Before we start to talk about fire starting we need to talk about what makes up a fire. There are three parts to fire: Oxygen, Fuel, and Heat. This is commonly called the Triangle of Fire.
1. Heat – This is the element of the triangle that we introduce. An open flame source provides the most reliable heat source, however you can use other sources like an ember from a Bow Drill, Flint & Steel, or a Ferro Rod in combination with char material.
2. Oxygen– Without a constant source of oxygen, the fire will die quickly. Always allow lots of oxygen to enter into the fire lay.
3. Fuel – One of the most challenging part of the triangle is choosing the right size material at the right time. When picking the material for the fire, think of a lit match, would the material choke off the fire or feed it. Start small and work your way up.
A tinder bundle is a small gathering of fine and course materials. This should be processed down so it can be ignited with a flame, ember or spark from a ferro rod. The tinder bundle acts as an extender for the initial flame you will get. Some good choiced for a tinder bundle are birch bark, inner bark from trees, and dried grasses.
The tinder material should be about the size of a #2 pencil or smaller. You should gather lots of this material because it is the first source of fuel for the fire. Add tinder to the initial flame slow at first. A great place to get tinder is the base of pine trees, most will have small dead branches still attached to the tree.
Kindling is medium size material that is smaller than your thumb but bigger than a #2 pencil. Make sure it is as dry as possible, use dead branches. Add this to the fire a little at a time to maintain the flow of Oxygen.
Large fire material is called fuel. Fuel is larger than the size of your thumb, like parts of a split log or larger branches. This is what will keep the fire going over a longer amount of time.
When you are out in the woods you can't control the environment but you can control how you ignite the fire. I think an open flame source is the best way to start a fire, however lighters and matches can have issues in some weather so be sure to have a backup method.