From free dryer lint to fluffy cotton balls, it's easy to make your own firestarters


When it’s been down pouring rain for several days and you’re desperate to get the camp fire going, having a good fire starter to help get things going can be extremely  comforting.

Yes, there’s plenty of natural material in the bush to help ignite your fire—birch bark, dried grass, cattail fluff, and resin from a balsam tree are some of the best—but having homemade back-ups stored in your pack and always available can be an extra bonus. Even if you don’t make them at home, you always have plenty of flammable materials in your pack as well.

Dryer lint and egg cartons

The classic homemade fire starter is a wad of dryer lint placed in each empty storage department of a cardboard egg carton with melted wax, or better yet, melted paraffin wax poured over top. It’s an easy project and brings back days of making crafts in public school. The main trick, however, is to melt the wax without burning the house down or ruining your good cooking pot. Wax or paraffin wax is highly flammable so don’t just throw a cube of it in a pot and heat up up over the stove burner. To slow down the melting rate, and reduce the chance of combustion, make a double burner by having the pot with the wax in it float in another pot of water. The simmering water will melt the wax at a much slower and safer rate. And you might want to use an old coffee can rather than a cooking pot to melt the wax in. Melted wax makes a real mess to clean up. If you don’t want to spend the money on paraffin then simply gather all the half-burned candles in the house (or go to a bargain store). Sawdust, shredded paper or even cut up pieces of the egg carton top work well as filler. Also, try dipping in rolled up newspaper tied with string (don’t use nylon string) or pine cones into the wax to make fire starters.

Cotton balls and vaseline

Cotton balls are my favorite. Their light weight and when Vaseline or “petroleum jelly” is worked into the ball, it becomes highly flammable. I’ve even dipped them in paraffin wax or even melted Vaseline and stored them in my pack in a Ziploc bag. If you’re on trip and you don’t have cotton balls or Vaseline but you do have Q-tips and lip balm, try those together.

Hand sanitzer

Squeeze a good supply of hand santizer on the wood and it will burn long enough to dry things out. Make sure the product you are using, however, contains alcohol. Some companies are now making alcohol free sanitizer and that won’t work.

Charcoal in an egg carton

Place a chunk of charcoal in each section of cardboard egg carton. Light the carton—you might want to squeeze hand sanitizer or bug repellent on it first to help get it going.

Waxed paper and dyer lint

Waxed paper burns fantastic on its own but you can also wrap up dryer lint or sawdust, twisting both ends of the paper to hold the contents. Remember, it may look like a doobie—but definitely doesn’t get you high.

Potato chips

The greasier the better when choosing which potato chip will burn the best. But trust me, they do burn. Pringles Hot and Spicy, Doritos Spicy Nachos and Fritos Corn Chips are my choice. And once the fire is going, its snack time

Duct tape

Yes, one more thing you can do with Duct Tape. Use it for a fire starter. It’s highly flammable and burns for a good chunk of time. I’ll spray bug repellent or squeeze some hand sanitizer on it as well, just to get things going.

Rubber tubing

It’s probably the most toxic fire starter on the list but it’s still effective. When your bike gets a flat, keep it and cut it into strips. Just don’t breath in the fumes when its ignited.


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