Starting a fire when under pressure, especially if you are cold, wet, tired, or stressed, is not easy. Matches are OK until they get wet, Waterproof ones I have had issues with breaking or striking with cold fingers. Lighters, while less prone to failing in wet conditions, are still hard enough for me to use as it is. Cold fingers? There is no way I will get one to work. Both can be a pain in the ass in the wind and both are finite. At some point you will run out of matches or butane.
My BAM kit contains a Ferrocerium rod and metal striker. They work in almost every environment and don’t wear out. There are dozens on the market at a variety of price points. The one in my kit is from Gerber. I liked the fact that it adds a way to carry some tinder – perfect for starting a fire in wet conditions.
Vaseline, cotton swabs, and chapstick. Even with a Ferrocerium rod and metal striker, you need tinder. That is not always available, especially in the damp Pacific Northwest. Carrying cotton balls is a great solution but they can get damp too. Original Chapstick is 46% petroleum based. You can shave a bit off or rub it on something for a non-messy fire starter, and it will keep your lips from drying out!!
Vaseline (I like the mini travel jars – I picked one up for $1.99 at Walgreens) is a petroleum product. Use wood or paper-based cotton swabs (avoid the ones with plastic sticks) to dip in the Vaseline for a highly flammable ‘match’. (Bonus – Vaseline applied to your skin will help keep moisture in and the cold out.)
Commercial fire starter cubes. I have since added a couple to my kit as I purchased them for my camping gear – too many wet nights and mornings. These make life in a survival situation much easier. While they eliminate the need for the chapstick and Vaseline, those items last longer (more uses) and have secondary benefits.
What’s missing. I don’t carry matches or lighters in my BAM kit. I do not want my main source for creating a fire/spark to require replacement or run out. Tinder I can find or make. Not so easy with your fire source. Lighters present a second issue. They can fail when getting wet and I have found them to be difficult to use in wind, rain, and when my fingers are cold. I can still strike the Ferrocerium rod wearing gloves or with very cold fingers.