I'm sure most of you can agree that a solid campfire can make or break any camping or backpacking trip. It cooks your food, and keeps you warm at night. Logically, one of the most important things to pack is an ample supply of fire starter! A good fire starter can get you a blazing fire in a matter of minutes. But instead of shelling out a bunch of money for the chemical-stuffed factory-made fire log, or even worse carrying highly flammable lighter fluid in your pack, why not make your own fire starter with materials you already have?
Hopefully, this Instructable will help you help do just that! I'll show you 3 common methods for making fire starter out of everyday household items. This way you can customize it for your own needs, you know exactly what's in it, and you have the satisfaction of knowing that what you make is just as good (if not better) than what's on the shelf. Not only will this be really cheap (if not free), but the whole process can be done in less than a weekend!
- cotton balls
- vaseline (petroleum jelly)
- hemp or jute (any kind of fibrous natural cordage)
- paraffin wax (old candles work just as well)
- wood shavings and/or sawdust
- waxed paper
- baking tray (optional)
- cup cake tray
- cup cake wrappers
- glass jar (make sure it's ok to boil)
- ziploc bag
Step 1: COTTON JELLY
That's all there is to it! I made sure to cover the cotton ball pretty well and then stuck it right into a ziploc bag and you're all set. Make as many as you like, i ended up making about 10 or so.
Step 2: WAX DIPPED CORDAGE
To make this you first have to scrape/shave your wax into flakes (this helps it melt faster). Fill your jar about 2/3 of the way (but make sure you have plenty more, as this stuff will melt down to about 1/2" worth of liquid), and set it into a pot with about 1 1/2" of water. Set the stove to med-high and let it sit until the wax is completely liquid (stir it every few minutes to break up any big pieces).
While your wax is melting, cut your cordage into about 4-6" pieces, or whatever size will fit into your storage container. I use plastic tube vaults. They're cheap, tamper proof, water proof, and small enough to fit just about anywhere.
Once your cordage is cut and wax has liquefied, simply take your pieces and stir them around in the jar for a few minutes to soak up the wax. I use a bamboo skewer to mix, stir, and fish out the jute. After they soak, pull them out and place them flat onto a piece of waxed paper or baking tray to dry for about a half hour or until they feel dry and stiff to the touch.
Step 3: WOOD-WAX FIRE PUCK
Once the cups are all full and your fresh batch of wax has melted, carefully take the jar out and place a bamboo skewer, or a chopstick, or pencil....something thin and pointy across the opening of the jar to help you decant the hot wax without spilling any.
Slowly pour the wax over each cup. Try to cover as much of the wood as possible. You don't have to fill it to the top as long as the majority of the wood is submerged or at least covered in wax.
After you've filled all the cups, just let it sit for about 4 hours (overnight is probably best), and once they dry you've got pre-wrapped fire pucks ready to go!
Step 4: FIELD TEST!
In order to see just how useful a good fire starter can be, and to determine how well each of these three methods perform, I decided to test them and see how they compare to each other using what i consider to be the three most important criteria for an excellent fire starter.
1. It needs to ignite easily. This kind of goes without saying, but you simply can't have a fire if your fire starter won't light! Now, assuming all of mine will ignite, i'll judge them on how easily they take a spark.
2. It needs to maintain a flame. It doesn't matter if you can get your fire starter to burn hotter than the surface of the sun...if it can't sustain a flame for more than a few seconds, you might as well call it quits. The longer my fire starter stays lit, the better.
3. It needs to be easy to use. Nobody wants to be fumbling around trying to hold onto a fire starter or keep it from falling apart in the middle of a downpour, as the sun is setting, or when you need to get cooking. How easily and quickly i can deploy and use my fire starter will determine it's usefulness.
As an added test i compared each fire starter material by itself and with Vaseline or wax to demonstrate the difference. I also did a wet/dry test to simulate rainy or wet conditions
- quick to light
- not as good wet, but still usable
- very messy
- moderately easy to light
- almost no change wet or dry
- very compact
- a little difficult to prep
- difficult to light
- no real change wet or dry (the difference was so minimal i omitted it from the video)
- moderately compact
- very difficult to prep (i would consider altering the "recipe" for better results)
I'm sure there's plenty i didn't cover here, and if you have any helpful hints or tips please share in the comments below.
Hope you enjoyed, thanks!