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Backpacker Magazine – October 2010

Survival: Need Fire But Have...No Tinder

When the ground is drenched, look in your pack for dry, flammable fuel.

by: The Backpacker Editors

(Dan Saelinger)
(Dan Saelinger)

Burn This…
› Alcohol-based hand sanitizer A grape-size dab will burn almost invisibly for 90 seconds.

› White gas Though it evaporates in the open air, it does so slowly.

› Cooking oil Unrefined oils work best.

› DEET bug sprays Burning OFF! might create some unhealthy fumes, but it’s worth it if you need a fire.

› Gauze bandages Or paper products like TP, tissue, trash, or playing cards

› Steel wool It lights even when wet.

› Fabric Apply the above fire accelerants to cotton or wool garments, or silnylon. Torn strips of cotton ignite easily and blaze brightly. Tighter weaves burn longer, so shirts and underwear work better than socks.

Don’t Burn…
› Butane from an opened lighter When exposed to air, it evaporates quickly.

› Polyester Synthetics light slowly and melt into a fire-killing plastic residue.


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READERS COMMENTS

Wayne
Oct 30, 2010

@Beth SkeeterBait; Wood that has lain on the ground has more moisture in it than dead branches still on the trees. On the ground, the wood draws dampness from the ground and, because it's on the ground, is not likely to have enough air flow around it to dry it out. A couple pieces of fatwood in your pack along with your firestarting kit should provide enough heat to start damp kindling and smaller firewood.

Bob
Oct 25, 2010

What about carrying a few small candles or a few stumps of old candles?
I found that to work great and creates no risk of mess and will last forever in your pack (even if broken into pieces).
Just melt some over your less than perfect kindling.
Plus it can be emergency light too.
Still needs some dry matches of course!
Got the idea from Jay Jardines backpacking light books.

Patrick
Oct 22, 2010

A slight mod to the petroleum jelly/cottonball theme. After soaking the cotton balls in the petroleum jelly force them inside a 2" length of a drinking straw. Heat and crimp the ends and you have a self contained, compact and waterproof fuel source. When needed slice open the straw, fluff the cotton ball and light. I've used these for almost 30 years.

Patrick
Oct 22, 2010

A slight mod to the petroleum jelly/cottonball theme. After soaking the cotton balls in the petroleum jelly force them inside a 2" length of a drinking straw. Heat and crimp the ends and you have a self contained, compact and waterproof fuel source. When needed slice open the straw, fluff the cotton ball and light. I've used these for almost 30 years.

Patrick
Oct 22, 2010

A slight mod to the petroleum jelly/cottonball theme. After soaking the cotton balls in the petroleum jelly force them inside a 2" length of a drinking straw. Heat and crimp the ends and you have a self contained, compact and waterproof fuel source. When needed slice open the straw, fluff the cotton ball and light. I've used these for almost 30 years.

Amanda
Oct 22, 2010

I had to use bear mace once to start an emergency fire. The temperature had dropped and we didn't have any shelter. Plus we were soaking wet from the river. We couldn't find any dry leaves to start the fire with, so I had the idea of using the mace, since it's highly flammable. It started a great fire but the wind did blow some of it back into my face a little and my lips felt like they were on fire the rest of the night. I used the bear mace like a torch, which is a bit dangerous, a better option would have been to spray the leaves first and then light the leaves.

Steve Cash
Oct 22, 2010

A candle stub works great as a sustained flame to get other tinder lit.

Jason W.
Oct 22, 2010

If it's still raining hard, forget about it and keep moving. Tried everything on this list during a cold, Uintah's downpour last year. Couldn't even get dry, red pine needles to light with waterproof matches(had to dig down to find dry ones). Fires only keep the skin warm anyway- if the core is cold its best to keep moving until you can add hot liquids to warm the inside.

Beth SkeeterBait
Oct 22, 2010

My most recent emergency fire was started with first aid gauze and a tiny first aid sample of polysporin/neosporin. It had plenty of petroleum though. That thing burned for 30 minutes or so, fueling my larger kindling - broken dead branches from trees. Wood off the ground is the driest by far.
Girls backpacking trip for the win.

Michael
Oct 22, 2010

Use a small dab of petroleum jelly on a substrate like cotton balls, paper, etc. A cotton ball covered with it lights easily and burns well for a minute or so. I always carry a small film container with cotton balls covered with petroleum jelly as back-up "tinder" in my pack.

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