Birch bark naturally has resinous oils within it, making it a fantastic resource for firelighting. The burning bark is also reasonably effective as an insect repellent.
Collection – Birch naturally sheds its outer bark in papery strips. Look for a tree that is naturally very ‘peely’ (they do vary from tree to tree) and gently pull off strips. Don’t take more than the tree is willing to give. You do not want to remove the inner bark as the tree needs that to protect itself.
Never use a knife to cut into the bark as it is easy to cut too deeply and potentially leave a wound that could get infected.
Use – Ruffle the bark up to make it as thin as possible. You will need a good handful as a tinder (or could mix it in with other tinders). Use it to construct your fire or as part of tinder bundles.
Lighting – If you are lighting it with matches then the bark should catch very easily. If you are using a fire steel then it helps to make the bark as fine as possible to increase the surface area (even chopping it up with a knife). If using an ember in a tinder bundle – ensure the pieces in the centre (closest to where the ember will be placed) is ripped thinly to increase surface area.