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Backpacker Magazine – January/February 2010

Readers' Best Advice: No-Fail Firestarters

by: BACKPACKER Readers


» A wad of dryer lint and one of those trick birthday-cake candles. —“Atvtuner”


» Dryer lint soaked with rubbing alcohol, carried in an old prescription bottle. —Mark “ed dog” Blanchfield, Farmington, NM


» Alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel. —Dustin “BoomerHiker” Hughes, Sand Springs, OK

» Cardboard cut into one-inch-wide strips (sandwich-baggie length) and soaked with paraffin. Thirty minutes of work makes a couple of years’ worth of starter. —Patrick “Sticks” Jones, Louisville, KY


» Birch bark. When you see some dry birch bark on a fallen tree, peel it off and stick it in your pack. —A. Ross “Bansko” Meeker, Lander, WY


» Get a Dixie cup and fill it with dryer lint and wax. —Matthew “hiker1025” McKenna, Philadelphia, PA 


» I make starters by using a cardboard egg carton, filling in the cups with sawdust, and pouring melted wax (canning paraffin) over it. Then I break each section apart. The wax makes it more or less waterproof, and each “cell” burns quite a while. —Leafwalker


» I use cotton balls with petroleum jelly, but stuff them into a four-inch-long McDonald’s straw (fatter than other straws) by pulling the cotton balls into a string and pushing them into the straw with a matchstick. Then I seal the ends by holding them shut with pliers and melting the ends in a flame. To use, just cut off one of the ends, pull out and fluff a bit of cotton, light, and apply to your tinder. —Steve “grampabarber” Barber, La Mirada, CA

» Get some corrugated cardboard. Tear off one side of the paper so that the ridges are exposed. Roll it up. Tie it up with twine. Dip in wax. Cool. Dip again. Cool. Repeat. Cut to size. —Wayne “WicksWanderer” Wicks, Blue River, CO

QUICK BURN

I picked up this trick from a veteran Army Ranger who taught my Boy Scout troop: When building a fire outside of a pan, dig an X into the ground. I make the arms three to four inches wide, two to three feet long, and about two inches deep. This helps air pass into the base of your tinder, ensuring plenty of oxygen if you’re drying damp wood.


Patrick “Plandr5” Landry, 
Baton Rouge, LA



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Ron King
Mar 03, 2011

A good place for emergency tinder, like Coghlans or Wetfire, is a 35mm film can. These are plastic and totally waterproof. The caps fit very tightly to keep out moisture. They are also sturdy, and will protect Wetfire tinder from being crushed. Each film can will hold six Coghlans cotton type tinder balls. Put an Army or Scout Swedish Firesteel and the film cans in one of those small digital camera cases and you're all set.

ron
Feb 18, 2011

I always carry "magic" birthday candels, the kind you can't blow out they will definitely get the small kindling going when all else fails.

Mark in TN
Mar 06, 2010

Waterproof Firestarter Recipe:
Take a penny wrapper, insert a penny in the bottom, stuff with 4 triple-size (or 10 regular) cotton balls, insert another penny and fold the end closed, then dip 4 or 5 times in melted wax.
To use: cut the starter in half, pull out a bit of cotton, and light it. Half of one will burn for 7 minutes.

Mark in TN
Mar 06, 2010

Waterproof Firestarter Recipe:
Take a penny wrapper, insert a penny in the bottom, stuff with 4 triple-size (or 10 regular) cotton balls, insert another penny and fold the end closed, then dip 4 or 5 times in melted wax.
To use: cut the starter in half, pull out a bit of cotton, and light it. Half of one will burn for 7 minutes.

Doc
Feb 04, 2010

It might not appeal to purists, but a small amount of used (or new) diesel oil will ignite just about anything and is easy to carry in a small plastic bottle...

JW
Jan 25, 2010

Cotton balls, petroleum jelly, metal match. Will light in a down poor and have good burn time. Keep mine in a water proof match case.

JW
Jan 25, 2010

Cotton balls, petroleum jelly, metal match. Will light in a down poor and have good burn time. Keep mine in a water proof match case.

Randy Ensminger MD
Jan 23, 2010

The best fire starters I've found over 40 years of Camping in a wide variety of situations is a extra large cotton ball dipped half way into melted wax (I used wax tarts when they have lost their smell). The cotton on top is then coated with a flammable substance such as hand sanitizer, petroleum jelly, fire paste, cooking oil or anything similar (my favorite is 1/2 cooking oil + 1/2 lard which is great to apply to your cookwear as well). These start easily with flint and steel or any other flame source and burn for about 5 minutes, easily long enough to get most any fire started. They fit well into a round altoids tin sealed with electricians tape.

Codie Hellman
Jan 23, 2010

I have always carried Coghlans Emergency Tinderís and a Light My Fire Firesteel. Both together weigh almost nothing, they work in damp conditions and each Tinder burn for almost five min. I carry four or five tinders in a waterproof match tube also sold by Coghlan.

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