Whether you’re Bear Grylls or a stay-at-home mom, your recipe for survival requires the same basic ingredients.
If you’ve got access to food, water, air, and shelter, you can survive almost anything, but fire is nearly as important.
Not only does it provide warmth and light, but it also gives you a way to sterilize water, cook food, signal for help and keep predators at bay.
As any self-respecting prepper already knows how to start a fire without matches or a lighter, we’re going to focus on how to make a torch that will enable you to signal for help, move that fire to a different location, or light your way on a dark night.
All you need to make a survival torch is a handle, a wick, and some fuel. These can be naturally occurring items you find in the woods or man-made objects from your bug-out bag.
3 Ways To Make A Torch In The Woods
Method 1: The Organized Prepper
Depending on the contents of your bug-out bag, you may find you’ve got enough materials to make what some regard as the best torch ever.
- Wick – fabric
- Fuel – vegetable oil
- Handle – branch
To make one of these, you need to have brought both the fabric and the oil with you which, if you’re an organized prepper, you probably did.
The material can be anything from a bandage to an old T-shirt or pair of socks, and you can use whatever oil you brought with you for cooking purposes as fuel.
- Cut a green branch, river cane, or something similar to use as a handle;
- Tear the fabric into strips;
- Melt the oil over the fire if necessary;
- Soak the fabric strips thoroughly in the melted oil;
- Wrap the fabric securely around one end of the stick.
The main problem with this method is that, as the wick burns, so small burning fragments of fabric will drop away, leaving a dangerous trail of fiery breadcrumbs behind you.
If you have access to a piece of wire, as demonstrated in the video below, you could use this to secure the wick and reduce the risk of causing a wildfire.
Method 2: The Minimalist
This recipe is perfect for those instances when a sudden change in weather transforms an afternoon hike in the woods into a struggle for survival.
All the materials occur naturally so, all you have to do is source a green branch for the handle and some strips of birch bark that will act as both your fuel and your wick.
- Holding your branch handle vertically, cut a cross into one end using a bushcraft knife;
- Now split the branch along those incisions as demonstrated in the tutorial below;
- Open up the splayed ends of the branch;
- Peel off strips of birch bark and wind them into your splayed stick, bearing in mind that, if you want a larger flame and, therefore, more light, keep the head bigger and more loosely packed. For a longer-lasting torch, pack the birch strips in more tightly.
Method 3: The Ultimate Survivalist
This pine pitch torch is simple yet effective. If you’re trying to survive on the west coast of the United States, where few birch trees grow, it’s also is a great alternative to the minimalist torch detailed above.
The method is much the same as for the birch bark torch so, you’ll start by splitting the end of a greenwood stick to create a vessel for your wick and fuel.
Now you need to source and harvest resin from a pine, spruce, or fir tree. These trees produce resin to protect themselves so, it will usually form where the bark has been damaged by a branch breaking off. You can remove this soft resin easily with a knife and without causing any damage to the tree.
The wick you can make using a pine cone, a cattail, or a spare pair of socks.
Now you’ve gathered your materials, let’s look at the process for making the ultimate survivalist torch.
- Secure your handle by sticking it into the ground with the splayed end upwards;
- Use sticks to temporarily hold open the splayed ends of the handle;
- if you remembered to bring a pair of survival gloves along, melt your resin over a fire using a recycled tin or similar item. You can then coat your wick in the melted resin by dipping it into the tin;
- If you don’t have the means to melt the resin, you can smear it onto your chosen wick in its original form, although this may not be quite as effective;
- Insert the wick into the split ends of the handle;
- Remove the sticks that were holding the ends open – this will secure the wick more firmly;
- Pour or smear more resin onto the wick before lighting.
Now you have three different ways to make a torch in the woods, you should be able to survive in any forest in the world.
You won’t necessarily be able to rely on birch bark or pine resin, but you should be able to find suitable alternatives in any environment.
Better still, you’ll have a torch to send a distress signal which might just mean that help comes before darkness falls so, you won’t have to use it to light your way or keep wild animals at bay.