There's a scene in the old 1981 movie "Quest for Fire" where the lead character was shown how to make fire by another clan. Until that moment, fire could only be found in nature or stolen from others so it was fiercely guarded and nurtured. Being able to make fire was huge!
I've raved about the enjoyment I get from starting fire with just air - using a Wildersol fire piston. It's always good for impressing a few people on any campout. I love being able to make fire many different ways besides just flicking a Bic, and I think it's a great way to improve self sufficiency. A scout that can create fire realizes he can do much more.
There have been some new developments at Wildersol that might interest you. From the wooden fire piston kits that I've carved and given as Eagle gifts, the choices in piston design have exploded. You can now select from wood, composite, clear or colored plexiglass, or tooled aluminum. There are mini- or full-sized pistons, and even a TriLight model with 3 ways to start fire.
Jeff (@ Wildersol) has created a few videos showing how his firestarters work, as well as making fire from wild components. I like this one where he makes and uses a bowdrill from wild bits.
It looks like fun. I've gathered wild components on a couple weekend campouts and made my own bowdrill to see if I could actually make fire in the wild. It's hard! I've been successful, but I hope I'm never in a situation where I really need to do it. I'd rather have a small firestarter in my pocket.
Jeff also has some special pricing and products specifically for scouts on his site. If you'd like your troop to get better at fire starting, or have a competition, or just looking for gifts, check out his Scout Specials page - matchless fire combo has 4 ways to start fire (flint-n-steel, fire piston, magnifying glass, plus ferrocerium rod and striker), and there's a special group price for fire pistons.
It's Klondike Derby time so a little reminder about frostbite danger to the scouts is in order.
It only took an hour of walking this morning to develop this cool frost layer. It was -5°F and about 5mph wind - and I was comfortable the entire hike.
At -10°F, it takes about 30 minutes to get frostbite on exposed skin, but less than 15 minutes at -20°F. Above about 15°F, there is much less concern about frostbite, but hypothermia remains something to watch for as people slowly lose their core body heat over hours, not minutes.
Keep these points in mind to prevent frostbite:
Keep Moving - muscle activity keeps warm blood flowing to your extremities. Sitting, or even standing in one position, can reduce circulation which increases frostbite potential. Don't move so much that you sweat and get your clothes wet.
Wear loose layers - this provides dead air space which means more insulation. A big fleece crushed under a tight-fitting windbreaker loses loft - wear an oversized outer layer.
Cover up - Exposed skin freezes fast so cover everything but your eyes.
Convection cools - a 0 degree windless day is less dangerous than a 15 degree day with 15mph wind. A windproof outer layer makes a big difference. Even a thin wind/rain jacket hood over your stocking hat helps a lot.
Winter Gear - a scarf or balaclava protects the face; mittens instead of gloves keep fingers together and warmer; insulated boots, especially with thick soles, keep feet warmer than hiking boots. Chemical heat packs in boots and mittens can be a big help.
Limit Exposure - if you expect frostbite temperatures for your outing, ensure there are places where participants can take time to warm up.
Buddy System - someone else noticing signs of trouble is sometimes the first indication.