many anthropologists believe that the thing that enabled us as humans to develop the large brains that in part define us was that we discovered cooked food. to be certain, the ability to make fire increases our ability to adapt to a cold environment, to absorb nutrients, to expand our day.
if you're lost in the wilderness you need to be able to find food, shelter, and water. how quickly you need those things depends on what wilderness you are in.
if you are lost in a hot desert, YOU NEED TO FIND WATER FIRST. then shelter, then food.
if you are lost in a cool climate, you need SHELTER first, then water, then food.
you can survive much longer without food than you can without water, and if you cannot stay warm, you're done no matter how much food and water you have, and shelter without fire does you a limited amount of good when you're cold.
we take it for granted, fire. we turn it on with switches. we have matches, lighters, butane torches. but it's a difficult primitive skill, the making of fire.
the venture vermont challenge usually includes some firemaking activities on the list. i decided this year to try out vaseline soaked cotton balls (Make your own homemade fire starters) and to try them out with my new magnesium striker.
i used this guy's method, more or less. you can pack a bunch of them in a tin for easy carry.
once i had my little balls-o'-flammability prepared, i took one outside to test it with the striker, which i had never used.
works a charm, even on the first try.
the trick is learning how to hold it.