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Outdoor Programs in Desert Survival and Bushcraft

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Yellow Lifesaver-Emergency Firestarting or How to Start a Fire in Wet Weather

The Yellow Lifesaver

If you spend enough time in the backcountry, you will find yourself having to make fire under extreme conditions where it’s a downpour, snowstorm or the risk of hypothermia nipping at your heels. 

Getting in the habit of always carrying 3 firestarters (Stormproof matches, spark rod and lighter) and a vial of cotton balls smeared with Vaseline is a critical step in being prepared. 

Your other friend, found in most forests throughout the world, is resinous wood particularly the old stumps and logs from dead pine, spruce and other conifers. We have used this wood on winter survival courses in the deep snow and in wet weather during the summer months and it has been key in getting ignition and warming our bones during cold nights. 

Look for old stumps in pine or spruce forests or use dead-standing trees. I have done this on stumps buried under the snow and gotten instant ignition. 

This shaving technique is a woodcraft skill that you can practice in your backyard. Keep an eye out for that yellow-tinged wood on your next hike and try it for firestarting. It can be a real lifesaver.

About Ancient Pathways

Tony Nester is the author of numerous books and DVDs on survival. His school Ancient Pathways is the primary provider of survival training for the Military Special Operations community and he has served as a consultant for the NTSB, Travel Channel, Backpacker Magazine, and the film Into the Wild. When not on the trail, he lives in a passive-solar, strawbale home in northern Arizona. For information on Tony’s books, gear, or bushcraft courses, visit

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