>> Collect tinder “As you hike, look for pine or cedar bark, both low-temp igniters,” says Reggie Bennett, chief instructor at Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School. “Peel wet bark to access the dry inner layer. Or scrape a wet branch with your knife; there’s usually dry wood within ¹/8-inch of the surface.” Tuck a grapefruit-size bundle into an interior pocket.
>> Gather fuel Collect dead sticks (finger-width and thinner) for kindling from atop undergrowth or from low branches; they’ll be drier than boughs or wood from the ground. Amass a daypack-size supply, and stockpile wrist- and forearm-width logs for fuel.
>> Construct a platform Find a wind-protected area out of direct rain. Build a 1-by-1-foot square of green bark, sticks, or nonporous rocks like clay or shale.
>> Light it Fluff your dry tinder into a loose ball, place it on your platform, and light it with a magnesium firestarter, waterproof match, or a lighter. Spark the ball’s center from the upwind side.
>> Feed the flame Slowly surround the tinder in a teepee shape of kindling. If your fire smokes excessively, blow gently into it. When the flames last five minutes without tending, add larger fuel.