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Reader Poll: What’s in Your Fire Making Kit?

Campfire on a Cool Autumn Night
Campfire on a Cool Autumn Night

I always carry a small fire-making kit when I go hiking. It contains a Light My Fire firesteel that can generate sparks and a small sandwich bag with vaseline smeared cotton balls as tinder that light easily and will burn for a few minutes, long enough to get the small sticks in my fire to stay lit. I like using the firesteel because it’s so much more reliable than matches (which trap humidity and fail) or even a butane lighter, which will run out of gas eventually or jam.

Whichever fire starter and tinder combination you choose, it’s important that you test them periodically to make sure they’re still in working condition and they’re compatible with each other. Don’t assume that every fire starter will work with any tinder , unless you test and verify that they’re compatible in advance.

For example, many people will tell you that dryer lint is a good tinder to carry when hiking, but that’s only true if the lint is from cotton clothing. Lint from wool or polyester clothing is much more difficult to light with a fire steel (try it), which is why I recommend people use cotton balls or cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly, instead.

What type of fire starter and tinder do you keep in your fire making kit?

Please leave a comment below.

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65 comments

  1. I hate the idea and principle of disposable items so I switched to using a Numyth refillable lighter which doesn’t have the same issues as typical Zippo-style lighters (waterproof, doesn’t allow fuel to evaporate, easy to attach to things, etc.). Though a bit heavier, its robustness makes up for it (can be used as a short term candle too). With that in my hip belt pocket, I keep a ferro rod and fresnel lens in my ditty kit along with few pieces of ready made tinder. Based on the comments here, I’m going to start making my own tinder a la the wax/jelly infused cotton balls.

  2. Vaseline cotton balls packed into a small section of a plastic drinking straw, which is then melted shut. When ready to use, the end is cut open and a small amount of the cotton ball is pulled out. It catches a spark easily, and the shape acts as a sort of candle. They are waterproof of course, and because they are self contained they aren’t as messy as just cotton or dryer lent in Vaseline (though not as clean as anything in wax).

  3. My fire kit is a ferro rod with a gorilla tape handle (the tape burns if necessary), an orange Bic lighter, two small bags of char cloth, and a magnifying glass lens wrapped in a small sock that protects it from scratches and can be turned into char cloth if needed. It all fits in a round pipe tobacco tin that has a small hole poked in the top that itself is a container for making more char cloth. It’s about 2 and 1/2 inches across and 1/2 inches tall–in wet conditions the small hole required at the top for making char cloth can be covered in wax to make it fully waterproof. Depending on conditions I may also carry small cotton wafers dipped in wax that make great fire starters on their own.

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