What is Char and Why Should You Have It To Start A Fire


What Is Char and Why To Have It To Make FireA common question we hear is, “What is Char”? So we figured we need to touch on this subject because char is actually something that could very easily save your life. Char is a highly combustible substance.  It is something that has been charred in a fire (in a tin of sorts) making it a very quick source of an ember when in need of a fire starter.

What are the benefits of char?

Having a form of char in your survival pack and on your person can be a life saving material if you are in wet or snowy weather and are in need of dry materials.  Char works in a fire piston to create an ember that you can use within what we call a birds nest to start your fire.  A birds nest is dry materials formed into the shape a birds nest shape to enable you to nurture a fire to life.  You will see more on the birds nest in a bit.  Char placed in a birds nest can also be lit with a spark from flint and steel, a fire striker, a ferrocerium rod or even a lighter.  Even though your birds nest may be very dry materials, by adding a small piece of charred material your dried materials will ignite faster.  Char lights very well when utilizing solar combustion too, which is utilizing something like a lense from glasses, magnifying glass, etc.  We carry char where ever we go and we carry our char tin and new materials to replenish our char in the event that we use it all because our spring here in Idaho is VERY wet and our winters are long and typically we have lots of snow.  By having char we know we can get an ember and produce fire.

What could be used for char?

  • We utilize old t-shirts, socks and even underwear to repurpose into char, but it needs to be something in this case that is 100% cotton.
  • The fluff of a cattail could be utilized.
  • I like to make char out of punk wood.  Punk wood is the crumbly wood found on dead timber or trees.
  • The pith and inner material of varying plants can be used.

Something that we have done is head out into our own personal environment to see what is available to us and experiment with the varying plants, trees, grasses, fluff, etc. In addition to char, something else you may want to educate yourself on is fat wood and you can do just that with the Mountain Man’s video on Gathering Fat Wood – http://youtu.be/vvJurzM-8tI  Fat wood is another incredible combustible material that may very well be directly accessible to you in your immediate environment.

How do you make char?

My Mountain Man created a tool called the MultiFlame Tool and MultiFlame Mini Tool.  These are mutli-purpose fire pistons and part of the kit is a tin the size of an Altoids tin.  Because we are each equipped with one of our tools on our person or in our survival kit that is what we use.  You can use any size tin, even a tin can, but the tin must have a lid.  The less air that gets in the tin the better or too much oxygen will ignite your materials vs char your materials. Char is very easy to make.  With the Altoids type tin you would just place roughly 4 or 5 cotton balls for example, flip the lid closed and because this lid is hinged and not super tight it allows some air out of the tin.  If your tin does not have any way for air to escape you will want to poke a small hole in the top of your tin to allow the gases to escape while your materials chars. Now place your tin in your fire.  You will see adequate placement for your tin in the videos below.  If doesn’t have to be directly in the fire and once the charing process begins you will see the gases escaping your tin and you may even see flames shooting out of the hole.  Once you no longer see the gases escaping your tin – your char is completed and you will want to remove your tin from the fire. Now PLEASE keep in mind that this tin is extremely hot and you will need to let it cool for a bit before touching or trying to remove the lid. To help you understand the process we have several videos below: Traditional Fire Starting Methods:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfWQHwsMVJs

Fire Making Methods and Char – Part 1:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfpVv2JtecA

Fire Making Methods and Char – Part 2:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSGdCQPUBpA

For more on how to make varying fires and materials you can read more here What To Gather For Fire Making and Making a Fire. I’d like to leave you with some food for thought.  Many people think that fire starting is easy and why on earth would I need to practice it?  Right?

Well, do you know how many people die in the wilderness and outdoor settings a year because they are trying to light things in the wild, even the contents of their wallet, that do not light easily!  All the while, directly around them and often above them in the trees are materials that would be much more combustible and light easier providing them with the much needed warmth they need to survive!  Sometimes in the rain too, people struggle with the same thing while there are ways to find dry material in wet environments or as we spoke about carrying char in your pack at all times to ensure that you have dry tinder.

Don’t be left out in the cold and rain without the knowledge, know how, skills and practice to get the job done and save the lives of yourself and your family!

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I hope that you found this post useful.  

What is your favorite form of charred material?  

If you are new to this concept, what is the material you are going to chose to start with?

30-days-prep2 Thanks for joining the Prepared Bloggers as we work our way through 30 Days of Preparedness. September is National Preparedness Month so you will find everything you need to get your preparedness knowledge and skills into shape. Take one post each day, learn as much as you can about the topic and make it a part of your preparedness plan. Day 1 – Ready, Set, Get Prepared! Welcome to 30 Days of Preparedness from PreparednessMama Day 2 – The Family Meeting Place and Escape from Laughingbear Adventures Day 3 – I’m Safe! How to Communicate with Family in an Emergency from PreparednessMama Day 4 – Does Your Family Have a Fire Escape Plan? from Home Ready Home Day 5 – Preparedness For Pets from The Busy B Homemaker Day 6 – The Escape Exercise from Laughingbear Adventures Day 7 – It all Falls Apart Without Mental Preparedness from PreparednessMama Day 8 – It’s a Matter of Emergency Kits from A Matter of Preparedness Day 9 – Nine Great Emergency Light Sources Other Than Flashlights from Food Storage & Survival Day 10 – Cooking Without Power from Mama Kautz Day 11 – The Importance of a Shelter & Staying Warm and Dry from Trayer Wilderness Day 12 – The Importance of Having The Right Tools In Your Pack from Trayer Wilderness Day 13 – Practice Living Without Electricity from Food Storage Made Easy Day 14 – How We Choose The Right Gear – (including the MultiFlame Tool) from Trayer Wilderness Day 15 – Water Storage & Purification from The Busy B Homemaker Day 16 – Food and Water for a 72 Hour “Go Bag” from Homestead Dreamer Day 17 – 8 Foods You Should Be Storing and How from Melissa K Norris Day 18 – Planning Your Pantry from The Organic Prepper Day 19 – Stocking Up on Non-Food Items from Living in Rural Iowa Day 20 – Dutch Oven Cooking: Off-Grid Before Off-Grid Was Cool from The Backyard Pioneer Day 21 – Pressure Canning the Harvest from Timber Creek Farm Day 22 – Personal Protection & Awareness from Living in Rural Iowa Day 23 – KISS First Aid from Herbal Prepper Day 24 – Mommy, I have to go Potty! from Mom With a Prep Day 25 – Fire Starting 101: The Why and How of Lighting a Fire for Survival from Food Storage & Survival Day 26 – How to Filter and Purify Water from Prepared Housewives Day 27 – How To Make A Shelter from Trayer Wilderness Day 28 – Put Your Preps to the Test with 24 Hours Unplugged from The Organic Prepper Day 29 – What Is Char and Why You Should Have It To Start A Fire from Trayer Wilderness Day 30 – How To Utilize Bushcraft Skills and Forage From The Wild from Trayer Wilderness Paid Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my time spent blogging and educating, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Tammy is a Christian, freelance writer, author, radio show host, web designer, pioneer, homesteader, avid outdoorswoman, huntress, frugally self-sufficient Momma, homeschool teacher and advocate for one amazing young Mountain Boy with autism & aspergers, married to her best friend, her cowboy and Mountain Man of her dreams.
Her articles can be found in The New Pioneer, American Frontiersman, Self Reliance Illustrated, Survivor's Edge, Personal and Home Defense, Prepare Magazine, The Backwoodsman and Cabin Life Magazine.
Be sure to listen to her weekly radio show here under Mountain Woman Radio above.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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