Emergency Campfire Starter




I'm a Special Education Teacher with 7 kids. I use donated and salvaged tech to teach STEM with m...

I went camping and found myself 10 miles from the nearest camp store and with wet logs (thanks to a sudden storm). I had neglected to bring any lighter fluid and needed to find a way to get a campfire going. I began to scavenge our supplies for what i could find, knowing I needed some form of oil and alcohol.

This is much safer than siphoning gasoline from your car, which I do not suggest you try. (no I didn't try it first :)

Step 1: Materials

  • obviously fire wood ..haha
  • bacon grease or cooking oil (used or new)
  • some form of light fuel (alcohol, lighter fluid, hand sanitizer)
  • matches/lighter

Step 2: Steps

  • Stack your wood how you like. I started with a little dry wood stacked into a box shape. I dropped a piece of burning toilet paper into the center to light it.
  • For large logs, don't waste time trying to cut them short, just lay the middle over the fire and let the fire do the work for you.
  • Mix your grease/oil with about 1/2 ounce of hand sanitizer or other form of alcohol. I suggest using fresh cooking oil, if possible. The bacon grease and used oil work just as well, but they create dark smoke that really soaks the smell into your clothing. Don't worry about the smell attracting bears, if you cooked bacon for breakfast they are already there.
  • Dip a small piece of toilet paper into the mixture and set aside.
  • Pour half of your mixture onto your stack ready to be lit and the rest on the longer wet logs.
  • Place the wet logs around your fire so that he heat will help dry them out a little
  • Use the toilet paper to ignite your fire.

Step 3: What's the Point?

Why bother with all this? The cooking oil burns for a long time and allows the wet wood to finally dry out and burn. However, it is very difficult to actually ignite on it's own. Hand sanitizer ignites very well, but will not last as long. This gives you a good mixture for a long-lasting fuel that lights well in a pinch.

I'm sure there are other methods to this and even products you can buy. But if you need to come up with something out of what you have on you, it works really well.



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    14 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    this is a chemical kin to napalm. the princle is the same - petrolieum product plus cumbustible thickening agent = something napalm-ish.

    by the way - a very effective firestarter is simply some toilet paper or paper towels drizzled with a bit of fresh cooking oil. this is generally how i ignight columns of charcoal when grilling at home, without using any bbq lighter fluid.

    serioursly, while having a handy firestarter like this is very useful, would suggest practicing with kindling of ever increasing size. It is mastery of the more difficult survival tasks in practice that will save your life in a bad situation. This week alone, Ive seen two news stories about seasoned hikers getting lost and dying while exploring trails not too far beyond the everyday.

    this is a great idea! i had to start a fire with leaves, wet wood and notebook paper. pain in the neck... anyways i have to ask, would the hand sanatizer pose a risk if you tried cooking food over the flame? I have heard a few stories about people getting sick from similar ignition solutions.

    2 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    I don't know the answer to that for sure. It is mostly alcohol, so I would assume that once you let it burn off it will be fine. The small amount used in this instructable wouldn't really be enough to cause an issue I think.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I mixed it about 20/80. If you can't get it started you need more sanitizer. Keep in mind if your wood is very wet the more oil you can use, the better chance you will have getting the wood to light. I just saw the cautionary comment below. Keep that in mind and make sure your hands are clean and dry before using an accelerant to light a fire.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable, I was distinctly reminded of a Molotov cocktail.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice! Good thinking - I'll keep that one in mind.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    use caution when using the high alcohol content hand sanitizers, i read a report a couple of years ago of a factory worker who cleansed his hands and then went out for a cigarrette the hand sanitizer hand had time to soak into his hands but not evaporate away the alcohol, it caught fire and he ended up with VERY severe buurns. good work on the instructable.

    Logan D

    9 years ago on Introduction

    I have done this with Purell and a friend's Pomade while backpacking after some rain.