Essential Winter Firelighting Techniques

by Paul Kirtley

[You can also watch Essential Winter Firelighting Techniques directly on YouTube.]

In this video you'll discover fire lighting techniques that are simple, straightforward and reliable in cold conditions.

When I filmed this video is was minus 28 to minus 30 degrees Celsius (25 below Fahrenheit).

In particular you'll discover -
  • the two key natural firelighting materials found in the largest forest on the planet;
  • which natural materials can be combined for great winter fire lays;
  • the key preparations and considerations you need to make for failsafe winter fire lighting.

Make sure you watch right to the end for the deleted scenes....

In the comments below, let me know which part of this video you found the most useful...
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Paul Kirtley is owner and Chief Instructor of Frontier Bushcraft. He has had a lifelong passion for the great outdoors and gains great satisfaction from helping others enjoy it too. Paul writes the UK's leading bushcraft blog as well as for various publications including The Bushcraft Journal and Bushcraft & Survival Skills Magazine.

 

{ 45 comments… read them below or add one }

Gwyn James

Thanks for a great video. Put a link to my District scout web page.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

My pleasure Gwyn.

Thanks for your link.

I hope your Scouts and other leaders also enjoy it.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Gretta

I’ve been using birch bark ever since seeing it used in Mongolia several years ago. Very effective. Didn’t know about the lichen though. A good tip.

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Gretta,

Thanks for your comment. Birch bark is a fantastic matieral – one of nature’s best firelighters. And we are blessed to be able to find it on such a common and widespread genus. It’s a great one to know.

I’m glad you found the lichen element of the video instructive. There are many similar beard lichens and all of them that I have tried work in a similar fashion.

What were you doing in Mongolia?

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Will

Amazing video – are beard lichens common in the UK?
(I live in Hampshire…)

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steve

Really enjoyed this video Paul and the information is both valuable and well presented as ever. I like the idea of the deleted scenes too. . .”Here in the Northern Forest I am looking for somewhere stable to stand” Good fun!

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Paul Kirtley

🙂 Hey Steve, glad you enjoyed it.

Many thanks,

Paul

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Liam Gadd

Yet again a great video… The firelighting tips are always handy to re-cap on. I’m glad to see the same technique we’re taught on your courses used, and proven reliable even in enviroments were the snow is waste high! and the temputure is WAY below freezing!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Liam,

It’s good to hear from you. Yes, it’s nice to see the essential techniques working in a wide range of environments.

As we always say, the subjects and techniques we teach on our training courses in the UK have a wide applicability that reaches much further than our small islands.

Plus, the Frontier team are out there making real-world journeys, using these techniques in situations where it really matters that they work. We then bring this experience back to our training courses for the benefit of our clients.

I know you already understand this interconnectedness but it’s good to discuss why it works.

Warm regards,

Paul

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Liam Gadd

oh and of course the deleted scenes are also very funny to watch! love it.

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Paul Kirtley

🙂

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goshawk

Hi Paul,
brilliant vid as always 😉
It was nice to see that not every scene is ready with the first shot^^
Where can I get a hat like yours ? Looks toasty.
atb,
Andreas

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Andreas,

It’s good to hear from you again. Thanks for your feedback on the video – I’m glad you enjoyed it and had a laugh at the deleted scenes. Not every shot works out first time – not by a long way! 😉

The had I’m wearing was bought in a hunting shop in Stockholm and made by a Swedish company called Wigens. I understand that they recently went into administration/receivership, which is a real shame as they made good quality products. You might still be able to find one of the hats on the internet if you are lucky…

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

goshawk

Hi Paul,
thank you very much. Could it be rabbit fur with goat leather 😉 ? If so I just found the hat 😀
And I fear that you won’t get rid of me as long as your vids are awesome like those you already made^^
Andreas

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi again Andreas! 🙂

Don’t worry, it’s good to know you are liking my videos.

As for the hat, the fur is rabbit fur but mine is not leather, just a synthetic outer material.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

wannabemountainman

Great, and informative. I would love to post this in my forum, http://woodlife-people. forumotion.net .
In the out-takes, I was somewhat disappointed that one did not show a bump into a branch, resulting in a “snow-shower”.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi there Ed,

Well I did get a bit of a snow shower when I was collecting the small stick from the base of the spruce tree. That’s not the first time though, and I’d zipped my jacket right up to my chin, so it didn’t go down my neck 🙂

Please do post a link in your forum if you wish.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

John Scrivy

Good video Paul all the best Scrivy / Essex Outbacks

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks John! 🙂

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Leena

Hi Paul

Loved the deleted scenes…:) a good laugh. …reminded me of the ‘beaver walk’ !!

A Much appreciated video for snowy days…it came in handy as we are on the outlook for firewood for keeping warm…there is something special in connecting with nature and having fire the natural way…so we have been scouring the woods and looking for those dry standing twigs….

Its also made me appreciate how much the trees I saw a few months ago has changed..with season….as this is more indepth look at the trees and branches….it will be interesting it see them spring to life with green buds in spring.

Have a great festive season…to all those berries soaked in liqueur….!!

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Leena,

🙂 Glad you like the deleted scenes and that you were able to see an application for some of the more serious content almost immediately.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Yari Todon

Any chance for the video to be put on another hosting like YouTube? Here in Italy I can’t see it…

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Paul Kirtley

Hi Yari,

Nice to hear from you. Sorry you are having problems with the video.

Are you trying to view on a mobile device?

Thanks,

Paul

Reply

Yari Todon

Hi Mr. Kirtley,
I tried with different browsers, but no success. I think some Vimeo videos are blocked by Italian providers (which ones, I really don’t know – the usual “Italian Internet Freedom”).

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Paul Kirtley

OK, Yari. It will be on YouTube soon.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Yari Todon

Thank you. It would have been a shame to lose one of your instructional videos – and I’m looking forward to trying some fire-lighting on the snow.
Thanks again

Reply

Yari Todon

Thank you for uploading the video to YouTube, I had at last a chance to see it. Really useful, and also funny with the deleted scenes.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Yari. I’m glad you (finally) got to enjoy it! 🙂

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Steve Bayley

Hi Paul, I notice when you were lighting your split-wood and birch bark fire that, although we couldn’t see you doing it, we can hear that you are using the technique that appears in one of your 20 top-tips where you scrape off some material from the spark-stick before actually striking the spark. This seems an obvious environment and circumstance in which to use that technique as I expect that the very low temperature has a big impact on those key first few seconds where we need the sparks to become flames. I remember that when I needed to light a fire in the snow this January that I struggled to get my birch bark to take from sparks. If I’d have been familiar with your technique I think I’d have got my lunch much sooner! As usual the devil is in the detail and good preparation is key: lots of birch bark, lots of bark dust and small shavings plus a boost from the spark-stick shavings. It prompted me to dig out one of those magnesium alloy blocks with a sparking insert that I’ve had for years, but seldom use, which seems a perfect tool for winter fire lighting. I’ve been enjoying your recent series of tips; splitting wood, perfect feather sticks, making strong sparks, plus this new video which should combine to set us up all ready for the winter. Thanks again for sharing all this great stuff.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Steve,

It’s good to hear from you.

Yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing – scraping some material off the Fireflash first. For those who are interested in refining their FireSteel techniques, they can check out the following two videos over on YouTube:


How To Create Really Big Sparks With A Swedish FireSteel

How To Light Birch Bark With A Spark

It’s good to hear that you are already combining all these techniques Steve. You will indeed be well set for winter fire lighting! 🙂

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Duane Yates

Hi Paul.
Another very clear and informative video, and the outakes were hilarious thanks for sharing Paul 🙂

Take Care Mate,
Duane.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Duane, glad you liked this and I made you smile 🙂
Cheers, Paul

Reply

ryan

great video paul, like the deleted takes at the end. take it you were by your self, as was listening out for the laughing camera man but could not hear any one.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hey Ryan, yes I was on my own 🙂

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Dan M

Great Article. A Lot of people don’t understand how tough it is to light a fire in the wintertime when your hands, arms and body are all freezing and you have to rinse, repeat the exact same steps again and again.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Dan,

Thanks for your comment. Agreed – there is no time when efficiency in firelighting makes more of a difference than in the depths of winter.

Take care and keep warm!

Paul

Reply

Randell

Excellent Video, It never really gets that cold here in Australia – Well not anywhere I’ve lived in Australia, but i think these skills and knowledge is good for me to know. Once again top information thanks alot for sharing.

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Thanks Randell. Yes, these are more directly applicable in some environments than others but the general principles are useful everywhere.

All the best,

Paul

Reply

Sander

Hi,

Very nice video, thank you.
What jacket/smock did you wear? It looks like Fjallraven?

Thank you,

Sander

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Hi Sander,

I’m glad you liked this video too.

The jacket is by Norrona. It’s now 11 years old and has made many trips. It used to be called the Arktis Anojakke but now is called the Svalbard Arktis Ano Jacket:

https://www.norrona.com/en-GB/Products/0118-07/1125/svalbard-arktis-cotton-ano-jacket-mw/

It seems like they only make it in red or blue these days…

I hope this helps.

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Sander

Thank you, nice and good quality jacket !

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Adrian

Very grateful for the information. Good video. I know its cheeky of me to ask but Could we see a video on setting and starting a long log fire please. I’ve Only had the opportunity to try it a couple of times and it kept burning out on the ends no matter how many coals I raked out to get the ends going. I looked on YouTube but there are very few good videos out there. Appreciate any advice.
Many thanks for all the information on both your blog and website.
Have been looking at some of your courses very interesting.
Adrian spring.
MY MOTTO “HOPE FOR THE BEST, BUT PLAN FOR THE WORST”

Reply

Paul Kirtley

Adrian, that’s not cheeky at all. It might take me a while until I have the right materials under the right conditions as well as someone to help me film it to do the subject justice but fundamentally yes, I can do that for you. I’ll add it to my list…

Warm regards,

Paul

Reply

Adrian

Dear Paul
I look forward to that. Many thanks again. Its a shame I don’t live closer I would pop round to film it with you. Have you any top tips when using a wood stove in a tent in the arctic please.
Grateful for you sharing your knowledge.
All the best Adrian

Reply

Luke Newman

Hi Paul. Love the video. May I ask what jacket that is you’re wearing in the video?

Thanks

Reply

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