The best plan in any survival situation is to have a lighter and some matches and a lens and whatever other fire making tools and supplies you can have. While that’s the best-case scenario it’s always wise to try and practice with less immediate and effective methods. Some methods are thousands if not millions of years old, and the one we’re talking about today is the age-old method of starting a fire with flint and steel.
Since this method is much harder and much older than other methods you want to make sure that you have the best tinder that you can. The best tinder for this application is char-cloth or Chaga mushroom which acts as a natural ember retainer and tinder. Anything you can do to make sure that a single spark is going to take to flame or ember is crucial.
The next most important thing is going to be the actual tinder bundle and kindling. You don’t want to allow any dampness or moisture in your tinder bundle when trying to start a primitive fire. The best method for this is to have prepared tinder bundles, however if you don’t have any already stored and it’s already damp outside you can dry some tinder inside your jacket outside of your shirt. The best tinder bundle material you can gather for his application is the inner bark of a cedar/cottonwood tree, dried grasses, very thin juniper bark, and dried flower heads such as dandelions.
Make sure that your tinder bundle is put together correctly. You want it to be built with the smallest and most flammable material on the inside and the larger and more stable fuel on the outside in the shape of a birds nest. Putting the spark or ember in the middle of the birds nest and then folding the outer edges inward and blowing on the ember will result in an open flame and get the tinder bundle burning nicely.
Take the steel in your right hand if you’re right handed and opposite if you’re left handed.. This is called the “striker.” The flint will be in your opposite hand with the preprepared piece of char-cloth or Chaga lying right along the top of the stone. Hold the hand gripping the steel at waist height and put the pointy edge of the stone up at an upright angle. Strike the piece of steel against the sharp edge of the flint stone with a hard motion like you’re trying to take a piece of the stone out. When the two collide a small spark should come off. Make sure you’re paying careful attention to the tinder at this point. The moment a spark hits it should start the tinder with either a flame or a glowing red ember. It could be very faint so make sure you’re paying very close attention.
Once you have an ember put it in the middle of the birds nest and VERY carefully begin blowing on it so as to ignite the rest of the tinder and fuel bundle that you have prepared. Don’t get distracted and over-confident if smoke starts billowing, make sure you see a large open flame and get it on some kindling right away.
Here’s a helpful video from Ultimate Survivalist to illustrate the method so you can see if first hand.
CONGRATS! You’ve just started your first primitive flint and steel fire!