ individual shelter systems, large stocks of American shelter halves began to be issued. Similar in form to an Australian ground sheet, a shelter half was made from lighter water-repellent sateen cotton cloth and was fitted with press studs to connect to another “half” to make a two-man pup-tent. The shelter half was constructed in such a way that it resulted in a tent with a closed-in end. This is great for helping to keep rain and snow out of your bedding while you lay there freezing through a European winter, but  it reduced visibility and blocked ventilation in the jungle to unacceptable levels. As a consequence, US shelter halves were mainly used by Australians as fighting pit covers and as groundsheets. Ultimately the Australian troops were no better off than if they had retained their Australian-issue groundsheets.

Australian soldiers using American Jungle Hammocks in the Pacific during WWII - AWM collection

Australian soldiers using American Jungle Hammocks in the Pacific during WWII. This digger is an old hand, having kept his hammock slung low to reduce its visual signature and to better protect against errant gunfire or grenade fragments – AWM collection

A decent shelter was seen not as a luxury in these tropical malaria-infested areas, but as essential. Both the United States and Australia went to extraordinary lengths to try and prevent tropical diseases such as malaria and scrub typhus among the troops. As a result of this effort, the American Jungle Hammock was born.

An Australian-issued jungle hammock used by NX16053 Warrant Officer I Raymond Turrell in New Guinea during WWII - AWM collection

An Australian-issued US jungle hammock used by NX16053 Warrant Officer I Raymond Turrell in New Guinea during WWII – AWM collection

The jungle hammock was a revolutionary individual shelter system. It consisted of a canvas hammock protected by mosquito netting and topped by a waterproof canopy. It rolled into a bundle just a little bigger than a woolen army blanket but it was still portable and provided a waterproof, insectproof shelter for an individual soldier. In practice it was not a great idea to be using a jungle hammock in the front lines with the ever-present threat of an enemy artillery barrage or infiltration parties, but in larger camps back from the lines the jungle hammock was much appreciated. Keep a look out for a separate post on the WWII jungle hammock.

Towards the end of the war in the Pacific Australia began issuing its troops a lighter weight version of the groundsheet manufactured from polyurethane-coated cotton – the same material which formed the canopy of the US jungle hammock. Although issued too late to be truly revolutionary during WWII, the PU cotton material remained in the Australian Army’s institutional memory and became the basis for the first pattern “Shelter, Individual” – the hootchie.

Along with the jungle hammock, American ponchos began to be issued in quantity to Australian troops in the pacific. Made from a rubberised cotton, these were a turtle-neck format without a hood, but were lighter than the rain cape and larger than the groundsheet.

Australian soldiers' camp during the Malayan Emergency in 1956. Poncho shelters are in abundance. AWM collection.

Australian soldiers’ camp during the Malayan Emergency in 1956. Poncho shelters are in abundance. AWM collection.

During the Malayan Emergency of the 1950s, Australian troops were issued with hooded ponchos. Unlike the WWII US pattern ponchos which always had a hole in the dead centre of the poncho sheet, the Australian-issue hooded ponchos made an effective shelter – especially when two where clipped together. The problem of course is that the rubberised canvas ponchos were far too heavy for jungle use.

Malaya 1960. An Australian Long Range patrol on counter terror ops on the peninsula has been forced to rely upon gaudy commercial plastic shower curtains as shelters for their A-frame jungle beds. An unsatisfactory situation.

Malaya 1960. An Australian Long Range patrol on counter terror ops on the peninsula forced to rely upon ultra-lightweight but flimsy and gaudy floral commercial PVC plastic shower curtains as shelters for their A-frame jungle beds. An unsatisfactory situation. AWM collection.

The weight issue was critical for troops undertaking long range patrols in the jungle which could last for weeks. Some expedients such as the shower curtain idea used above were workable, but a lightweight and hardwearing shelter sheet was urgently required.In the early 1960s Australian units in Borneo hunting Indonesian infiltrators from Kalimantan were issued with the first pattern hootchies.

A lightweight hootchie. AWM collection

A lightweight hootchie. AWM collection

The hootchie was a sheet of PU coated cotton measuring approximately 2.7m x 1.9m (approx 8ft 10inches x 6ft 2inches) with press studs and loops sewn at intervals around the outside edge as well as various eyelets and grommets. A line of loops was sewn down the centre of the sheet to allow more options when pitching as a shelter. Although still a little heavy, the hootchie was a vast improvement over its predecessors, and was almost bombproof. Its one failing was its weight – still over a kilogram.

The hootchie became a standard piece of Australian equipment which was included in a new recruit’s initial clothing and gear issue. With Australia’s entry into the Vietnam war, a second pattern lightweight hootchie was issued. Made from nylon, but retaining the  hardware and loops, the lightweight hootchie weighed a mere 680 grams, still heavy, but suitable for tropical use.

A pair of hootchies used as a gun pit cover in Vietnam. AWM collection.

A pair of hootchies used as a gun pit cover in Vietnam. AWM collection.

In practice in Vietnam, the hootchie was rarely used as a slung tarp shelter. When wet it shone in moonlight and in the pre-dawn glow. Tying it to trees left “sign” and for exhausted troops on patrol it was simply a hassle to pitch the hootchie. It was often used in conjunction with a woolen “horse blanket” or a poncho liner as an open-sided sleeping bag or it was simply laid upon as a ground sheet with the soldier sleeping under a poncho. In more permanent positions such as patrol bases or fire support bases, the hootchie was widely used as a sun and rain shelter and as a cover for fighting pits.

After the Vietnam War the hootchie soldiered on and continues to form part of the equipment of the Australian soldier to this day. Modern hootchies are made of Australian camouflage (Auscam) nylon with khaki loops, but aside from this the size and pattern are identical to the green Vietnam hootchies.

British Outdoorsman and Campfire Cooking legend Ray Mears often uses a current Australian issue hootchie as part of his kit.

British Outdoorsman and Campfire Cooking legend Ray Mears often uses a current Australian issue hootchie as part of his kit.

That’s the evolution of the hootchie in a nutshell.

Next post in this series will look at types of shelters which can be pitched using a hootchie as well as an overview of a very decent commercial equivalent to the military issue hootchie – in environmentally-friendly green rather than “tactical” camouflage.

The Personal Survival Kit – Part 1: the “Survival Tin”

I want to show you something I made up a few years back.

My Personal Survival Kit

My Personal Survival Kit

It’s a relatively compact survival kit designed to be worn on a belt or even carried in a pocket. Evoking the romance and adventure of the special forces operative or a downed airman trapped behind enemy lines, the Personal Survival Kit (or PSK) is a staple among experienced outdoorsmen and their chairborne, keyboard-wielding colleagues all over the internet. Kept on your person at all times, it’s the last-ditch after the enemy soldiers have stripped you of your pack and webbing prior to your heroic escape. It contains vital tools to help you dodge the Gestapo and survive unaided until you can rendezvous with the Maquis agents who will smuggle you down the rat line to freedom.  That’s the general idea anyhow.

Let’s take a look at what’s in my kit:

Contents of the belt pouch

Contents of the belt pouch

The pouch itself is made from a very tough and hard-wearing ballistic nylon cloth. Inside the pouch we have a clear plastic 70 litre bag, we have a specialised survival kit knife which doubles as a spear-tip or an arrowhead, and we have a waterproof, shockproof, crushproof and dustproof Otterbox 1000 tough case containing the kit itself and a 1m paracord lanyard attached to the case.

The pouch has loops on the back which allow it to be carried on a belt, or if you’re feeling particularly “tactical” the loops are MOLLE compatible, so you can mount your kit to your plate carrier or tactical vest. If you haven’t guessed yet, this post contains a heapin’ helpin’ of dry sarcasm. In an emergency, you can cut up the pouch and add the cloth to your fire to make black smoke for signalling purposes. The press snaps can be removed and polished with sand to make a shiny lure for fishing, and the… I’ve got nothin’ – there’s probably a bunch of other uses for the nylon pouch aside from simply carrying the kit and mounting it to your belt.

The 70 litre plastic bag is a genuinely useful item. It can be used as is as a transpiration bag (look out for a future post on this particular method of harvesting drinking water), it can be modified for use as a rain coat, opened out it can waterproof a shelter or can be used in a solar still. Torn into strips, it provides light lashing cordage and when burnt, it gives off a black smoke.

The Otterbox case is too heavy, too thick and too bulky. Although it protects the contents of the kit from becoming crushed or sodden, there’s nothing in the kit which is susceptible to either crushing or water. It’s overkill, single-use and heavy. But it looks cool, huh? “Just let me open my MILSPEC ruggedized personal survival kit case…” says the hero in his deep, husky voice. The lanyard is a great idea. I’m a fan of military issue 550 paracord since it’s very strong when used as is, and when stripped, that one metre of paracord will provide 7 white 1 metre inner strands of cordage, a 1m coloured manufacturer ID strand (like a thick cotton thread), and of course the green nylon tubular outer sheath. So that’s a total of 9 metres of useable cordage just from this 1 metre length of 550 paracord.

The knife… read on.

A genuine special forces survival kit knife

A genuine special forces survival kit knife

This tiny little double-bladed knife was designed to be carried in a military issue personal survival kit (or E&E kit as they called it). I have a couple of issues with this knife – first of course is that it’s double-bladed. Makes it very difficult to handle effectively when cutting. You can’t baton with it and if used as a wedge on the hardwood timbers from around these parts, you’d end up hammering the knife into the wood and would have to burn it out to retrieve it. Plus, it’s really difficult to sharpen. The sheath is great though and it also houses my stainless steel trace wire, which I have exiled from the otterbox because the end seemed to be forever poking holes in my teabag. Being an item which is not susceptible to shock, dust, pressure or water ingress, this knife resides in the pouch next to the otterbox rather than inside it. In fact, I’m going to end up selling this knife – it’s kind of useless for real-world use, but since it’s an Australian SAS-issued item, it’s got some collector value.

Now the otterbox. Let’s look inside –

The box opened.

The box opened.

It’s not very big, but it holds a surprising number of vital survival items.

Contents of the right side of the Otterbox

Contents of the right side of the Otterbox

1. 2 metres of US military issue sand-coloured tripwire. Used as snares or as repair / baling wire.

2. 5 metres of braided nylon cord. Used as general cordage, or can be stripped down to individual strands.

3. Physer SGI brass button compass. The classic British military “escape” compass – so tiny it can be swallowed and retrieved later, or can be sewn into clothing or set into a uniform button. Originally designed for use in escape and evasion kits during WWII. I’ll be doing a separate post on the history and use of these compasses. This particular compass has a bright yellow zip tie attached for better visibility and to the zip tie has been tied an inner strand of paracord as a lanyard or necklace. These compasses are so tiny, they are very easy to lose.

4. 10 feet of heavy thread. Used for sewing, as light cordage or as a fishing line.

5. Folded 30cm length of cloth duct tape, useful for field repairs of transpiration bags and such. Between the layers are four safety pins – used as general fastenings or as improvised fish hooks, and two magnetised large sewing needles – used for sewing or as an improvised compass needle.

6. Leatherman Micra multitool. Contains a multitude of useful tools including good scissors and a razor-sharp cutting blade.

7. Generic mini multitool. A lower-quality version of the Leatherman Micra, but also includes pliers for working with wire or for moving hot objects from a fire.

8. Doan Magnesium Bar military firestarter – a rectangular piece of magnesium alloy with a ferrocium rod (“flint”) set into one side. Despite requiring two hands to use, the Doan mag bar is one of the most reliable sure-fire fire starters available anywhere. To use, you shave a coin-sized amount of magnesium from the bar into a pile and then light it with the ferro rod. The resulting flame is white-hot and will ignite almost any tinder you throw at it.

9. Very basic fishing kit. 4 or 5 hooks of various sizes, 3 x split shot sinkers and a couple of swivels. Used with the heavy thread or with inner strands of 550 paracord.

10. Fox 40 rescue whistle. Works wet or dry. Very loud and shrill.

11. Glass signal mirror. This is a US Air Force small-sized signal mirror. About the same size as a credit card, it works via a retroreflective grid for precise aiming. It’s too heavy, but it’s the only signal mirror in its class that I trust. I’ve had starflash and rescueflash acrylic mirrors delaminate and become useless just from sitting inside the Otterbox in high temperatures I’ve encountered on various trips.

12. A metre of heavy-duty aluminium foil. Can be fashioned into a vessel to boil water or cook food, pieces can be used as a fishing lure, pieces can be used to leave a trail for search and rescue, it can be used as an improvised reflective ground to air signal panel, it can be used as a “veldt blanket” by placing half over each kidney under clothing before sleeping. The reflective material will work like a space blanket, reflecting your body heat back at your kidneys, thereby keeping your circulatory system warm and spreading that warmth throughout your body – that’s the theory anyway.

13. A large scalpel blade. Used in conjunction with an improvised wooden handle sourced locally. Best option for clean and accurate skinning and cleaning of smaller game and fish.

left-side

14. 1 Quart (just under 1 litre) Nasco Whirl-Pak resealable laboratory sample bag. Food-grade, it can be used to both carry water and sterilize it (using UV from the sun). Very useful item.

15. A tea bag. A tea bag is the one comfort item in the kit. Even if you’re not a tea drinker, it’s a morale-booster, can flavour water or food, and the bag can be used, squeezed dry and used again a few times. When completely bone dry, the bag makes good tinder for a fire.

16. Fresnel lens. Credit card sized magnifying lens great as a fire starter on a sunny day. Can be rigged to allow an improvised candle or slush lamp to throw more light, or can be used with the signal mirror to extend the range (to a certain degree).

That’s a typical military/survival-style personal survival kit. Seems relatively squared away? A pretty good attempt? I think it’s a train wreck. In fact I think the whole “survival tin” idea is a bad philosophy for the serious outdoors type. let alone the professional soldier or pilot.

Many consider John “Lofty” Wiseman to be the spiritual father of the cult of the survival tin, pointing to the kit he describes in his “SAS Survival Guide”. Using Lofty’s special forces pedigree as their social proof, companies such as BCB in the UK jumped on the survival tin bandwagon and if you wanted to be cool out in the bush, you’d better have a decent combat survival tin.

Diagram from Wiseman's "SAS Survival Guide" showing "Lofty" Wiseman's idea of a survival tin. He has been misinterpreted.

A diagram from Wiseman’s famous “SAS Survival Guide” showing his idea of a survival tin. He has been misinterpreted.

The current incarnation of BCB's Combat Survival Kit.

The current incarnation of BCB’s Combat Survival Kit. A book of MRE matches AND a ferro rod for lighting fires? Oh stop it BCB, you’re spoiling us.

Bushcraft, survival, professional military, backpacking and even zombie hunting forums all over the internet have proven just how popular the idea of the survival tin remains. One small tin containing all the vital equipment to help a lost hiker/injured bushcrafter/downed aircrewman survive in the wilds until they are rescued – it’s admittedly an attractive concept, but it’s not one that Lofty or his SAS colleagues ever embraced or promoted, and in this writer’s opinion, neither should you. There are far better, more workable options for carrying an emergency survival kit which go far beyond some trinkets in a tobacco tin.

In the next post in this series we’ll look at Lofty Wiseman’s holistic approach to survival kits, examine a couple of historical WWII examples of survival kits, and then take a look at my solution.

Fire – Part 1: The Story of a Tinder Box

story-of-a-tinder-box

Along with friction fire (the actual rubbing together of two pieces of wood), the art of making fire by striking a stone with a piece of metal is literally keyed into our DNA. We call this technique “flint and steel”, but neither flint nor steel are necessary. Our ancestors made fire in this way prior to the coming of the Iron Age using iron pyrites (fool’s gold) in place of iron or steel.

Iron Pyrites, better known as fool’s gold.

A reliable source of flint wasn’t necessary either, since most hard, crystalline forms of rock will make a spark. Indeed this writer learned the technique using a sharp chunk of quartz.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll be using the following items:

Tin tinder box with "kindling" and lid, slow match cotton cord, flint shard, forged steel "C" striker

Tin tinder box with “kindling” and lid, slow match cotton cord, flint shard, forged steel “C” striker

However, you could perform the same procedure with this basic equipment:

Chunk of steel from an old file, charred 100% cotton cloth, broken piece of quartz.

Chunk of steel from an old file, charred 100% cotton cloth, broken piece of quartz.

The mechanics of the system work thusly;

  1. upon striking a smooth edge of the metal against a sharp edge of a flint or quartz, tiny flakes of metal are shaved off and due to the friction, these become sparks.
  2. To make fire, you first need to catch some of those sparks and coerce them into becoming an ember.
  3. Once you have an ember, you can add kindling and then coax the ember into a flame.

So simple and effective that the method continued to be used until the 1940s, particularly in rural France where a glowing slow match cord struck by flint and steel was the preferred method of lighting a pipe.

Rural French pipe-smoker's outfit - late 19th Century.

Rural French pipe-smoker’s outfit – late 19th Century.

Tips for getting the best spark:

  • Ensure the striking edge of your steel is smooth and free of rust, varnish or paint.
  • Strike the steel against a sharp edge of the flint. Remember, we’re making sparks by literally shaving off tiny pieces of metal. The sharper the edge, the bigger and better the sparks.
  • Don’t even bother trying this unless your steel has a good carbon content. This is why pieces of broken file or even the back of a good knife are best if you can’t find a dedicated, forged steel striker.
This image shows the edges you need for effective sparks - a relatively smooth edge on your steel (top) and a sharp edge on your flint or quartz (bottom).

This image shows the edges you need for effective sparks – a relatively smooth edge on your steel (top) and a sharp edge on your flint or quartz (bottom).

Tips for catching the sparks:

  • Remember that when you’re striking flint with steel, the sparks will fly up, therefore you must position your charred cloth or cord on top of the piece of flint to catch a spark.
  • It goes without saying that your charred cloth or cord must be 100% dry for it to even retain a spark, let alone burn into a useable ember.
  • When you have a tiny piece of the cloth or cord glowing, very gentle blowing will see it set into the cloth without danger of going out. Once it’s set it will keep going until either you extinguish it or it burns the useable carbon out of the whole cloth.
This is how your charred cord or cloth should be positioned on the flint in order to catch a spark.

This is how your charred cord or cloth should be positioned on the flint in order to catch a spark.

This began as a tiny spark scraped off a steel striker. One quick breath later and it's an ember.

This began as a tiny spark scraped off a steel striker. One quick, gentle breath later and it’s an ember.

Tips for coaxing an ember into a useable flame:

  • For kindling use dried grass, palm fibres, dried bark. Some people carry waxed jute string for the same purpose, others go even lower tech and use dried fungi or even animal dung (herbivores only for obvious reasons).
  • Place the ember into your “bird’s nest” of kindling and then gently wrap the kindling around it.
  • Blow GENTLY or even wave the bundle through the air. Soon enough the ember will burst into a flame, ready to place into your prepared fire pyramid.
Lay your glowing ember onto a loose mat of kindling.

Lay your glowing ember onto a loose mat of kindling.

Wrap the mat of kindling around the ember and subject to gentle blowing or a light breeze.

Wrap the mat of kindling around the ember and subject to gentle blowing or a light breeze.

Flame. Now you're ready to light your campfire.

Flame. Now you’re ready to light your campfire.

From striking a spark to lit campfire is a matter of maybe a minute or two. Even in these times of Bic lighters and waterproof matches, the old ways still stand up. The flint and steel will still be useable long after your matches and your Bic lighter’s gas have gone. It’s a skill worth learning.

In the next part of the series we will look at a more modern equivalent to the flint and steel – the ferro rod.