5 Ideas for Fire Tinder

Fire Tinder Materials

A while ago I asked readers Do You Have 5 Ways to Make Fire? The article concentrated on fire starters; steel and flight, lighters, and a few less common systems. However, most of those will be useless for building a fire if you don’t have some tinder to put the flame to. Here are 5 great ideas for fire tinder, both natural and homemade.

1. Dryer Lint

Everybody can collect it for free, and even get it from the bottom of your pockets in a pinch. It’s light, compressible, and burns like crazy. Drawbacks are that it really must be dry and lint from some clothes (synthetics) does not burn well.

Cedar Shavings Fire Starter2. Cedar Shavings

Collect the stringy shavings from the bark of a cedar tree for the best (in my opinion) natural fire tinder. Rub it between your hands quickly to create a small fluff ball of shavings that will light quickly.

3. Cotton Ball and Vaseline

This might be the oldest survivalist trick in the book. Coat some cotton balls in Vaseline and store them in a container in your Bug Out Bag. Vaseline (petroleum jelly) is flammable and this set up will burn great for longer than you would expect.

Cattail Fire Starter4. Cattails

Obviously these won’t be available in all areas, but when you can find them the light feathery material inside cattails is like burning paper or cotton. Quick and easy.

Birch Bark Fire Starter5. Birch Bark Shaving

Like cedar, just shave some bark off of a birch tree. The cedar shavings are like stringy wood, whereas birch shavings are basically nature’s paper. Thin, light, and easy to burn. Also very easy to peel off the tree.

Two great products to keep in your Bug Out Bag are “WetFire” and “Fire Paste“.  I have tested both of these products and they are ideal for starting fires in any condition.

What do you use?

I know these are just the tip of the iceberg for survival fire tender. What other natural or homemade fire tinders do you like to use?

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{ 146 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucas_SurvCache March 16, 2010 at 12:25 am

Matt,

Thanks for the comment, that's a really good idea. I'm going to try that soon.

I assume you use paraffin wax? I can see how that would make a great weather coating against wind and water.

I would think most people have a newer fire steel these days instead of flint and steel anyway.

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russianredstar August 26, 2010 at 11:37 am

can you write somthing about were u should put your fire so that it lasts over night/how to make a fire last all night?(for saftey and protection agianst any animal who wants to snack on an easy pray)

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Matt March 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Drier lint soaked in melted wax and rolled up into crude little sticks somewhere between the size of a birthday cake candle and a cigarette works well. It doesn't matter how ugly they are, neatness doesn't much count. Keep them in a ziplock along with some fully wax-coated strike-anywhere matches if you can. I don't know if these firestarters will ignite from a traditional flint and steel, but I know they will from the spark of a modern metallic composition one. These have never failed me in rapidly starting a fire under any conditions – and they're light, small and cheap.

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mary July 18, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I use paraffin and dryer lint. I put the paraffin in a Pyrex cup and set the cup on one of those candle warmers. It gets hot enough to melt the wax, but I don’t have to worry as much about a fire.

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Kevinthenurse September 29, 2010 at 11:18 am

Non-applicator tampons.

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zschell May 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm

A block of magnesium is a great thing to have. It can be shaved with a knife into extremely flammable slivers. Burns very hot. Many come with a fie starter rod on one side. Most hard wood barks if dry can be shaved up for tinder as well.

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Lucas_SurvCache May 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Zschell,

That's a good idea on the magnesium block. I mentioned fire starter rods on my other fire starting article.

I especially like the magnesium because it will not be affected by water at all.

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Montezuma1775 May 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm

If you want to see the Sidewinder, or any of their other products, in action… you can see their product videos here…http://www.streamlight.com/education/?guid=4a8228…

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caine30 May 29, 2010 at 2:25 am

that is a good thing my friend one thing you might want to try is making a fuzz stick and shaving you magnesium into the stick it works wonders and another thing to try is lighting a trioxcine or hexamine tablet with your strikers. just a hint when you make a fuzz stick do it out of cedar or use a pine cone that has laid on the ground for a while they are good.

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zschell May 1, 2010 at 8:39 pm

A block of magnesium is a great thing to have. It can be shaved with a knife into extremely flammable slivers. Burns very hot. Many come with a fie starter rod on one side. Most hard wood barks if dry can be shaved up for tinder as well.

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Lucas_SurvCache May 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

Jon,

I don't guess I've ever burned a ping pong ball because I've never seen that. (Have put one in the microwave though, and they get HUGE)

I'd be real careful about staying away from that smoke because burning plastic is definitely not something you want to be breathing.

Cool idea though.

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Josh April 29, 2010 at 11:44 pm

+1 on char cloth.

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Mountain Mama May 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

HI all–

With regard to the multicolor adhesive bandages that are from a vet supply–Jeffers Equine Catalog. 1-800-Jeffers. I've ordered from them for years. Their surgical and bandage scissors are excellent quality and price, and the Vetrap (or Co-flex) is cheap. Also, the Jeffers Catalog –Pet Version has an earscope for around $13.00 I've been using for kids and also a wound stapling kit for field dogs.

Best of luck,

Mountain Mama

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Tim October 16, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Tampons work great for your med kit too. They stop the bleeding thats what they're designed for. Doc carried them in Iraq for bullet/shrapnel wounds. One guy broke his nose and doc shoved a couple up his nostrils. (I must say he took quite a hazing with those little strings hanging down to his chin ;)

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Petermannc31 May 25, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Out in the west ( Utah and Colorado) I use juniper bark, very easy to make a nest, and set a bow drill fire ember in it and blow it up. I have done this in high winds and 2 feet of snow.

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Lucas_SurvCache May 17, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Montezuma,

Two things:

First, if you do get one, by all means come back and let us know how its working out for you.

Second, the stats you put up don't mention any Lumen output or runtime. How does it compare to the SureFire

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mstrblstr55 May 28, 2010 at 10:10 am

Great site you have here! I use sawdust and paraffin wax. Cover a cookie sheet with sawdust and pour melted wax into the pan thoroughly coating the sawdust. Cool in the fridge and then cut into 1 or 2 inch squares. S-Fold a dozen squares (keeps them from sticking together) using aluminum foil or Saran wrap and put in your kit. They burn long and hot and will easily ignite larger tinder.

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caine30 May 29, 2010 at 2:28 am

that is close to a thing my father makes with wood pellets. a paper cup and old candle wax they work great for starting our woodstove so why not for a camp fire i will have to see how well that works.

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Lucas_SurvCache June 2, 2010 at 6:42 am

mstrblstr,

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoy the site!

Your saw dust/wax is similar to the dryer lint/wax mentioned above, and it sounds like a good one.

When you mentioned rolling it up in foil or wrap I thought perhaps stacking them like you mentioned but putting them down in empty film containers would work also, with no chance of getting wet.

(Though those are getting harder and harder to find in t his digital age)

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Pat. June 7, 2010 at 2:20 pm

I've used pine pitch and pine shavings formed into nuggets, also If your first aid kit has petroleum gauze dressings, they work great for fire starters (like the cotton balls/ Vaseline) but if you cut a small "X" in to one of the flat sides and pull a CM or so of the dressing through the x, light it, it will burn for about 30 min as a nice flat, pack friendly candle. (Thank You SgtMaj Ed F for the candle trick!!!)

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Frank August 27, 2013 at 5:28 pm

If you find a dead pine, you may be able to get some "fatwood" (heartwood) from it. It will smell something like turpentine and will catch very quickly.

Sassafras will burn well even if wet.

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Lucas_SurvCache June 8, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Pat,

Thanks for the tip, that's definitely one I have never heard before: The First Aid Kit Candle. Very cool.

How does it do in weather? Wet?

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Josh June 11, 2010 at 3:16 pm
Brian June 22, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Steel wool. I’ve caught it on fire accidentally in my shop with grinding sparks. You can put it out.

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Brian June 23, 2010 at 9:47 pm

I meant to say “you can’t put it out…” Sorry

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Lucas_SurvCache June 25, 2010 at 7:34 am

Good call on the steel wool Brian, I actually mentioned steel wool and a 9V battery in my other fire article 5 Ways to Make Fire
http://survivalcache.com/survival-fire-starters/

It's one of my favorites because it is absolutely instant. Batteries are subject to cold weather though.

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Brian July 4, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I read your blog about batteries after posting. Great minds, right?

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jarhead03 February 20, 2011 at 4:36 am

If you don’t have a 9 volt battery on hand or its dead you can use your jumper cables and car battery to start a spark.

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Till July 2, 2010 at 8:52 pm

on the dryer lint- in scouts we put the lint in the bottom sections of a carboard container eggs come in, filled with parafin, and then cut them up into a dozen fire starters. slightly bulkier than the stick method

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Lucas_SurvCache July 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm

Till, cool idea. I think I've seen this before. Nice because you can set the egg carton piece on the ground and not have to worry about wet.

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R & D July 8, 2010 at 11:25 am

Ever light a Frito Scoop? Pretty incredible really……and they're tasty. Guess any Frito would work.

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Peter Wilson May 20, 2010 at 6:53 am

Hello from the Great White North!
As a seasoned "Preppie" I've come to believe that 'balance' is the key to this debate. From the sublime to the ridiculous, one could posit that having a multi-tool on their belt is sufficient. Another might feel that nothing less than wearing a Hazmat suit and a full auto AR-15 will do. On a scale of one to ten I would place knowledge at 7, tools at 3. Why? Because knowledge IS power. Without it you are doomed to be just another victim no matter how many 'toys' you have. Basic tools will get you by initially. This will buy you time to assess your situation and improvise. Common sense and risk evaluation are important factors that will determine your survivability in the long term. A positive attitude and a strong will to live are vital qualities that will increase your chance of success. Imho.

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max August 3, 2010 at 9:30 am

hi there just joined up. stumbled accross this site a couple days ago and couldnt stay away haha. another method that doesnt realy have any advantages over the other methods talked about but is still worth a mention is potassium permanganate and glycerin. it burns pretty hot and you dont realy need much. i keep mine in a contact lense case the potassium permanganate in one side and the glycerin in the other for when i dont feel like useing matches.

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RudeBoy_UrbSurv August 12, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Yeah! I second that. Was having a tough time getting a fire going one wet morning, and yes, turned to the tortilla chip method. Works really well. :)

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Dave September 5, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Fritos work great, any type of chip that was cooked in oil will work. So grab a bag of chips before your next outing and you’ll have something to eat as well as a way to get your fire going.

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Plain Brown Tabby July 20, 2010 at 4:39 am

most snack foods and dry cereals will burn very vigorously. all the grease. don't forget your cotton pocket linings in your pants and all the other extra bits of fabric in your clothes in a survival situation.

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Patrick July 28, 2010 at 7:39 am

On top of all those, I take some old 12 gauge shells and 16guage shells and put in the 16 shell a mix of sawdust and turpentine. Then I insert the 16 shell in the 12guage shell. It keeps it from being exposed to any sparks and or being contaminated. But a small pinch of that will burn for a long while; very bright at that.

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RudeBoy August 2, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Steel wool and a 9volt battery. Rub the battery across the steel wool and presto! Fire.
Also, I just wrap cotton twine around newsprint and cover with wix. Pretty easy.

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Shamas August 14, 2010 at 5:53 am

Hand sanitizer like germ-x will burn for a long time.

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Brian September 14, 2010 at 12:49 am

I took a Hunter Training course in Alberta as a young man. Essential to the course was the three minute fire. Since the course was out in the woods west of Calgary and it was December, we all learned this skill relatively quickly. On our first morning the course leaders took us out and back about five miles. After they demonstrated good technique for getting a self-sustaining flame going, we hiked back, stopping every 20 minutes or so to put it into practice. At first, smokers in the group had the advantage with their lighters…but by the end of the day, we were all lighting anything that would burn: pocket lint, witch's hair moss, dead Scotch Broom, Spruce twigs, bark chips, dead grass or whatever came closest to hand…

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Tamed Beast September 24, 2010 at 4:17 pm

When I was a kid we picked the dried clumps of pine tree sap that seem to collect on most pine trees and even if it looks dry and crumbly it burns fantastic! Pine cones covered with gooey pine sap are damn-near incendiary bombs!

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Kevinthenurse September 27, 2010 at 11:47 am

The easiest and most compact that I have found,is my home made "fire paper". I hit-up the lady at the department store perfume counter for those little sample cards (the ones they spray the perfume on to give you a whiff). Its thickness is somewhere between writing paper and thin cardboard it seems to be a cotton card stock… anyway… its fibrous and decently absorbent. I usually cut the paper about 2.5"x3.5" so they fit in my altoid tin as well my pack. I melt candle wax in a double boiler, toss em in, then hang them to dry. I seal them in a small hobby-type zip-lock. I can usually fit 5 sheets in the lid of my tin. Each sheet can be torn into 3-5 tinder pieces. Smaller in a windless situation. They are super compact, ultra light, fit anywhere, very water resistant, take a spark well, and burn slow enough to be very useful. You can literally fit a couple hundred worth of single tinders in a single altoid tin. If anyone knows of a better paper, please post!

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Kevinthenurse October 9, 2010 at 11:02 pm

It seems the "fire paper" is now somewhat commercially produced. Not sure who came up with the idea first. In all honesty, the commercial one probably got the drop on me, considering the time it takes to patent and produce something these days. You can see them here if you care to look. http://www.surplusandoutdoors.com/shop/survival-a…

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Kevinthenurse September 27, 2010 at 12:19 pm

My addition to tinder…….. Its great to know a million ways to start a fire in an emergency. Personally, I find it funny to see die-hard campers/survivalists INTENTIONALLY not take a lighter out in the field or worse… spend $40+ on a super-duper-mega-amazing-lighter/torch/welder "thingamabob" (that eventually gets lost or they don't know how to refill). LETS BE REALISTS the common 99 cent cigarette lighter is super easy. Instead of buying $40 specialty lighters, here is my favorite little do-it-yourself 2 minute upgrade. Take a cheap-o lighter that you can buy at any convenience store counter. (I prefer the see-through kind, so I keep an eye on the fluid level). Take a 3 or 4 inch piece of scrap paracord, make a "U" on the lighter with the cord, leaving enough hanging off the bottom to form a loop. and wrap the sides of the lighter/paracord with a 1 inch wide piece of duct/gorilla tape. Hang it on a carabiner, dog-chain, or wherever you like. I keep several of these just hanging around on the camping bag, B.O.B., workbench. Don't get me wrong. I still keep my emergency fire-skills sharp. but I can make WAY more fires with $7 worth of lighters than I can a $7 mag/ferro bar or $20 blastmatch. The basic fact is a 3 second burn to light your tinder is by far more energy/cost efficient than alternatives. Feel free to critique.

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Joe August 17, 2012 at 10:13 am

I can make WAY more fires with $7 worth of ferro rod. Fire steels work when wet. Work in the cold. Don’t leak. And the skill set to use one makes reverting back to flint and steel or a friction fire much easier. If I have a good ferro rod, a knife and wood to burn I have a fire.
And for those saying, what if you lose your knife? A ferro rod can be sparked with a rock or piece of glass if needed. That same rock or glass piece can be used to scrape fine shavings from your wood for tinder. But since it would be difficult to be separated from my pocket folder, my belt folder,belt sheath knife and my neck knife all at the same time it’s kind of a non issue.

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Longhunter October 1, 2010 at 12:13 pm

Here's a few Ideas I've used in my eighteenth century trekking – raveled jute rope and old bird nests.

A more modern idea is a stake of cotton pads (the ones women use to remove make-up) placed in a Ziplock bag and soaked with lighter fluid. Not a lot but enough to absorb into each pad. They light quick and burn slow enough to get a fire started.

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Travis1978 November 19, 2010 at 10:38 pm

When cutting wood for winter or working in the wood shop keep the saw dust (as long as it isn’t chemically treated wood) place it in a mason jar with some kerosene and mix well. The mix should only be slightly damp to the touch. The fire dust can be kept in a large shoe polish tin for portability when on the go.

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BOSSALINI November 24, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Its funny,but on the real iam a hairy person so thats like a blessing and ill keep growing it every 2-3 days.just something a person might not think about when his/her mind is racing and nervous as shit.Dam,too bad iam bald up top.lol

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Old Scout December 4, 2010 at 3:14 am

I can bring to mind at least nine ways to make a fire using primitive means, however Mr. Tom Brown stated in a Youtube pic. stated that there is actually 26 ways if I remember right. So I've got some work to do yet. By the way, one of those ways uses ice.
The best ideas that I have seen on Youtube is cotton balls soaked in either Vaseline or wax. They catch quickly and burn for a long time from what i saw. One that I have used for a long time is a piece of pure cotton rope, small diameter, threaded through a cheap tin cylinder. You have to burn the end sticking through the tin cylinder when you make it up but after that it will catch and hold a spark quickly. The man who showed me this used flint and steel to light everything, even his cigarettes with this method.

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Everitte December 5, 2010 at 9:02 am

For fire tender I like to use alcohol swabs. They are very thin, don't take up any room even if you carry 100 of them. One will burn hot for some time, Place one of these under your twigs, light it and the fire is born.

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bailey December 5, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Buy a few cheap bars of soap, but them into this strips,
Fill a one gallon ziplock bag about half way with gasoline.. put the soap in gas (use less gas for less soap.)

Shake it up, squeez it, get it all mixed up good.. throw in the fridge over night, should harden up nice and good.

Take it out of the bag, cut into chunks, balls, sticks, whatever you want.
Will burn damn hot, and long.

Stinks like gas though. So best to put into another ziplock bag.

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yarborough2176 December 28, 2010 at 9:12 pm

All five are great sources of tinder and I can certainly attest to cat tails. As a small child, I started an unwanted fire by making a pile of cattail fuzz then sparking it with cap gun caps. They really work well (although it wasn't my intent to be an arsonist!) A personal favorite which someone mentioned before is pine sap. Look towards the base of pine trees and you will find the occassional lump of sticky, yellowish sap. It is an incindiery substance and worth throwing in a baggy for future use. Simply carve off a small, half inch diameter dollop and touch a flame to it.

Michael

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devildoc8404 January 1, 2011 at 7:53 pm

If you are going to take the time to prepare there are a million and one ways to pre-make a "fire starter". The key to everything is absolutely preparation. So prepare for the worst. Lots of fire starters are great, light weight and cheap. A great one to make on your own is one even taught to Boy Scouts. Take a section of News paper and tightly roll it up. Total is about 6 to 10 pages thick and about tow to 2 1/2 feet long. Once tightly rolled, tie it into equal sections with a thick cotton string (I use about 2" sections). Then with a small saw (like a coping saw) cut mid way between each string. Next take each section and dip it in parafin. Then dry, you have a water proof candle-like fire starter that is compact, light and long lasting and a lot of them with very little effort.

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Pepe January 2, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Toilet paper and a squirt of bug juice, cooking oil or fat.. MRE peanut butter usually separates. The peanut oil burns for a long time. The old C- rations used to have tiny tins of peanut butter… Drop in a Trioxane tab and it’ll burn 3 to 4 times longer than the Trioxane alone. In jungle or wet environments standing dead wood sometimes is dry on the inside. Cut through the bark to find if the inside is dry cut into thin shavings and scrape some into dust to catch a spark. In the tropics dry coconut husk or the mesh-like material up towards the palm fronds. Cotton wadding from pill bottles, pillows, furniture, sleeping bags, life jackets, dry mop heads. Polyester fuzzy stuff can be scraped with the side of a knife and create your own lint. Easiest for me is a bic and a tea candle.

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ruger110 January 3, 2011 at 1:14 am

I cheat and keep store bought duraflame logs and matches in my vehicle. It's fun to challenge yourself and practice the more primitive fire building skills, I keep old pill bottles with vaseline soaked cottonballs in all of my packs so I can practice them skills from time to time, they've always worked well for me when I haven't already collected something along the trail. but fire is so critical for survival that you should never take chances and risk not having the ability to build a fire quickly with minimal effort. there might come a time when you need a fire NOW, maybe to signal help, keep away predators or get warm. I mean, what if you're injured, ill or hypothermic? this is not the time to be foraging for tinder and rubbing sticks together. I feel like if I can't produce a decent fire in a matter of a couple minutes then I'm vulnerable.

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ruger110 January 3, 2011 at 1:14 am

I cheat and keep store bought duraflame logs and matches in my vehicle. It's fun to challenge yourself and practice the more primitive fire building skills, I keep old pill bottles with vaseline soaked cottonballs in all of my packs so I can practice them skills from time to time, they've always worked well for me when I haven't already collected something along the trail. but fire is so critical for survival that you should never take chances and risk not having the ability to build a fire quickly with minimal effort. there might come a time when you need a fire NOW, maybe to signal help, keep away predators or get warm. I mean, what if you're injured, ill or hypothermic? this is not the time to be foraging for tinder and rubbing sticks together. I feel like if I can't produce a decent fire in a matter of a couple minutes then I'm vulnerable.

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Danny January 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Just to add to the lint or sawdust and wax suggestion, take the melted combination and use an egg carton to mold them. Then you can break of individual "eggs" and the carton burns as well.

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Kevinator February 5, 2011 at 3:16 am

I used to use the Egg-Carton to make fire starters until my area switched to Foam Egg Cartons. Now, whenever I eat at a fast food burger joint, I abscond with several of their little Ketchup Cups that they provide beside the large Ketchup Pump. They are waxed already, so you just need to pop any decent waxed/oiled/dry kindling inside and fold the tops over onto itself.

Carrying powedered kindling in them or in a tin etc is problematic because the poweder can easily blow away in a breeze. I believe firestarters must be waterproof, AND stay put where you lay them as opposed to paper, or dust which may leave you in a bad way.

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Tidermike14 February 8, 2011 at 8:37 am

New to the site and to prepping. I have a question on the cottonball and vaseline. Do you just coat the outside of the cottonball? or do you pull in apart to coat entirely? Love the site.

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Kevin June 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm

My technique for making the vaseline cotton ball mix is this:

1) put on a latex glove (optional)

2) put approx 1 tablespoon worth of vaseline in the palm

3) add 5 cotton balls.

4) work em together for a minute or so using the fingers to really mix it in there together.

5) store in an airtight container.

Don’t worry about using too much vaseline, more is better, and some is always better than none.

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Andrew February 15, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Rifle or pistol rounds. Take the powder out and us a match on it, or you can take about 3/4 of the powder out and put it in a pile. From there you turn the rest of the shell into a blank, you then shoot the blank at close range at the powder pile. This will most likely blow your kindling to hell, but if your lucky you will have a small amount of burning kindling to start a bigger fire.

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dannyscout February 16, 2011 at 11:13 am

For a survival setting and simple weight cost, I use .22's. They're small, self contained, and if you've got a .22 firearm, it's ammo. Pull the lead load and use the powder to ignite. If you have to use the remaining blank to ignite tinder, (from experience) you're probably only going to scatter it. You need to make a cup/cave to catch the blast and tinder. I've had luck w/ shooting into an empty can/plastic jar. Make sure you've got good tinder though, as this will also blow stuff around. Best luck I've had using this method was shooting into an old bird's nest. The blank roundlit it up great. Here's what doesn't work–don't try to stuff the end of the empty round w/ firestarting material. It'll just go out.

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Doug February 16, 2011 at 9:35 pm

I read recently that one survivalist uses the trick birthday candles as a fire starter. if its hard to blow them out maybe the wind wont either! its worth a try!

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ben2russia February 25, 2011 at 9:30 pm

I stripped the used gun cleaning patches i have for some reason held onto. they are soaked in break free and covered in residue. they burn long and catch well.

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ben2russia February 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm

last time out i used the powder from a shotgun shell and a striker to light a wet fire

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T.Rapier April 5, 2011 at 12:32 am

There is a metal cleaning product called Nevr-Dull . It works fantastic for its intended purpose , its basically a can full of solvent soaked gauze . Just pinch off a bit of gauze and go to town . Its also EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE . A good spark will set a piece of its gauze on fire easily . I packed some in a film canister and put the canister in a zip lock , works great for tender . You can get this stuff at a decent grocery store or an auto supply place . This is kind of a variation of the Vaseline and cotton balls but works better .

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MA3RobbyJ April 9, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Been hearing a lot about pine shavings and pine sap, but I find that pine needles burn even when wet. I don't mean that they'll light right after you pull them out of a lake but you can pull them right off the tree and get a good burn. Collect some the day before and store them in a bag (or any dry place like the bottom of you bug out bag) and they'll burn like a match to gasoline the next day. – MA3RobbyJ

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Pasha April 15, 2011 at 7:04 am

Fatwood, Shoe Goo, 550 cord, silnylon or bits of rubber will all burn very well, as well as wax soaked anything (paper cups, cardboard, cotton, wood chips…etc.)

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Conni April 21, 2011 at 10:42 am

I made a couple candle-like things that I put in my car, B.O.B., and everyday carry kit.
Its very simple. Take a half sized paper towel (or you can tear one smaller)and twist it tightly. Dip in wax, let dry, and voila! (you might want to pinch it a bit while the wax is drying so it stays tight)
I didnt want to mess up any pans, so I just lit a candle, waited for the wax to melt, and then rolled the paper towel around in the wax till it was covered. If you are having issues with the towel catching on fire, just blow out the candle and work fast!
This idea is very similer to the comment at the top of the page, posted by matt

This is an awesome sight. I have seen some really good comments, too.
thank you scott (and others)!

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bob May 7, 2011 at 10:24 am

i use a drop or two of hand sanitizer(alcohol based) on a cotton ball. it flames up burns hot and gets the fire going. i use a magnesium block with the steel and a piece of hacksaw blade to get it going. werks well and always burns.. hand sanitizer is a must have item ..

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GSC May 9, 2011 at 8:42 am

I take a jar of bacon grease with me into the wild. You can cook with it, eat it straight in an emergency, and mixed with dryer lint will burn a long time. And it is free.

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survivalexpert May 24, 2011 at 4:49 pm

my personal opinion is the potrolem jelly balls and they work great in any condion

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Ben228 May 25, 2011 at 9:17 pm

The sawdust wax in cardboard egg carton is trident and true. Have to watch the chemical that are flammable that you use to start your fire: some are extremly toxic. As long as care is taken regarding breathing fumes. In an emergency you might not think that toxic chemical poisoning is an issue but if you impair your lung function enough you have ended your self rescue right there by that fire and end up dead anyways! Granted that most of the contents of your BOB, EDC and GHB aren’t going to be overly toxic but some of the scrounged materials are questionable and care should be taken.

Great advice/ideas!!

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Kyle June 19, 2011 at 12:21 am

There are a thousand ways to make fire, but anyone who has a survival kit that doesn't have several lighters in it is asking for trouble. I can sit there with a flint and a piece of steel and some homemade charcloth and have a great time making it happen, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. All that is just in case I'm ever in a situation where I don't have a lighter on me, which if I have a choice, is never. As for tinder, a few lengths of natural rope will unravel to give you plenty of material to start several fires.

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Sapper_478 July 2, 2011 at 10:51 pm

This last winter I was experimenting with different fire tenders when I came up with the idea to take one of my wife's UNUSED tampons and soaked it in canned inferno. It took one strike with my fire steel and instant flame that lasted a long time. So I cut up the remainder and packed it into a waterproof match case. A couple of months later I went kayaking. When we stopped for a break we decided to start a fire. So I used my little experiment. It didn't work. I even tried a lighter on it and it wouldn't light. So next time I am going to make it the night before and try it again. If it works, lesson learned. Just thought I would share.

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bob September 20, 2011 at 9:04 pm

i soak pine cones in kerosene for 48 hours and dip them in melted parrifin wax to make an awesome fire starter,,,thanks, and good hunting

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Brian October 7, 2011 at 10:31 am

One of the best tinders I have come across is cut up pieces of jute twine coated in paraffin wax. It burn real slow, giving you enough time to start a good fire. I simply cut the twine into 12" pieces and dip it into heated paraffin wax on the stove. I haven't water-tested this, so I'm not sure how waterproof this option is.

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monty5150 October 20, 2011 at 6:22 am

There’s a lot of great tips on starting fires but about taking the fire with you when you move camp? I thought I read somewhere that indians would pack up there coals and could move for days before setting up camp again. They would pack the coals in leather satchels or clay pots, has anyone heard of this? It could minimize the amount of time spent starting fires and would extend you fire starter.

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Joe October 20, 2011 at 1:34 pm

try a tampon and lip balm, both come in a waterproof/ resistant plastic packaging and the cotton on the tampon will catch quite nicely on it's own..

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steven October 24, 2011 at 8:29 am

The cheapest way I have found to start a good fire quickly is a couple of "Sparklers" and a coke (or in my case a beer can). I have done this about 12 times in the last few years while camping. I use a cheap serrated knife to cut the beer can in half and poke a few of holes (4) in the bottom. I bend a sparkler until the magnesium comes off the stick and put it in the bottom of the can. I place the can in the center of my "fire pit" and place small "twigs on top of and in the can. I place the second sparkler in one of the holes and light the end with a simple bic. Magnesium burns so hot that even if the twigs are slightly damp they will burn, instant fire and entertainment for the kiddies. Not a good idea if you are trying to stay incogneto mosquito, but if a fire is all you are looking for it costs a total of about $1 to have enough fuel to start 50 fires, also the sparklers are very easy to carry and offer several other uses in a survival situation (magnesium when compressed explodes very violently.

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jvv26 October 28, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Duck tape works great. Scrape some magnesium on it and it will burn hot and bright enough to light stubborn, wet fuels. I always carry about 10' folded in my wallet and a mag bar on my belt in a multi pouch from home depot

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804HACKSAW October 31, 2011 at 10:13 am

1. One of my all time favorites: shave your pants. Though denim works best, any cotton pant will work. Just take out your knife and shave a small patch of your clothed leg a few dozen times. You'll get a nice little pile of cotton fluff that burns up real good. I know jeans aren't the preferred choice for preppers but they provide a great fire starter that you can wear everywhere you go.

2. Waxy newspaper sushi! Tear up newspaper lengthwise in 1.5-inch strips. Roll into a really tight little log and tie with a long piece of twine. Submerge into melted wax and let sit for a minute or two–until everything in the roll is soaked. Pull out and let cool off. Make up a dozen or more for your BOB, the cars, the fireplace, etc. Then when the SHTF, you can unroll/break these apart and use as much as you need to help build the basis for your fire. Easy to make, fully waterproof, and a lot cheaper than the store.

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big C November 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm

i carryfatlighter the heart of the pine tree stump that is saturated in pitch

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cleatis December 16, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Try cotton balls soaked in PURELL instead of vasoline. Better burn time, burns hotter and you get the added bonus of the purell.

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Joe T January 16, 2012 at 9:13 pm

In my small "Go-Bag", (5.11 Moab 6) I have the following;
1) 25 lifeboat matches in a waterproof container w/2 cotton balls.
2) Pencil shavings in a Copenhagen can.
3) Dryer lint in a Copenhagen can.
4) 1 BIC lighter.
5) 1 fero rod.
It may seem a bit over-the-top, but I'm prepared. lol

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semi-prepped January 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm

sawdust is extremely flamable you don't need to add anything to it just keep it dry. I keep a ziplock bag of sawdust and 1 of dryer lint in my BOB. I am going to add the cotton balls w/ vaseline to it also. Great article lots of good info in he comments as well.

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scott February 8, 2012 at 9:43 pm

BULLETS. Take a round of ammo, pull the bullet off and the powder inside is highly combustible. The cartige and the bullet protects the powder from getting wet. It is like a waterproof container holding a highly flammable substance(powder). Plus if you have more than one and a gun, you can kill the game and use the powder from ayour extra round to help start your fire.

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Michael February 23, 2012 at 8:09 pm

In my little fire kit I keep a little ball of yarn. It seems to work pretty good for me.

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Emerson Tuten February 27, 2012 at 7:55 am

I loved your blog post.Thanks Again. Want more.

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jshicke March 7, 2012 at 9:45 am

A raw peanut will burn about 10 minutes when lit, and it lights easily.

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Canadian Hoggarth March 11, 2012 at 7:29 am

Hi all…farely new to site. First Post__This may already have been mentioned in an earlier post but I'll put it on here anyways. My #1 choice for homemade tinder is, Get a 50' roll of Jute Twine, Parafin Wax, Old Pot (to melt wax in). First thing first melt wax, cut twine for desired length's then drop the twine into the wax leave to soak about 10 minutes. Then pull out and lay on newspaper…and there you have it you now have ready slow burning highly flammable tinder that is best of all 100% moisture and water resistant.__PS- pull twine apart and roll in hand to make nice slow burn of tinder

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Ismet April 16, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Well, I soaked a 1/2" x 2" bar of chipboard (compressed recycled paper ones with dense texture) in liquid vaseline. When I need tinder, I shave the chipboard a little, to form a little pile of tinder – just pne pinch. It quickly cathces fire, lasts long, and the storage is way too easy since it is very compressed in original form.It is cheap and easy to make.

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IK-47 May 5, 2012 at 6:58 pm

What about hair?It can burn and it ignites fast.However,it won't last long due to how fast it ignites.You can also use hair as "signal tinder" due to the foul smell it gives off.I would only recommend using hair as a last resort for creating a fire.And remember:Everybody has hair.

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Wes June 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Take some steel wool (the finer the better), spray it with WD-40 and put it in a ziploc bag. You can start it by just touching a 9 volt battery to it. Simple. It burns really hot and almost turns into a molton state. (Its waterproof also)

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Desch July 8, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Another great overlooked item is plain old waxed paper. It lights fast, wet or dry, and you can fold a 6ft piece to the size of a credit care. About 3 times thicker, but can make hundreds of fire with it. Plus there are may other uses for it in the field.

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Danny July 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm

Don't forget -the bic type lighters are still able to spark without fluid. Easier than flint and steel.

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TRAJAN1 July 12, 2012 at 12:53 am

I have a couple of those small plastic spice jars you get from the super market that that are filled with garlic powder, oregano etc. and stuff em with vaselined cotton balls. A 5 pack of BIC lighters. ($5) And one of those fire striker things with the magnesium block I got for about $5 on AMAZON.com

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Icechild July 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Cotton wool balls, rub vaseline or any other petroleum based gel roll into tight balls then soak in melted wax leave to set and you have a waterproof fire lighter, to use just crack/break or cut open us fire steel and instant flames.

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CherokeeJack July 30, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Hey,dont throw out that old bicycle inner tube! Cut into 2" squares it makes a dandy fire starter,even in the rain! Jut might save yer bacon someday….

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Jack Lane August 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Hey Guys, I just became informed through a vidio on u tube of the ultimite fire tinder. I expierimented with it and now i will use nothing else. Waxed jute twine is fantastic! I take two strands about three feet long, repeat another two times and braid them. in all you will have three pieces to braid. Soak the braid in wax when you're done. Trim the end, then all you have to do is rub it against your hand and fluff the end. It will take a spark off of anything from a lighter to flint or anything that will throw a spark.. it is water prof if wet just trim the end and you're in bisiness,rolls up compact and will last a long time use about 1/2 inch at a time.or even shorter

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Joe August 17, 2012 at 10:45 am

cat tail fluff, chaga, old man’s beard, birch bark, fine scrapings from the inside of any bark, bamboo scrapings, dried grass, fatwood shavings, punky wood… Natural tinders are the best. They will never run out if you constantly collect it. Home made fire starters have limited use. Same for char cloth. At what point do you start burning your clothing to make more char cloth?

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Pjohnson August 30, 2012 at 6:35 am

combination sterno fuel from small bottle and mag bar lights every time!

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ned September 25, 2012 at 1:58 pm

fat wood, in spaainish myra dust, instead of wsting money buying in stores, go and find a rosinny smelling stump and chop away

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David September 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm

In todays world film canisters are becoming a premium item, If you know a diabetic, ask them to save their strip canisters for you. They are smaller but click air tight and will hold three or so cotton balls filled with petrolium jelly, or a good amount of saw dust. As small as they are you can tuck them anywhere.
Of course you will want to use the natural material if you can find it, and it is dry. But if not, then use the home made stuff. It is for a make sure fire when all else fails. Every survivalist would know not to use up your non-renewable resources if there is another way.
These cotton balls work great by the way, 1/2 ball under the small kindling will go up with one spark from the ferro rod, and will burn about 3-5 minutes,

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Mike October 16, 2012 at 1:08 am

I discovered by accident a $4 tube of automotive trim adhesive works as an amazing tinder. Spread the highly inflammable onto a piece on wood and create a large area for sparks. In my opinion it is better than wet fire.

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AKDinny November 2, 2012 at 11:01 am

My most recent discovery is using jute twine (like for gardening) and soaking it in melted wax. I then rolled mine around a credit card to get it nice and flat while it dried. I have the little flat roll of 3-4 feet in my wallet (no plastic baggie required). with only a foot of it you can pick it apart or use your knife to "shred" up the twine and make a wonderful fire nest for housing a spark of any kind. With the wax it burns for much longer than a conventional nest,and it's water proof, plus its easier than finding moss, birch bark, cedar shavings or carrying stuff in plastic baggies. I had never used a ferro rod until recently and found that my little jute twine nest of only 1 foot of line ignited on the first strike and burned for about 1 and a half minutes. I was also successful at striking an alcohol prep pad on fire on the 2nd try, it burned for 10-15 seconds. I carry both in my wallet daily and i like things that can be used more than one way. In a pinch you may be able to use that twine to tie something.

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AKDinny November 2, 2012 at 11:23 am

A hexamine fuel block got me out of a jam once. My buddy and I were grouse hunting in AK at -30, yes that's thirty degrees below zero. Once we shot our birds we gutted them there on the spot and he had his propane/butane camp stove going so we could warm/dry our hands while we prepped the birds. After a bit the stove went out due to propane not flowing at such extreme temps,leaving us with wet/bloody hands, no fire and -30. In this situation you have about 20-30 seconds before your hands won't function at all. I ripped into my kit and pulled out a hexamine block and lit it with a standard butane lighter that I was wearing on a rope around my nice warm neck. We laid it on a stump (3-4 feet of snow everywhere else) and lit it we warmed our hands on that little thing until they were dry enough to put back in our gloves, then proceeded to get a real fire going. That hex block continued burning for the whole time that it took us to gather the firewood from the forest and build a "snow raft" for the fire to sit on without getting smothered. Since then I carry these hexamine blocks everywhere.

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Nick November 18, 2012 at 10:29 am

Use some steel wool and a 9v battery. Touch the battery to the steel wool and it ignites.

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Irene November 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

alcohol prep pad. A box of 100 is really chaep and good for the first aid kit, too. Tear the corner of the pad and add your flame.

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WoodsYve January 16, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I keep cotton balls soaked in kerosene in a small airtight container. They light every time, even in wet weather with wet wood and keep burning. When I need something NOW, these have never failed me.

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survival guy February 14, 2013 at 9:05 am

you know what i do, i save dryer lint and newspaper trimings ind shove them in a brown paper bag and staple it closed instant fire tinder

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dirtdart1501 February 27, 2013 at 5:15 pm

a 9 volt battery and fine steel wool makes a good starter.

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Patrick8mm April 27, 2013 at 8:45 pm

If I am correct. Pine Trees are good tinder because of the High oil contant in the wood. I know I have use it for tinder before. it works great.

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Fred May 21, 2013 at 8:57 pm

2 thoughts, mothballs wrapped in newspaper for tinder, and a magnifying glass, or a lens from eyeglasses, binoculars, etc.- the sun lights the paper if the lighter gets wet.

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Nate W. August 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Pour a butt load of gasoline on it! But seriously, a friend of mine made some little fire starters out of her facial wipes. They are thin white circular pads for removing dirt/oil from your skin (girl stuff). But the pads contain a large amount of alcohol an burn great. She covered them with melted wax and allowed them to dry. They burn for about 2 min. They are light and can be stacked in a bag. Drawback: not lightable w/ a spark, it needs direct flame. And depending on the brand it can be a bit smelly b/ some are scented (like when you were a kid and put a flame to hairspray, that smell).

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jamesbondsman August 27, 2013 at 4:52 pm

"on the dryer lint- in scouts we put the lint in the bottom sections of a carboard container eggs come in, filled with parafin, and then cut them up into a dozen fire starters. slightly bulkier than the stick method"

Good idea!

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MSgt, retired November 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I also think that cheap disposable lighters are the most sensible way to start a fire, though I keep other methods available just in case.

However, do NOT use the cheapie Chinese models you find everywhere — you're usually lucky to get a week out of those junky things. Haviing been a smoker for 50 yrs I consider myself a bit of an expert on the subject, and only buy Bic disposable lighters. I estimate that, used carefully, you get over a thousand lights from each lighter and they only cost about a buck apiece. They also have a long shelf life — I found a 6-pack I had buried in a drawer for about 4-5 years and didn't notice any degradation in performance. I suspect that any name brand , like Ronson, might do as well as Bic but haven't personally tried them.

Also, don't just toss the disposable lighters when the fuel runs out. Take them apart carefully with a pair of needlenose pliers & get the remaining flint, which is usually about half an inch long. Cut them into 1/4" lengths with wirecutters to use in your Zippo lighter. It takes some practice to extract the remaining flint since it'''s spring-loaded, and a similar problem arises with cutting flints since they want to fly all over when they snap. Best method is to snap it with the wirecutters, inside a plastic bag to catch the two pieces. I now have a medium-sized pill bottle full of extra FREE flints for the Zippo. I also bought a huge supply of Zippo flints on eBay, figuring that they will be high-demand trade goods. I also keep a dozen or so cans of lighter fluid stashed for my own use & trade goods.

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Roger December 26, 2013 at 10:10 pm

I like to carry tea-light candles (as well as a lantern made to burn them), because I can carry 5-7 of them in a pill bottle in my survival vest (and 3 in the lantern as well as more in my GOOD bag) so they don't get crushed very easily. Also, between each tea-light I place a cotton pad (make-up removers) to keep them from melting into one big blob and if I need to start a fire with damp wood, then take the wax out of the metal cup, place the cotton pad in, put wax back in, light the center wick, and place the candle under a 'tipi' of sticks or even under the end/side of a log and lean sticks up against the log over the candle. The cotton pad will ignite and become a circular wick that puts out a lot of flame. These also work well as fuel for small stoves like Esbits, as you can select how much heat you want by adding or removing candles. The metal cup keeps the wax from flowing away and is easily moved with a plier-style multi-tool; and who doesn't have one of those? Plus, wax has many other uses such as waterproofing fabrics and the candles are dirt cheap and readily available!

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JasonLaPort January 26, 2014 at 6:56 am

I found a short broken branch on my spruce tree out front and decided to test it. I bust off a piece and then using my knife at a 90 degree angle I scraped off some fine fluffy dust and made a small pile. It took a few tries but I was able to finally hit it with a spark and I did get a flame. Next time I'm gonne take my time and make a much bigger pile and set that onto some thicker shavings.

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Joseph Friday February 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm

A long time ago, in a kinder and gentler USA, I was in the BSA and learned how to start a campfire in all kinds of weather conditions! We would take wet wood, for example, and split it to get at the drier parts and peel it out with a knife or make a fizzle stick and build the fire around it! Of course some of us on our own used other things like a couple lines of model airplane glue on the tinder in windy conditions or using a match to light up a spray of right guard (kind of a mini flame thrower) as potential options during a survival situation or lone/buddy (3 or less) camping trip and getting a fire started was no test for rank or proficiency involving a merit badge! As a Boy Scout we had to recall our motto – Be Prepared in all situations! So sad that scouting does not get the credit it should! I did go on to make Eagle scout and have always cherished my times in scouting and passed the bush skills along to my children and grandchildren when they were tired of playing video games!

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Caleb April 11, 2014 at 7:20 am

Crayons can burn for fifteen to thirty minutes. Also, keeping an old phone book is handy. The pages are light and highly flammable.

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henry June 18, 2014 at 1:38 pm

one of my favorites is to drop a can of sterno down into my pack and when needed dip some out with a stick and use a fire steel and there you go, instant fire

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Jake June 24, 2014 at 7:28 am

I use sawdust and gulf wax made in a shallow pan. Once dry, cut into small squares, wrap in wax paper, then wrap the wax paper and firesquare in some waterproof cloth tape (which can be removed and used for other purposes if needed). A 1″x1″ square will burn for about 10 minutes and is quite wind resistant.

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eric February 20, 2011 at 5:36 am

I have used sawdust from woodworking projects and paraffin or used candle wax to make fire starters for a long time. Fairly light and obviously waterproof they are great for camping trips or fireplaces in the winter. I find an old icecube tray works well to pour the mix into.

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Jeff March 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm

I LOVE that idea. Takes it to the next entire level….. I see a project on the horizon.

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gunner February 22, 2012 at 3:55 pm

We used to roll 2" wide strips of newspaper in parafin and add a string "fuse" also dipped in wax. We rolled them about 3/4" in diameter and had great firestarters for even damp tinder.

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@drdougfalke April 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm

So sweet! I love it. Great ideas. Thanks Kevin

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don in dallas June 14, 2011 at 7:40 am

They can be used for cleaning out a shotgun barrel :>) and can be used to separate the toes whilst painting them…;-)

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Kristal February 25, 2012 at 8:35 pm

When soaking up water you gater some with that if you don't have you bandana in you bob

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themoth May 1, 2011 at 8:38 am

Pack a three ounce paper cup with lint and then pour in the wax, gets even wet wood burning.

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Kevinthenurse June 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Thanks for the shotgun cleaning tip Don. Due to the economy, I have had to adjust my budget. I have opted to no longer purchase toenail polish. It is a luxury that, as a woodsman, I will no longer be able to enjoy. Instead I have learned that if I abstain from washing my feet, my toenails take on a natural greenish-brown hue. This seems to match my late fall color wheel of OD green, tan, brown, and ACU camo. As always, I appreciate your tips on all matters of forest fashion! Don't forget…. ACU camo is the new black!

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Kevinthenurse June 14, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Thanks for the ingenious tip Bossalini. I decided to try the "hairy fire-starter" tip. It worked very well. I was able to light smaller twigs using this technique, which in turn allowed me to build upon it until I had a nice fire. I too am bald up top which leaves fewer options when utilizing this method. One very important aspect of this technique, which I believe you mistakenly left out was REMOVE THE HAIR FIRST. I'm writing this from my hospital bed. Must go for now, the nurse just walked in to apply the burn cream to my testicles. Too bad she looks like Herman Munster!

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Halfstar001 July 29, 2011 at 9:17 pm

+2 on char cloth

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bamahrt October 12, 2011 at 7:47 am

Try cutting bicyle innertubes into one inch squares. They are light weight and water proof.

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bamahrt October 12, 2011 at 7:57 am

Try cutting rubber tubing into one inch squares. they are lightweight and compact

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steven October 24, 2011 at 7:56 am

A good idea, they work really well, however if you have a woman around you might want to save those. Also they would be excellent for barter if everything really goes to hell.

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frank August 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm

The multipurpose tampon….. work well in first aid kits also…

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steven October 24, 2011 at 8:05 am

Hey I had one of those shoved up my nose after taking a fairly good shot. They stop the bleeding fairly quickly just make sure the person doesn't lay on their back if they are in anyway unconsious or in trouble of becoming unconsious. They may actually choke on their own blodd as it backs up down their throat. I keep some in my own field med kit for pretty much the same purpose.

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Chris July 11, 2012 at 9:38 pm

Same with rugby– hits to the face mean a tampon in the nose. Some guys don't ever live it down.

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kworde February 14, 2012 at 6:44 pm

A AA battery and fish hook to under the flat end and then make the same connection

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Canadian Hoggarth March 11, 2012 at 7:36 am

What you are talking about is called pine pitch and has a 100 uses….from cure sore tooth to patching a boat…mother earths natural chewing gum also

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Gmod April 16, 2012 at 10:44 pm

I use this method and my egg carton/lint/wax mixture will burn for at least 15 minutes up to 30.

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Chris July 11, 2012 at 9:34 pm

I thought the gum in chewing gum was originally natural?
Just kidding you. Nice to see another Canadian on the site. Can't let the yanks have all the fun then the SHTF

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Chris July 11, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Oh crap, I almost fell over laughing. I love it.

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Frank August 27, 2013 at 5:25 pm

I will have to try this one….. i have used the plastic spoon from an MRE. Not a real big flame but it burns for several minutes.

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