Goofing around with friction fire in sub-zero weather

Emberlit Tips and Tricks

Best Foldable Camp Stove featured by Blade HQ

Hey everyone,

I'm not sure if you guys saw this video on our Emberlit Facebook Page but the Emberlit stove is featured in the Blade HQ Backcountry Hunting video. These guys are just down the street from us and they've been good buddies of ours for a while. I really like how they start their fire and bring it into the Embelrit Stove true bushcraft style. For backpackers and hunters, this is a great video of how awesome the Blade HQ knives are and how well the stove works when camping. Thanks guys

Fire Starting in Wet Weather - Why failure is good.

If in a survival situation then by definition conditions are far from perfect.  This is why I eagerly look for opportunities to safely experiment with gear and skills during inclement weather while actually in the bush, even if only short walk from the road. Books and youtube videos can plant the seed, tinkering in the back yard is a great start, but hands on learning and experimentation in the field is a must.

I practice often so I'm very confident in my ability to use a good flint and charcloth for fire lighting. That's why I left the flint and charcloth at home and only brought one of my MerkWares Steel Strikers (shameless plug) which should be available soon. Even in failure I'm grateful that my friend brought some charcloth so at least we could demonstrate lighting  the natural tinder we had prepared. Remember, failure is key to learning.

All too often I feel that people giving out information on the web have never actually tried these techniques or have only done so in perfect conditions. Thanks to this experiment when people claim that it is easy to spark an old coal with flint and steel I'll respectfully hold onto my skepticism until they demonstrate it. I know it can be done, but as we see in my video, I'm missing part of the equation.

Figuring out what works and what doesn't is not only essential training, it is fun. When I get out in the woods I turn back into a 10 year old. Survival training and bushcraft should be fun. Play is part of being human. Remember building forts and tree houses as a kid? Well, you could call that practice building survival shelters. After all these years it is still fun.

What isn't fun is failing when life and limb are on the line. So go out and experiment, fail  and have fun doing so, that way you can learn to succeed when things get serious.  -Mikhail

Sneak Peak Fire Starting Gear from MerkWares

Hey everyone,

This little video is a sneak peek at some more survival gear I've been recently working on. I won't say much about when it will be available next to our stove's and fishing line's here on the site but I can tell you that I'm excited to offer a more complete set of survival and bushcraft gear. The concept of easy fire-starting is important to me which is why this little widget belongs with the Emberlit Stove. 

Stay tuned for more teaser's. 

Emergency Preparedness Requires a Positive Mental Attitude

I've had to bum or borrow a ride my entire life if I wanted to get into the hills to practice survival skills or tinker with my stove. Not so anymore!  I've finally been able to get myself a great little 4x4 vehicle. The new found freedom is intoxicating. Gasoline is my new drug. The other day I decided to drive up a steep, dusty canyon road to relax and have some lunch. Just as I lost cell signal I decided to pull over and eat. When I tried to start my vehicle again the engine wouldn't turn over, the temperature gauge was pegged, and my dials were freaking out. I was stuck. (On a side note, I discovered that wasps are drawn to the smell of radiator fluid.)  Luckily I didn't have to wait long until maintenance crew working on some cell towers were able to get me pointed downhill so I could coast out of the canyon and call for a ride.  Ironically, my ride also overheated on his way over.  Eventually we got things sorted. Turns out my radiator hadn't been properly filled, causing my engine to over heat and cook my already fragile battery.  Some radiator fluid and a new battery later we were up and running. However the day had brought back memories of all the piece of junk cars I had been forced to deal with. I was a bit disappointed that my new found freedom had such a sudden breakdown

The next afternoon my neighbor frantically stood at my door. Her son had hiked up that same canyon road that morning and was now stuck on top of the mountain, cold, wet, and hungry. Up the mountain we roared, the radiator filled, and the new battery juiced up. We picked him up no worse for wear and then thundered back down the mountain.

A little while later I realized that had I not broken down the day before I would have certainly broken down on the way up to rescue my neighbor's son. Only this time it would have been on the weekend, when there wasn't a crew working on the towers to tow us. And not only would my friend still be going  nowhere with more rain moving in, his younger brother and my son would be stuck with me half way up the canyon.

We often talk about having the right survival gear when situations go sour out in the wild. The Emberlit stove was just a by-product of years of learning what camping and backpacking gear worked and what didn’t. In fact, we started MerkWares to be able to help others have the very best survival stove and survival gear because being prepared is important to me. Having the right equipment for fire starting, and prepping is great, but we don’t often talk enough about another element that’s necessary in these type of situations.

The term "Positive Mental Attitude" or PMA in relation to a crisis or survival situation is being able to keep a calm head and look for the positive factors at all times. It is important not to let the bumps get you down. Don't get hung up on each little difficulty. Instead, calmly deal with each issue as it unfolds. What I initially thought was a problem turned out to be a blessing in disguise which made me realize that we don't always see the big picture. Perspective can bring peace, and panic can bring disaster. When you freak out, others around you lose their cool as well which can be bring contention and outright confusion in a group. Discouragement then follows which makes for bad decision-making and even worse situations. So look for the silver lining in everything, and make sure you’re learning from all your hard times.

How to Make a Fishing Spear

I remember the countless hours at scout camp carefully reducing large bits of wood into piles of shavings. Eventually I started making actual useful items like walking sticks and wooden spoons. I even began to carve decorations into those items. Tinkering around with wilderness survival tactics is still one of my most cherished pastimes. There is something special about hanging with good friends sharing skills and projects. Nowadays, even if I'm not sitting around a campfire, my friends and I often pull up a group conference on the computer to talk and show off whatever bushcraft project we happen to be working on.  This is how we've passed down knowledge from generation to generation. This is how we've grown as a human family. It was a lot of fun to make this video on my methods for making a fishing spear, survival or otherwise. I find great joy in tinkering, and just about as much joy in sharing the results.

Here is the video I made on how to build a fishing spear. Easy, cheap and fun.

No go try this out on your own, and send me pictures of how they turn out! 

Best Meal Ever Cooked on the Emberlit Stove

Talk about a treat! We were invited to have a meal prepared for us on the Emberlit Stove by none other than the owner of Bombay House here in Utah, Mr. Harpal Toor. We wanted to see just how a professional chef, not necessarily a survivalist or outdoorsman, would like using the Emberlit.

Harpal was delighted with the stove and had only one suggestion... make it bigger. When Harpal is visiting family in India it is not uncommon for him to cook for upwards of 20 people at his home on large wood burning stoves made of brick. A stove large enough to cook for that many people yet as packable and convenient as the Emberlit would be quite handy. I can't show any pictures yet, but we do have a family sized version of the Emberlit currently being tested.

The Emberlit did the job despite the stiff wind and less than stellar fuel wood. Mr. Toor welcomed us into his home like family and literally mesmerized each and every one of my tastebuds. What really impressed me is that it was completely vegetarian!  

It's no secret that I'm a bit of a foodie, and I love cooking out in the wild, especially if I had to run the meal down first. Granted I haven't quite made an outdoor meal as exquisite as this one. But I do want to learn to cook like this man, or at least cook the dish he made for us. Check out the video, and please don't drool too much on your keyboard.

From a preparedness standpoint, when my wife and I were planning our garden it was a struggle to pick which vegetables to plant because, frankly, we don't know much beyond sauteed squash and beans, salads, and how to make zucchini bread. I daydream of having a lush garden and rows of natural herbs and spices but first I have to learn how to use it all. After a while the neighbors quit smiling when you drop off more zucchini. So if you have any tips or any great wilderness recipes, let me know in the comments. 

Survival Fire Starting for your Camping Stove

Here's a neat little trick for lighting a stove or campfire with little more than what can be found on the trail, a dollar magnifying lens, and sunlight. Finally a productive alternative to burning ants with these little credit card sized fresnel lens. I'm asked quite frequently just how one is to light the emberlit. In this video I wanted to demonstrate just how easy it can be with even the simplest of tools.

Most, if not all of us, have played with magnifying glasses. I remember burning my name into the asphalt, melting action figures, and lighting bottle rockets with a magnifing lens as a kid. Besides great fun for mischevious little boys, they are excellent firestarting tools for both camping and emergencies. Infinitely renuable, they never run out, so long as you have the sun you have fire. Throw in some punk wood and you have easy fire that can be transported. I love little tricks and bits of knowledge that make life in the outdoors all the more enjoyable. This isn't survival it's good living. And yes, that water was extremely cold.

Finding Food on the Go

While out and about looking for places to shoot some new Emberlit Stove videos, we stumbled upon some wild onions. Studying edible and usefull plants is a passion of mine. Even though I couldn't remember the exact species name at the time I still knew these were onions. I've eaten them on occasion in the past. Wild treats like this are a wonderful part of the outdoors and can be a great energy boost while hiking or even be a life saver in an emergency situation.

It goes without saying that you should be sure of what you are eating in the wild. Poison helmlock, probably the most toxic plant in north america, was also growing along those banks. It is part of the Parsley family and so looks very much like plants you and I are familiar with from the grocery store. You can see why it is dangerous and often mistaken for some very delicious wild edibles. Eating unknown plants on a whim is typically a pretty bad idea. However, with proper knowledge I find natural foraging to be one of the most rewarding outdoor activities there are. Get some good books, find some reputible plant experts in your area, and start out small with the plants that are easy to identify. A little bit of knowledge and preparation will open the whole world up to you. If you are ever in Utah drop me a note sometime and I'll see about sharing some of the plants I've learned.

Survival Skills Lesson: The Bandana

When it comes to survival and preparedness, or just enjoying the outdoors for that matter, a multi-use piece of gear and a little bit of knowledge can go a long way. We all plan for the worst, we prep for that survival emergency that looms at the edge of our adventures, however, I like to focus on the items and skills that can be employed long before, and effectively prevent, those dire survival situations in the first place. Just like the elegance and simplicity of the Emberlit Stove (the best wood burning stove) this item is likewise elegant and simple yet amazingly versatile. I'm talking about the bandana. Simply a square yard of cotton material, from filtering water to bandaging a broken arm, the uses are endless. Even the traditional dress of the Maasai amounts to three very large bandanas. In this video I show one of my favorite bandana tricks, a simple method of folding* a bandana into a foraging bag. Remember, knowledge weighs nothing and a bandana weighs almost nothing.


*For more bandana folding tricks and techniques check out this page on the Japanese art of Furoshiki.

Pride and Panic - Everyday Survival Lessons

It had been a fun day. Early I had attended the grand opening at Blade HQ, participated in some survival contests, showed off the emberlit stove, and got me a new knife. A buddy of mine, and raging knife nut, was stuck in the office all day so he couldn’t enjoy the festivities. As a consolation we decided to drive down to our fishing hole that evening to check conditions. On our way we stopped by a small stock pond hoping to find some tadpoles. When we arrived it turned out being little more than a mud bog full of cow manure.

To make the most of the situation, we began an impromptu session of celestial navigation since the sun had just set. Just as I was pointing out the constellation of Cassiopeia a truck full of kids came barreling down the dirt road and zipped around the bog. My friend and I watched with amusement as they tried to ford the pit and sunk their truck to the running boards in the stagnant mud. 

            We heard a bit of arguing from inside the truck and then the driver got out of the truck, waded through the thigh-deep muck, and started walking down the dirt road in the dark, barefoot and with no cell phone.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I thought this only happened in theoretical scenarios I’d read in survival books. The forecast called for a light breeze with spotty showers. The current temperature was a brisk 48 degrees and here he was wet from the waist down wearing a t-shirt and barefoot as he stumbled into the dark.

            We were several miles from the main road and at least 10 miles between towns. Had he stepped on some glass, taken on of the many side roads by accident, or if it had started to rain he would have been at serious risk of possibly fatal exposure.

I understand he was embarrassed, especially in front of some pretty girls, but his pride turned an inconvenient situation into a potentially lethal one. I wonder just how many survival situations start out with pride or overconfidence and compound when the panic sets in?

            We went and talked with the occupants of the truck for a few minutes and then went and picked the driver up about a quarter mile down the road as we went to tell a trooper about the stranded group. He was grateful for the ride and we drove the 4 miles to the highway and flagging down a highway patrol. When the trooper approached my window I asked him “Officer. Do you know why we pulled you over?” I felt like my life was somehow more complete after that. The trooper agreed to take our new friend to town so he could call a tow truck and we went back to check on his friends.

            We went back to the truck to help the others but they wouldn’t get out of the car, so we decided to build a fire nearby to help coax them out of the cold, muddy vehicle.

            Looking at it as a training exercise my bud and I had a pile of firewood collected and a fire lit in under 10 minutes using only our ferrocerium rods and other natural materials. We stacked the wood to block the wind and placed the fire under the overhang of a large juniper. We then handed out a couple wool blankets, some warm clothes, and a 2-liter bottle of water.

            We left them warm and watered and in the hands of the local authorities so they would be ok. We ran into a few of them a couple of weeks later and they were perfectly fine and thanked us for our help.

Two themes from that night have stuck with me that I think are important for people to hear..

  • Always maintain a cool head in a bad situation. There is no shame in admitting one's mistakes or recognizing one's limits. It seems that pride and panic are the two magic ingredients that can turn just about any mishap into a real life and death scenario.


  • Practice with your kit so that you’re familiar and competent with your gear. Earlier that day I had witnessed people failing to create fire with their kit under optimal conditions. I can only imagine how much harder it would have been for them to make fire under emergency conditions.