If you want to stay alive in a wilderness survival situation, you’ve got to stay warm. That’s why firestarting is such a core skill for survivalists everywhere—and why Nate Summers thinks you should learn to conjure fire from just about anything.
Where other books on firestarting are as dry as kindling, Summers’ Awakening Fire keeps it light, including personal anecdotes and anthropological and historical notes, such as how the hand drill method fits into the lives of Kalahari San, people indigenous to southern Africa, throughout. His conversational writing style makes it easier to read and livelier than a typical manual does.
Summers, the author of 2019’s Primal: Why We Long to be Wild and Free, has a passion for ethnobotany, and he takes full advantage of his background in anthropology in Awakening Fire. The first chapter gives a comprehensive overview of fire’s role in human existence, both past and present. Beyond simply generating warmth and cooking food, it allowed humanity to expand beyond warm climates, advanced technology in ancient and modern societies, and encouraged cultural and spiritual growth through storytelling around the fire and steam-centered healing ceremonies.
“To this day, the practice of tending an eternal flame, either with natural gas or organic materials, is practiced in over fifty-one countries and on most continents. Modern eternal flames often serve as memorials to lost leaders, fallen soldiers, or historically significant sites,” Summers says.
By the time he gets around to talking about the fire ladder or diagramming out Boy Scout-style campfire designs, he’s made his case for why you should care.
Much of the rest of the book focuses on how to safely awaken fire, from safety tips and Leave No Trace-style guidelines to essential components and fire structures. Helpful illustrations accompany many of the ignition methods, fire structures, and cooking techniques, as well as a few of the “pro tips,” like how to make a fuzz or feather stick. Summers isn’t afraid to get specific; perhaps the most interesting portion of the book is chapter 8, an 82-page-long section devoted to identifying the most useful trees for fire-starting in each bioregion of the United States.
The book leaves readers with a challenge: a list of specific goals to push readers toward mastery, from learning to harvest, gather, and use all the components of fire to making a fire and tending it through the night. For budding survivalists, it may just be the spark that ignites a lifelong passion.
Awakening Fire will be available beginning in April 2021. Pre-order your copy here today.