Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Fall and Winter Tinders

As the temperatures drop and frost blankets the foliage it becomes clear that the Sun's summer Rays can no longer warm us or dry out our gear. It becomes vital to our survival that we understand the need to have the knowledge, skills and abilities to start fire in any situation.

It has been stated many times that Mother Nature can be nasty but she always provides you with what you need if you just know where to look.

With hunting season upon us and thousands of folks heading into the bush it's inevitable that some will get lost, suffer hypothermia, break bones and unfortunately some will die from exposure or natural causes.

Although you never plan to suffer a setback you must be prepared for that reality. Therefor knowing how to make fire is the essential skill for warmth and rescue.

Here are 5 natural tinders which you will find ready to harvest in the fall and winter that can help make your fire even when wet.

Cattail is an amazing natural tinder that is best harvested in the fall and winter for fire starting. Found in low lying wet areas such as swamps and ditches. The fluff is great as a coal extender and we use it in all of our fire starting birds nests.

Cedar bark is extremely fibrous when broken down in your hands creates a dry, dusty birds nest that will light by several means of ignition and burn hot enough to ignite your next stage of fuel.  Even when your environment is soaked the inner layer of bark will be dry. 

Old Man's Beard is a moss that grows on the branches of coniferous trees and is best harvested in the fall. A handful of this can be easily lit with matches, lighter and when dried can accept sparks or char cloth. Carrying wet Old Man's Beard on an inside pocket will quickly draw out the moisture and allow it to dry.

Milk Weed pods start to open in the fall exposing the dry fiberous fluff that easily light with several means of ignition. Milk Weed is readily found along the edges of fields and open areas. Milk weed isbest used as part of a birds nest tinder bundle. 

Birch bark is well known to almost anyone who has spent time in the Ontario bush. Whether you harvest sheets off the tree or just small pieces birch bark is highly flammable and easily ignited with several sources of ignition. 

So next time you're out in the bush whether hiking, hunting or on an atv ride be sure you harvest some for your pack

Friday, October 2, 2015

Kirk Dustin Fatwood Firesteel

For those who have either wandered through the bush with me or taken one of our courses you'll be well aware of the two items I preach must always be carried regardless of task.  The knife and fire starter are those two items which are a must carry.

Fire starting has been a passion for me. A journey which has challenged me to try every method possible. Sometimes until the fingers bleed and the muscles ache. However, since the beginning of written history men have known that fire meant life. It meant survival. It meant sustainability.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pics from 2015 CF Course

It goes without saying that we here at Beyond the Fire have a great respect for the men and women of the Canadian Forces. We've been fortunate enough to run 3 courses in 3 years for these soldiers. Each course designed to challenge their knowledge, skills and abilities. To add to the challenge we removed all of the items which they have learned to survive and thrive with through their years in the military. Instead they receive the bare bones we provide based on our survival scenario.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Cut Above

A few weeks ago while out in the bush processing some Fatwood I realized that my small personal draw saw and my Hultafors Classic Axe just weren't the best tools for the job. 

The folding draw saw is great for small limbs and more precise work. It's lightweight and pack ability make it a great tool for almost every job. However, processing larger limbs which are infused with high amounts of resin tend to slow the process dramatically. 

Although my Hultafors Axe is an amazing tool for felling, limbing, splitting and finer bushcraft skills it's not the best choice for a job that often requires climbing to access the Fatwood shoulder. 

What I needed was an aggressive cutting tool which was lightweight, portable, packable and was efficient to use.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Practice provides Knowledge

The old saying that practice makes perfect is a great teaching methodology. However, any good sporting coaching will quickly correct that by stating that practice doesn't make perfect - rather perfect practice makes perfect. 

Whether involved in the pursuit of bushcraft skills or the skills necessary for survival in the harsh Canadian wilderness the principles are the same.  Skills are the ability to take your knowledge and abilities and apply them to a task successfully. Therefor knowledge is so very important in the equation. 

In my journey through bushcraft I gain knowledge and wisdom from so many different places. Most importantly I gain it through my practice with different materials, in different conditions and with different tools. With each new day I look to challenge myself. I look to learn from my failures. 

It is from the failures that we will gain knowledge and experience so very crucial to our very survival. 

Whether experiencing different shelter designs, using different bow drill materials, attempting to use primitive trapping methods or simply by using different tools, stepping outside of that comfort zone will undoubtedly open your eyes to the world around you. 

This winter has been a wonderfully long one which has provided hundreds of hours of dirt time to teach, to learn, to practice and most importantly it has provided me with a deeper connection to the materials which surround me. 

As winter turns quickly to spring take the time to explore and to practice your skills. That practice will give you knowledge you don't currently have. 

It's the journey not the destination that matters. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

My Bush Pack

During a recent course I was instructing on one of the students pointed out that everywhere I went I carried a backpack. Several of them joked about what they might find if they looked inside. Some of the ideas were incredibly entertaining. 

After some ribbing and a reminder from me about how I was in charge of their level of suffering over the next 8 days they got serious and asked what I carried. 

"It's my bush pack. It goes everywhere I go. When I leave the pavement and venture into the bush it comes with me. Like a good friend - it's always there when I need it". 

With their attention I continued by speaking of the 5 'C's' of Survival. You can never know when you'll find yourself in a survival emergency so you must be armed with the knowledge, skills, abilities and the tools to get to work. 

The 5 'C's' of Survival

1.  Combustion
2.  Cutting tool
3.  Cordage
4.  Container
5.  Cover

I explained my firm belief based upon years of experience that if you possess these items and some general bushcraft knowledge you can survive and seek rescue from your emergency situation. 

With experience comes the knowledge that often times thing break, malfunction or fail to work in less than optimal conditions such as winter. So often I carry several of each of the 5 'C's'. Make no mistake, you can carry a rucksack with 40-60lbs of kit into the bush however it's not practical. Therefor your pack must be light enough to forget its on your back while containing all the items necessary to put your knowledge and skills to work. 

As the students nodded in agreement with my principles I took the items out and laid them out for display. They are self explanatory. With this pack and my skills I know I can survive or self sustain long enough to allow weather to pass or until rescue comes to find my team. 

Never underestimate the importance of carrying a small bag containing your 5 'C's'. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife

After recently testing the Light My Fire - Fire Knife I was pleasantly surprised by the high quality Mora blade. Although I don't carry knives that are not capable of survival tasks I was happy with its bushcraft capability and integrated fire steel. 

I spent a little time navigating the web researching the Mora product lines. I've always used, promoted and reviewed the ESEE line of survival knives. However, I came across the Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife and thought it was well worth the test. 

With the sun shining and the thermometer hovering around -15 degrees I took the dogs and new knife out to the cabin for some outdoor enjoyment. 

The Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife is a combination setup which includes the knife, robust sheath, diamond sharpener on the sheath as well as a ferro rod attached to the sheath. The blade appeared thick enough to split wood yet sharp enough to create feather sticks.  The back side of the blade is designed specifically to work with the attached ferro rod. 

We've always tested survival knives to ensure they were capable of completing tasks and withstanding the abuse necessary to yield confidence. 

Today I used the Mora Bushcraft Survival Knife to split firewood, create feather sticks, create a bow drill set, open a can of stew, scrape the bark of a cedar and light a fire. The rubberized handle made the knife comfortable and slip resistant. The blade took a beating with the baton to split the wood. The knife was robust yet light enough to reduce fatigue. The blade maintained a razor sharpness after splitting wood to allow me to transition right to making feather sticks.  The ferro rod produced ample sparks to light cedar shavings and birch bark. 

After the day in the bush spent testing this knife and ferro rod I can confidently state that this has replaced my ESEE blades as my EDC survival knife. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Survival Fire Starters

A few years back while working with a fellow survival instructor to setup an element of a course we took a break to start a fire and make a bush coffee. 

As I started collecting materials it was obvious that everything was wet from the recent weather. While piling our supplies my fellow instructor setup up the tinder in preparation for ignition. That's when he pulled a small candle looking item from his pack. 

As he lit the item I watched as it produced a large thick flame that seem to last forever. This flame lasted long enough to ignite not only the tinder but the thicker twigs as well. 

As we tended the fire and brewed our coffee we discussed fire starting, adverse conditions and survival products. I was so impressed with the simplicity, ease of use, natural materials and confidence this Survival Candle provided in adverse conditions. 

While preparing for our upcoming course I decided to make a few of these beauties for the students to carry and use. 


  • Paraffin wax
  • Birch Bark
  • Jute Twine
  • Wood pieces
I've heard of endless production methods with specialty items and wicks but I prefer simple ingredients to produce a max flame. I don't want a small candle wick flame. I want a fire !!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Light My Fire - Fire Knife

After the surprising results of the Tinder on a Rope evaluation I was eager to see if Light My Fire was for real. There is no doubt that Light My Fire is a very successful product designer and manufacturer of camping use gear. However, this success rarely translates into the type of equipment which can be trusted in a survival emergency.

I decided to purchase and test the Light My Fire - Fire Knife. The product is a unique combo containing a Mora knife with an integrated Light My Fire Scout Fire Steel built into the handle. There are numerous YouTube reviews showing the product and how to use it. So rather than produce a similar video I decided to just list the Pros and Cons of the product from a survival perspective.


  • Lightweight
  • Mora quality blade
  • Rubberized sure grip handle
  • Simple yet functional resin sheath
  • High quality Scout Fire Steel
  • Excellent spark production
  • Not robust enough to be a survival knife
  • Difficult to draw knife from sheath
This combo offers a great option as an everyday carry. Although I'm a huge believer in carrying a knife that can withstand countless blows while splitting wood I see the value in this piece of kit. 

Anytime you can reduce weight and the number of items you carry without reducing functionality of your kit than you've succeeded. I think this is a great piece of kit and suggest that if you're a camper, hiker or outdoor enthusiast this is a must have. 

Prepare Today ... Survive Tomorrow. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

Show Us Your Fire Kit

With only 2 days left in our most recent poll I thought it would be a great idea for our followers to send us a picture of their fire kits. 

There is no one size fits all fire kit or survival kit. It's perfect if it works for you in the moment when you need it to work the most - when your life is on the line. 

The poll results are a great opportunity to discuss carry options with their pros and cons. 

Until then please lay out your kits, take a picture and send them to beyondthefire@bell.net. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Natural Char Tinder

I came across this video we made a few years back while preparing for an upcoming course. A great reminder to take your time while in the bush to look around and see what Mother Nature gives you.

Prepare Today ...  Survive Tomorrow.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Bushcraft Boil

With the sun shining and a light snow falling the dogs and I headed out to the cabin to enjoy the winter wilderness. 

Take the time to get out in the bush and practice your skills.  

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Pleasant Surprise - Gear Review

Just before Christmas I was wandering through our local outdoor outfitters store. I wasn't looking for any items in particular. Instead I was just browsing to see if anything would grab my attention. 

As I walked through the camping accessories I looked through the many fire starters and kits which comically claim to be the best and sure to start fire in any situation. 

If you've followed us you are aware that we like to test products until we find their breaking points and areas of failures. In an emergency survival situation you cannot afford breakage nor failure. Your life depends on it. 

On this trip my interest was peaked by a product being distributed by a well known outdoor fire starting tool manufacturer. The company Light My Fire originated in the mid 90's in the Swedish backcountry. The product that I found I had not seen before although I had seen many similar products out there in my travels. Tinder-On-A-Rope. 

Tinder-On-A-Rope is a pine product from Mexico that has an 80% resin content. The product is light weight and looked extremely easy to work with so at face value it looked like a product I would carry. So without hesitation I purchased one to test for our school. 

So on a beautiful New Years Day we travelled back into the bush to put this product through the paces. We used our standard testing process to determine whether it would meet our approval. 

Our testing process always boils down to a single factor - ignition by spark. With a functioning lighter or match you can light almost anything. However, after a cold water submersion, with little cover, brisk winds, poor dexterity and only your striker can your product save my life. Pretty simple test. It's a pass or a fail. 

As I shaved curlies off of the resin wood into a solid pile I was not confident that a spark would ignite the product let alone ignite while wet and on snow in a brisk winters wind. 

With 4-5 good sets of sparks we sat amazed as the pile ignited into a strong flame capable of igniting natural fuel sources. With the excitement we shaved another pile right into the snow and set out again to find failure. Once again with a few good sets of sparks the shavings lit and produced a solid flame quickly spreading through the pile. 

John and I both realized that this product was for real. Not just for camping but rather as an everyday carry for those whose lives depend on fire for backcountry survival. 

We are so impressed that we will now be issuing this to all of our students in their personal fire kits.