Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bushcraft: Can a Swiss Champ's Magnifying Lens ignite Tinder?

There has been a lot of debate on the internet over the years about the effectiveness of the magnifying lens on the Victorinox Swiss Army Champ Knife for starting fires. The general perception is that it is too weak for the task, and that it's best relegated to the role of magnifying small objects, such as looking for splinters, etc.

There's no doubt that the Swiss Champ's magnifying lens is weaker than the Fresnel Magnifying Lenses that are typically used to start survival fires, but don't count it out as an effective survival tool. If used with the right tinder, it can be quite effective.

To get the Swiss Champ's magnifier to work, you must find natural tinders that are easy to ignite. One of the best and most widely available tinders is punkwood, a light spongy, dry-rotted wood found nearly anywhere there are dead trees. Punkwood will easily ignite from the spark of a firesteel or from a Fresnel Magnifying Lens. It can also be charred and turned into a superior form of char-tinder.

To prove my theory on the usefulness of the Swiss Champ's magnifying lens, I took a walk in the Colorado Rockies recently with one goal -- to find a natural tinder that any hiker could find and ignite it with a Swiss Champ magnifying lens. As I was walking, I found an old, dead Pinyon Pine that had been blown down:

(click to enlarge)

Snow and rain had repeatedly soaked the exposed side of the wood, over time, turning it rotten (punkwood):

I was able to easily dislodge a piece of rotted punkwood with my fingers:

Ignition! The Swiss Champ's magnifying lens easily ignited the punkwood, which burned intensely for over an hour.

This burning coal can be placed inside a tinder bundle of dry grasses, pine needles, shredded bark or other vegetable matter and blown into a flame to start your survival fire.

Cheers, Jason

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