Ideally we would be able to confidently go out into the wilderness without some form of fire starter and know that despite that, we could get a fire going in no time. Yet unless you have been practicing primitive fire starting skills and know the proper materials to look for in order to use those skills, most of us need some form of help getting a fire going. In any survival kit some form of fire starter, tinder, should be included. When putting together your kit, here are the top 7 fire starters that you should consider including.
Wetfire – Wetfire is a purpose made synthetic fire starter compound that can be bought at most outdoor stores. Wetfire is small and extremely lightweight. It comes in the form of little white waxy cubes and depending on your ignition source can be broken down into smaller pieces to accommodate that source. Once lit it burns extremely hot but each cube’s burn time lasts long enough to get bigger kindling going. With the proper preparation you shouldn’t need more than one cube to get your fire started. The amazing thing about Wetfire? This fire starter cube will stay lit even if dropped into a bucket of water. It will literally float around in the bucket on fire. My number one fire starter to keep in my kit, hands down. Cost: $7-12
Petroleum Jelly Cotton Balls – One of the easiest and most effective self-made fire starters that I have used has to be the mixture of petroleum jelly and cotton balls. Very lightweight and really packable because you can just smash all of it down into a little ball and pull it apart as needed. It is obviously a little messy so some form of storage solution is needed but a ziplock back will suffice. This fire starter takes a flame very well and also has a pretty good burn time. Cost: Free to less than $10 depending on the size container of petroleum jelly and bag of cotton balls you buy
Char Cloth – Char Cloth is another DIY fire starter that is easy to make and really effective. It is made by putting some form of vegetable fiber (usually cotton or linen) into a small tin (or any sealed container that can withstand fire) and cooking it on campfire coals. The process of pyrolysis turns the cloth into a material that has a very low ignition temperature but is slow burning. Exactly what you want in a fire starter. Cost: Free
Dryer Lint – The fuzzy stuff that comes off your cloths after they get out of the dryer or what you scrap off the lint trap is another great fire starter. It is super dry and because of its fibrous nature takes a flame with very little effort. Collect in a medicine bottle and use as is or you can combine it with an old egg carton and some wax and make waterproof fire starter pucks. Cost: Doing your laundry, $1?
Pitchwood (Fatwood) – The resin (sap) that a pine tree secretes is released in massive quantities when a tree falls, is cut down by man or lightning. The resin is part of the tree’s natural healing process and saturates the wood of the stump left in the ground. This resin hardens the wood and waterproofs it, as well as making it very flammable. You can literally drop a piece of this into a bucket of water and pull it out and it will take a flame. Look for pale lime green wood in pine stumps and smell it for a Pine Sol smell. The great part is that you can find this yourself as long as there are Pine trees around. Cost: Free (If you can find it) or Light My Fire sells Fatwood as “Tinder on a Rope” for $6
Firestarter Sticks – Are generally cardboard wood and wax pressed into breakable sticks that look like a Kit-Kat bar. These work really well because they can be shaved down small enough to take a spark, ignite fairly easily and burn for a long time. When I haven’t taken the time to make anything of my own and the local camping shop doesn’t have any Wetfire available this is my go to frustrater to throw in my bag. Cost: $5-6
Pine Trees – I know, I know, I already mentioned Pitchwood, which is pine, but seriously Pine trees are natures go to all in one fire solution. You can get all the kindling you will need by taking the dead low hanging branches in the trees and processing it. You will get small pencil lead sized twigs all the way to finger sized and bigger which will get you from spark to flame to roaring inferno all from one source. How do you get it to take a spark? Haven’t you been practicing making a feather stick? No? Get on that, pronto. Cost: Free
Purell – You might even have this one in your bag already but never thought to use it as a fire starter. If you read the label it cautions against getting this stuff near and open flame because it is flammable. It works well to get an initial flame going but does not burn very long, but of course this isn’t its primary use and should be seen as a redundancy to your primary fire starter. Make sure to have plenty of small kindling on hand in order to nurse your budding flame to life. Cost: $.99 and up depending on the size of container
“Trick” Birthday Candle – These work great because they have a really long burn time. They can be reused again and again if you are economical with getting kindling burning from the candle and then putting it out. Also they are pretty much waterproof which is always a plus. Problem with them is that good luck trying to get the wick started via spark. Cost: Less than $5