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Old 01-13-2010, 07:50 PM
Polar Express Polar Express is offline
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Last Sunday, Coyote Girl took my wife (Tall Chick) up to the hill for some educational riding. (huge thanks to CG for that!) I'm recovering from arm surgery, so I couldn't take her, and Modsledr is waiting for repair parts for his sled, so he couldn't go either. So, after we all met for breakfast, and the ladies took off, Modsledr and I were sitting around with nothing to do. This is usually a recipe for disaster: two dudes sitting around with nothing to do. So.... we decided to do what most red-blooded men would do: We decided we should light something on fire!

So, we took the top off of a pop can, and filled it with regular gasoline (I'd estimate 11 Fluid ounces) and lit it. We took guesses ahead of time to see how long it would burn. I think we both guessed 15-20 min, tops.

We were both shocked when it burned for 2 1/2 hours!

Now, why you might ask, would two somewhat normal dudes want to waste 11 ounces of gasoline? Well, it kinda started with the 'could you survive a night with what you bring with you...' talk. We are always chatting about something, since we both enjoy thought provoking discussions.

A few weeks ago, Modsledr was out riding with a couple others, and his sled broke or something (I forget exactly what happened), but not wanting to ruin the others' day, he sent them off to go play for a while. So, he decided to pretend he was stranded, and see if he could get a fire going with what he had. He was able to get under a large tree, and dig down to dirt. After 30 min of gathering small twigs, he had ~2'x2'x1' pile. then he set out to find actual 'wood' that would burn. What he discovered, was every twig he could find, was not just wet, but totally waterlogged. And, there was no 'wood' to be found (that wasn't still growing). Now in a survival situation, I'm not going to hesitate to chop down a growing tree, but it's still green wood, and you need HEAT, to get that started, and frankly, lots of it. Little campfire starter packets, or a magnesium and flint don't make enough heat to actually get wet or green wood to get going. A couple of 15 min road flares do make a pretty good amount of heat, I've carried 2 in a vacuum pack since I started sledding, for just that reason. But it's an interesting eye opener when a resourceful guy like Modsledr tells me that he didn't think he had enough on him to be able to build and sustain a decent heat source overnight. We got to thinking about that little gas-in-a-can idea as a potential way to get a fire started, but when it burned for so long, it's a very real possibility that could be the answer. The aluminum distorted a little bit, but not totally, but we got to thinking that say, a chili can, or soup can that was about the same size, that was empty and washed, could be better. In our pack, we could stuff things inside it, maybe that spare pair of sox or snack bars, so it doesn't take up any extra space, and can be a great tool. 3-4 of those, and you have made it through the night, and all you need is a lighter. It put off enough heat to keep you from freezing (yes, you'll still likely be cold), and emotionally, it keeps your spirits up (likely even more important).

It's a big condition, but the only condition is that you still have a quart or two of fuel left in your sled, and a way to get it out. But, there are lots of solutions for that.

Anyway, I thought I'd share our little idea, and maybe it can keep us all thinking more about how to be best prepared.

PE
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:03 PM
EagleRiverDee EagleRiverDee is offline
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Polar Express-

Good post!

I took a winter survival class once and one of the learning games we did once was to come up with 20 useful things for every item you carried. Once we started really thinking, it was amazing how many uses a roll of duct tape or a plastic bag could be put to. I still try and play that game in my head- I figure in an emergency situation I want it to be automatic, not something I have to think about.
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Old 01-13-2010, 08:15 PM
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I'm guessing we are talking about surviving w/o a snowmobile in the picture? If you've got your sled you've got everything you need. We have spen t several nights out in the mountains around a fire that required little more clothes than your shorts.
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Old 01-13-2010, 09:02 PM
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Great post. I've always carried magnesium & flint firestarters but never have tried getting a big fire going while out sledding. Going to have to give that a try.
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Old 01-13-2010, 09:19 PM
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Like it a lot. Great post. One question: What is to be expected when lighting the gas "can"?

It is "explosive" with a "whoof!!" OR.......does it go up in flame without much fan fair?
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Old 01-13-2010, 09:30 PM
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I carry sterno gel fluid put into those little 5 hour energy bottles. Three in my pack....light weight...and easy to get lit.
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Old 01-13-2010, 10:31 PM
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Qreiff:

there is no "whoooffff", it is very similar to lighting a sterno can. Since its the fumes that burn, you can bring your match, or lighter up to it from farther down the side of the can, and it just lights. blowing on it makes it get MUCH bigger, as the blowing adds oxygen, and the fumes only burn when they have the right mix of fumes and oxygen. the trick is just dont kick it over!

oh, and it does give off a pretty dark smoke, so I wouldnt try to light one in a tent or enclosed space. If you must extinguish it, you have to smother it (cover it), not blow it out!!!!!

SnowBigDeal,
I suspect a mag and flint will light this just fine! I didn't have one to try, but those are nice, cuz they don't break, leak or freeze. The fuel in a can with one of those might be a great plan if you find you need to light an emergency fire.

PE

Last edited by Polar Express; 01-13-2010 at 10:33 PM.
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Old 01-14-2010, 11:32 AM
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This is why we carry tampons, to dip into the tank & use as a firestarter.
I would assume that if you were unable to find anything else that the tampon wouldn't help for long, but getting down to treeline is usually pretty easy.

Yet another useful tool/idea though!

I would think you could use a hot dogger/muff pot in much the same way as the can as well.
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Old 01-14-2010, 01:43 PM
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Any can that won't burn or melt will work, and the larger the surface area, the more heat it will give off. The reason that can worked so well, and burned so long, was the depth of the can, in proportion to the dia., There was actually about 1/4 of fuel left in the bottom when it went out on its own: it couldnt get enough air down there to ignite the fumes coming off the remaining fuel. So, in theory, (we haven't tried it) yes, a muff pot base will work, it will give off more heat, as more fuel is exposed to give off more vapors, and the depth of the fuel is what is going to determine how long each lighting will burn.

We liked the idea of the size of can similar to what we used, for the reasons above, as well as you can do this 3-4 times with less than a half gallon of gas, and that should get you through the night.

Any other thoughts?

PE
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Old 01-14-2010, 02:13 PM
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[QUOTE=backcountryislife;2088807]This is why we carry tampons, to dip into the tank & use as a firestarter.
thats one of the first things i learned sledding
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