In our family, everyone 16 years and older, attends CPR, first aid and blood borne pathogen recertification every two years. This registers us with the Red Cross Association, and more importantly to us, and the people we associate ourselves with, means that we stay current with the latest techniques, and applications.
We carry a homemade first aid bag with us, whether on the move in the car or on foot. A mistake that a lot of people make with their first aid kit is over packing it. Your first aid kit doesn’t have to qualify as a doctor’s office to be effective. A few of the basics will do quite well. We purchase boxes of supplies that offer remedies in the size of small pocket size packages that look like samples. We split them up between bags for each person, and these will transfer into our packs later. Each bag will contain, carmex lip balm, antibiotic cream, burn cream, hand sanitizer, alcohol prep pads, gauze and tape, bandages, butterfly stitch bandage, insect relief, safety scissors, tweezers, Q-tips, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and Imodium. Or you can transfer the contents from a basic first aid kit to make it mobile, first aid supplies.
This sounds like it’s a lot, but when it’s broken down, it weighs less than a pound, and it’s very portable. We keep everything in a zipper lock style bag, Ziploc. It can roll up to fit in any crevice we choose for it, the bag keeps everything dry, and if we come into a situation where we need to catch water to carry or drink, we can simply empty the bag of its contents, and fill the bag with water. Any time you can utilize one item for potentially others things, you are taking control of your possible outcome.
Transportable Fire Starters
While at primitive camp sites, trying to train for the many possibilities that come into play when we have to start a fire, we choose different methods to practice to better hone our skills. As we make our way to the site for the night, we reach around and pick up useful fuels for starting a fire. Dead wood, cat-tails, straw or dry grass. This assures us that we have something to start with upon arrival. Once on site we’re able to pull out the old flint and steel, and chip away until our first fire is aflame.
Pre-cut wood awaiting our visit is not the given norm. Each person carries a hatchet on their person. It’s such a versatile tool. Chopping small timber from fallen trees is just the most basic thing it does. The flat side can be used as a hammer, setting tent spikes, chopping out a trench and loosening the ground where it’s necessary. Our rule is to create enough wood to last our stay, plus one day. The extra wood keeps us ready for an emergency.
You can’t always count on excellent weather. Even in perfect weather conditions, you can’t count on dry wood. We prepare a couple of ways to keep our fire starters dry and waterproof. In the picture to the right, we cut a straight piece of cardboard. In each hole along the edge we stuck a big handful of strike anywhere matches. We heated up some paraffin in a double boiler outside. Being careful, because paraffin has a flashpoint of 280°-390°, depending on which manufacturer you are using. First we rolled up the cardboard and dipped the match ends into the wax, sealing them from the elements for a later date. Then we hung them upside down on our clothes line to let them dry. We checked back thirty minutes later and they were dry enough to pull apart. We pulled the matches out and separated them. We tested the first match by scratching the wax off with a thumb nail, and struck it on a brick, it lit up perfectly, and the remaining wax burned off quickly. We took the finished matches, and placed them in an empty prescription bottle we saved. This keeps our matches dry, and is portable for on the go.
We repeated this again. We rolled our match board into a bundle, and secured it like that with a cotton cord or a bread bag twist tie. This time when we dipped the match bundle, we dipped it deeply and allowed the wax to cover the match tops entirely. We even got some on the cardboard. We did this to four bundles. We set them aside to dry, and when they were ready, we placed them in a zipper lock style bag. We find ourselves often enough in a situation where the only wood available is wet and hard to start. We place the match stick bundle, or several depending on how desperate we are, on the wet wood. Lighting this bundle with a cheap lighter, first on the cardboard end, next on the match head end. The bundle quickly ignites over the wood. This in turn melts the wax, which is flammable. The flammable wax drips on the wet wood, and falls into the crevices. This helps dry out the wood as its burning, and gets things moving quickly. Fuel the fire with your kindling, and slowly fan it into life.
The second method we tried used more of our paraffin wax. We took a few coffee filters, filters, dryer lint and secured the lint in the middle of the filter with cotton twine, cotton twine, or twist ties from a bag of bread. Then we dipped the bottom of the coffee filter in the wax, coating it nicely. Again we place the filter lint balls into a zipper lock style bag for transporting cleanly. Just as we did with the match bundles on the wet wood, when we ignited the filter lint ball, the wax dripped all over the wood, and shortly thereafter we were warming ourselves nicely.
Strike Anywhere Matches
We love our strike anywhere matches. It is a reliable staple in our house, cabin and, backpack. . On hot days the paraffin will melt and become goopy, so we tried a new method. A nice trick that takes the melt out of play is nail polish. I pilfered through my wife’s nail polish collection, and grabbed a few of the clear coating bottles. We all coated 6-7 matches, and allowed them to dry. We tried rubbing the match gently on the ground to remove the clear coat and tried lighting our match sticks. It seems that some clear polishes just destroyed our abilities to light the matches. Others, were perfect. It seemed to us that the cheaper clear polishes were better. We were able to coat about twenty matches. We let them dry, and placed them in another prescription bottle for safe keeping.
Finally, we utilized the rest of paraffin. We made an educated guess as to how much cotton cord would absorb the rest of the wax. Donning a pair of latex gloves, gloves, we dipped the cord in the double boiler, and soaked up the flammable goodness. We took the cord out and lay it down on a paper bag to dry. We placed the stiffened cord into a zipper lock style bag and stowed it away with our gear. When the time calls for it, we intertwined the coated cord with our kindling, and when we applied our lighter to it, it took off as if it had a mind of its own.
Living a life off the grid means taking time away from normal daily activities to prepare ourselves for every possible situation, and making the outcome more predictable. A little preparation today could be the key for surviving tomorrow.