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Backpacker Magazine – October 2013

Survival A to Z: Fire

You don't need a magnifying glass to coax a flame from the sun.

by: Casey Lyons


plastic bottle

One man’s trash is another’s lifesaver.

Soda bottles are cheap and plentiful. Use one to create a plano-convex lens and capture high-angle sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. 

Do it Look for a bottle with a convex (curved) top. Clear is best, since it absorbs no light energy, but we’ve teased up flames using green bottles, too. (1) Wipe off the bottle’s exterior. (2) Add enough clear liquid to fill the top convexity (at least ½ cup): Water is best (if turbid, wait for it to settle) or use pee in a pinch (the clearer the better). (3) Cap the bottle or plug it and flip it over. (4) Hold it a few inches from your tinder bundle (use dark-colored tinder like dry leaves, as it absorbs more heat energy) and move the bottle around slowly until the light beam focuses into a tiny point. (5) When you see the tinder start to smoke (5 to 10 minutes), blow gently until a flame appears.

condom

Get lucky in the backcountry.

Need another reason to add a condom to your med kit? With a little water and a lot of sun, you can turn one into a liquid lens. 

Do it You need a regular condom (light colored and non-ribbed; non-lubricated is best because it can double as an emergency canteen). (1) Dump at least a few ounces of clear liquid into the condom. (This technique requires less liquid than the plastic bottle.) (2) Twist the condom until a tight sphere of liquid forms at the bottom—you want a totally smooth surface. (3) Shift the condom-balloon around to find the hottest, most-focused point and aim this beam at your tinder pile. (Tips: Use your fingers to squeeze the sphere to further fine-tune your light beam; make sure it’s angled toward the sun to maximize its strength and heat; and keep your tinder bundle sheltered from wind—it’s all about heat.) 



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