Fire --how to make

When camping, how do you start one?

I do the wax and sawdust route. I’ve filled the ketchup cups from fast food places with the mix, tuna fish cans, toilet paper rollss with them. I use a piece of jute string for the wick. Wax soaked jute string also makes a fire starter itself, tho it’s more like just a longer burning, bigger match.

There are vids on youtube of the different ways to make them. I just melt some gulf wax (canning areas in stores have these) then add sawdust in the pot, mixing it into an oatmeal consistency.
Then take some and spoon it into a container of your choosing. While it’s still warm, push down a piece of waxed jute string for the wick.

Now done. They’re that easy to make. And completely waterproof. One of those ketchup cups burns for about 45 min.

We used to buy those fireplace logs and saw them into 1” slabs and put in a sandwich zip-lock bag. About the same thing and no mess.

1 Like

In the West, building a fire is easy. Putting them out is the hard part.
For wet weather I like firestarters or some cotton balls in a container with an accelerant.

Typically I use a ferro rod and some moss and twigs, but… I have a lighter and recently bought some of the fire starting tabs. Small and burn real hot.
I just use the ferro rod and available tinder for practice incase I need to use that method, but typically have backup.

I used dryer lint stuffed in paper egg cartons. Pour melted wax in the pockets . You can easily cut the pockets into individuals.

1 Like

Cotton balls soaked in Vaseline. Stick 6 in a thin pill bottle. A whole one will burn for about 4 min and you can light them with a flame, ferro rod or flint. If you prep then you only need about half.

If you want to go way back, it is a blast lighting a birds nest with char cloth with flint and steel. All you need to make char cloth is an Altoids can and a heat source outside.

1 Like

I initially got the idea to make these as I was above the treeline on a mountain, weather came in and there was nothing to burn. Best I could find was some cigarette butts and nesting material from something. I think I made some the following week.

So that showed me I might need the ability to START a fire (waxed jute string and sparker) and also have something to burn by itself because there may be nothing else or the tinder/twigs there are damp or I’ll just need to start with larger diameter wood.

But the bic lighters alluded to above still is my first choice for a source of ignition.

I have used many of the usual tinder tricks including fuzz sticks, fatwood shavings, charcloth, fine steel wool, bicycle inner tube pieces, magnesium shavings, jute twine, duct tape, etc, etc.

Honestly, most of the time I want a fire, I just want a fire. Not a science fair project. I have found that the small Duraflame fire logs and a BIC lighter generally work just fine. But I do carry Stormproof matches and a ferrocerrium rod just in case as well as a magnesium block.

When everything is wet, I have found that cotton tampons smeared with Vaseline are a little less messy to use and pack better than Vaseline-coated cotton balls. If you want something that will burn for quite a long time, take your Vaseline-coated cotton balls and dip the bottoms in melted canning wax. Don’t dip them too deep. You need to have some non-wax-coated cotton the light the thing. But the wax will make them burn for over 10 minutes.

As for dryer lint, not all lint is created equal. Cotton and linen are very good but lint from nylon and most synthetics will simply melt and not flame. Wool is pretty flame resistant.

I’ve tried those and didn’t like the oily/greasy nature of them. Plus they didn’t burn very long. I figured the dryer lint would be the same as what makes both of them ignite and burn is their surface area. My main goal was to get something small, water proof, and would burn by itself with a decent flame for a decent amount of time if need be. The waxed stand alone jute string pieces were something I thought of while playing around with the sawdust and wax as I needed a wick. The ability of those to be stand alone, long burning ‘matches’ was just an added benefit I didn’t realize.

Using those ketchup cups, one small one will burn with a decent flame for 45 minutes.

My dad, a great outdoorsman, always used road flares…
No ketchup cups… No dryer lint… Just road flares… :sunglasses:


Cotton balls and Vaseline. Easy to make, and you get a twofer… firestarter and a stash of Vaseline which despite its un eco ingredients, is a good addition to a first aid kit.

And who doesn’t like to be reminded of ‘sand in the Vaseline’ when trying to spark a flame?

A small point. Dryer lint is mostly synthetic. It burns hot and long.


What’s the story with the ‘sand and vaseline’?

A lot of people have turned to stoves. They might be eco-groovy or fire danger prevents the use of camp fires.

In a lot of ways, building fires is becoming a lost art. Practice your skills because some day it might save your life or at least make a trip much more comfortable.

Using a stove takes mining of metals, drilling for petroeum, transportation of goods and then the disposal problem. Responsible fire building, cleans up dead fuel in the woods, it is carbon neutral. Just clean up your mess when you are done. Be careful and don’t build fires under dry and/or windy conditions.


Two birds with one stone: pre-cooked bacon. Yes, there is such a thing and extra added bonus is no refrigeration required. The packages at Kroger are packed in a plastic bag with a paper towel-like insert to absorb the grease. It turns out to make a great fire starter.


When I was young, and tents didn’t have floors, and the canvas leaked after a couple of rainy days our fire starters were used milk cartons. Thick waxed paper that started regardless of weather.

They are a fire starter, not fuel. A whole one will burn for 5 min. Have the tinder, kindling and fuel wood ready before you strike a match.

Huh, I have never in my life failed to start a fire either in a fireplace or a campfire using only matches, tinder and kindling. I learned to do this in Girl Scouts in the 50’s and 60’s as well as from my dad on our frequent camping trips. When I worked as an outfitter guide I used to carry fuel paste in case I ran into a damp wood situation, but never used it for anything but priming my Optimus gas stove. Maybe it’s a “girl thing” but I take pride in my skill in being able to coax a flame and feed it to a conflagration with nothing but matches and gathered natural fuels. In fact, I consider that I’ve failed if I have to use more than one match. And, yes, I have rough camped in every condition from subzero Winter to monsoon-like Summer.

But there are other reasons nowadays to NOT build outdoor fires while camping besides being “eco-groovy”. Many parts of my state (Pennsylvania) forbid the gathering of dead wood, even local to a campsite, to build fires or even transport firewood by vehicle because it has been found to be the way that destructive invasive pests and tree diseases have been spread across the state.


I carry it for when the poop hits the fan. I’ve been in a few very cold situations where I was loosing manual dexterity, getting soft(er) in the head and needed a fire pronto with an absolute minimum of fiddling around.

Like a first aid kit, beacon, space blanket etc etc. I pride myself on not needing those, but I take them.

1 Like

I have also always taken pride in a one match fire. It has turned into a hot competition amongst friends at the camp site or in the back yard fire pit.

1 Like