When I worked for Radio Shack in an earlier lifetime, one of the more interesting products we sold was the solar cigarette lighter. It was something of a novelty item, but it was also fully functional. It was nothing more than a parabolic mirror, with a little holder at the focal point. It’s shown above in the 1980 Radio Shack catalog. The idea was to place a cigarette in the holder, point it at the sun, and after several seconds, the cigarette would start smoldering. No, it didn’t work at night or on cloudy days, but on a sunny day, it worked flawlessly.
The same simple device is now available at Amazon. It’s not much more expensive than it was back in the day, and would serve as one method of starting a fire in an emergency. Yes, you’re better off if you have matches or a traditional lighter with you, but redundancy can be a good thing, and it’s kind of fun to amaze your friends by lighting a fire using solar power.
If you don’t smoke (this is one case where a cigarette could save your life), then you could use other similar tinder, such as tissue paper, dry grass, or leaves. This device won’t cause anything to burst into flame, so you’ll need more tinder at the ready. As soon as whatever you lit starts to smolder, you’ll need to transfer it to a larger pile of tinder, and then blow on it until it bursts into flame. You then keep adding larger fuel until you have a fire of the desired size. You don’t want the fire to go out after it gets dark, because obviously you won’t be able to light another one until morning.
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