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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

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Survive With...Egg Crate, Dryer Lint, and a Candle

Individually, dryer lint, cardboard egg crates, and candles seem pretty unglamorous -- not to mention useless as survival tools. But combine them and they transform into an unstoppable, rainproof firestarter. Snow, wind, mud: We’ve tested this nuclear option in the worst conditions, and it’s the best we’ve ever tried. Here’s how to make one.

    Tags:

firestarter


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READERS COMMENTS

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granpadavid
Aug 01, 2014

I had my chemistry students make and test some of these years (14?) ago. Wax is the fuel. Same as in candles. The wax has to melt and vaporize in order to get the best results. All the other material is simply providing sites for the vapor to form most easily. Same as a candle. The stink is a result of the hair and dead skin cells in the lint. Some may also come from the egg carton depending on how clean it is. The egg carton is made of fibrous and flammable material.
So, I suggest a couple of changes. Leave the carton intact while making the fire starters. The lid can act as a handle to steady the carton or slide it across a surface while pouring wax. If odor bothers you in a survival situation, use cotton balls or old cotton or flannel shirt material instead of lint. Put the cotton or cloth in the open cups of the carton. Fluff this material so a LARGE number of fibers are sticking up and out of the cup. These will be tiny little wicks that will increase the surface over which the wax will vaporize. Also, these will provide many more points for ignition to start the process of wax melting and vaporizing.
Wax melts at temperatures below the boiling point of water. A can such as the one that held my ranch style beans can be used to hold the wax in order to melt it. Set the can in a sauce pan or other small diameter pan and keep enough the wax level in the can below the water outside. This will let the water move heat to the can and wax and help prevent the can from falling over while heating. DO NOT make the pan too small across or you may launch the can out of the tight fitting pan. Hot wax is not fun when unexpectedly applied. I highly recommend a pair of tongs to handily the wax can. However, by using a metal can, you can also use pipe pliers (channel locks...) which have a bend or angle between the handles and the jaws. I keep wax in the can when not making fire starters.
Put several layers of newspaper on your counter or table top and cover with a layer of aluminum foil. Put the stuffed egg crate or carton with the lid open on the foil. Slowly, slowly pour the wax in the pockets of the carton. Let the wax soak into the material of the carton and build up on the "flinter" of you choice in the cups. Cover the carton material with wax if you wish. It will help with water resistance. I would suggest turning the cooled carton upside down on the foil and putting a layer of wax on the underside.
The result for my students was a mass of fibrous material saturated with wax that could be placed on a small flat surface, either cup up or cup down, that produced much more heat and light that any of us expected.
The finished cups can be cut apart and wrapped in wax paper or pushed together to large pill bottle along with matches and a striker strip.
If the fire starter gets wet, rough up the waxed surfaces to expose "dry" fibers for lighting.
In class, we were able to boil water in small cans with one of these simple little devices. Just remember, the more fibers acting as wicks, the more heat released.
If you do not have old candles lying around to use or wax, you can get wax at hobby shops that sell candle making supplies.
NEVER melt the wax in a container directly on a stove or hotplate burner. ALWAYS use a double boiler. (one pan of water passing heat to another pan).

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Adam
Jun 01, 2014

Made these today, the wax didn't quite make it "waterproof" like I was expecting, however, I think it will be mostly water resistant. I am keeping them stored in a waterproof container to be on the safe side.

I kept the floss long after dipping, it makes a nice fuse if using matches or a lighter. If you are planning on using a fire striker, open up to expose the flinter for easier lighting.

The wax doubles as a nice fuel source so it burns longer than it would without it. Overall, I would make these again.

Star Star Star Star Star
Adam
Jun 01, 2014

Made these today, the wax didn't quite make it "waterproof" like I was expecting, however, I think it will be mostly water resistant. I am keeping them stored in a waterproof container to be on the safe side.

I kept the floss long after dipping, it makes a nice fuse if using matches or a lighter. If you are planning on using a fire striker, open up to expose the flinter for easier lighting.

The wax doubles as a nice fuels source so it burns longer than it would without it. Overall, I would make these again.

Star
Bill
Apr 16, 2014

The only problem with dryer lint is that it stinks when it burns. Paraffin- or wax-coated cotton balls work just as well without the smell and are smaller and easier to store...

Star
Bill
Apr 16, 2014

The only problem with dryer lint is that it stinks when it burns. Paraffin- or wax-coated cotton balls work just as well without the smell and are smaller and easier to store...

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Bo Dane
Apr 12, 2014

Great tool that recycles two things I used to throw in tge garbage.

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Bo Dane
Apr 12, 2014

Great tool that recycles two things I used to throw in tge garbage.

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Bo Dane
Apr 12, 2014

Great tool that recycles two things I used to throw in tge garbage.

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PackRatt
Apr 11, 2014

I've done this for years using sawdust instead of Drier lint

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Jason
Apr 11, 2014

Ive been making these for a couple of years now. Great way to use my egg cartons and dryer lint vs. tossing them out.

Star Star
mcm
Mar 27, 2014

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