How do you start a Fire?

-- Last Updated: Aug-24-06 8:22 AM EST --

Flint? Disposable lighter? Zippo? Rubbing sticks? Wait for a lightening strike? Waterproof matches? Also, how do you store your firestarter on paddling trips?

The knife thread, which had so many ideas I had never considered, frankly, and so many nuances to a knife (eg always carry a fixed blade in case you get caught up in fishing lines), made me think about this topic. I hope to get a firestarter of some sort for autumn day camping (paddle, hammock, fire, read book, pack up, paddle back, sleep in soft bed at home).

The knife thread, for those that haven't read it:

Unless you are an affectionado of primitive cultures, flint & steel is not a sure-fire way to go (excuse the pun).

Over my years of paddling I have started fires by

  • using a 15-minute fusee on whitewater trips where someone got dunked

  • using the little stove fuel tablets (Esbit?)

  • traditional splitting of tinder with a knife & axe

  • a ball of steel wool (really heats up when blown into)

  • a fireplace log

  • wax-dipped cardboard pieces

  • dryer lint


Usually …
…let someone else do it. It’s amazing how many people really love starting fires, sort of their purpose in life…

Just pour charcoal lighter fluid over

– Last Updated: Aug-24-06 8:42 AM EST –

the charcoal and throw a lit match into the Weber.

got one in each dry bag. small firestarter and tinder in the survival pack sold here on pnet in the pfd.(shoved a miniature bic in there too…)

practice with it though…when you need it is not the time to take out the directions…


Fire logs people…
The best way to start a fire is by using a 3 or 6 lb. fire log. I’ve been using them for years and buy them by the case. Even on primitive camping trips out of my kayak, I carry one of the three lb logs. It’s just too easy to be able to just light a match and within 1 minute…Blazing Fire! These things will burn when everything around is soaking wet and allow you to dry any wood lying around.

Only thing is don’t use a fire log if you are planning on cooking directly over it. Marshmallows and hot dogs will taste funny if you do.


3 lbs, WOW
You really want to start a fire:) Btw, a piece of birch bark will light easily and burn, even when wet. I don’t leave home without it. :slight_smile: Matches in a waterproof case too.

Whatever you do
don’t light a fire in your kayak!

I know it sounds absurd, but I heard of someone who tried it. Was cold and thought he could heat the cockpit. What happened next is obvious. Anyway, just goes to show you can’t have your kayak & heat it too.

Weren’t you guys in camp fire girls or girl scouts? The trick is to collect your kindling from the trees, not from the ground–pull off the tiny dead branches that are still holding onto trees, close to the trunk and low down. They’re almost always completely dry, even in a hard rain, unlike wood that’s lying on the ground. Birch bark is excellent firestarter, and toilet paper will work fine too.

Waterproof Matches Aren’t
At least on the islands along the coast of Maine. Tried them. And flints can also get soggy, butane lighters die quickly too.

The only thing we have found that is fully reliable is to set up multiple high quality zip lock bags (like the freezer kind) or small Otter or screw-top plastic containers with a decent supply of matches in each, so that you can open up a separate container day or use depending on how damp things are.

Hey Sandyacker aint joking!! fire logs work great! I personally use a combo of Gas from my Stove and wood, or some of those solid fuel pellets. Depends what i am doing.

It varies
If I have time and want to fool around I use flint.

If I’m in a bigger hurry, a butane lighter. Sunday evening the wife and step-monsters wanted a real camp fire, instead of a propane/vermiculite/ceramic log one. It had been raining a lot at Lake Dillon and even the newspaper in the cab of the truck had sucked in so much moisture it was sluggish to burn. I had already split some dry pine into kindling that the paper just wouldn’t light sufficiently. So, a trip through the wet grass to the nearest beetle killed lodge pole pine produced enough needles to kindle a roaring blaze.

If I’m in a real big hurry and remember to toss the stuff in the truck I start a fire with a hand held propane torch and a tank of compressed air with a chip blower nozzle.

I usually
use old det cord I accumulated from the service…just kidding.

Used to carry matches, and still do, but I always have a few lighters and some of the small fuel cubes.

Cotton balls with vaseline around the outside, stored in 35mm film containers works well too. Open then up with your fingers for your starter and they burn for an amazingly long time. Plus, they pack down very small.

Defense in depth
Here’s a website with some ideas:

I usually carry multiple methods, a Bic lighter, matches in a waterproof matchsafe and the pariffin cups described on the website or military fuel tabs. All together, the weight isn’t significant. To be really “redundant” store each method in a separate place, bag or etc.

  • Phil

Match/Lighter and Birch Bark
I build my fire with plenty of kindling and tinder, than put 4-5 slices of white birch bark in the center. Light the birch bark with a match or a lighter. If the fire is built correctly, that should do it.

Usually I wait to find the birch bark (and all the other fire wood) at/near the campsite. If I am going to a spot that I know the birch trees are sparse, than I will pack my own.

FYI: peeling birch bark off of a white birch is illegal in New York State (and maybe other places as well?). Find it on the ground or find another solution.

Waterproof matches don’t exist. I keep normal matches in a waterproof cylinder to keep dry.

First off I use a Littlbug stove…
…see my review on the review section here on p-net. It works as a stove and a nice self-contained campfire. But I carry a couple of bics in different (waterproof) places with my gear like my first aid kit and my kitchen stuff.

I also use film containers or prescription bottles to store cotton balls saturated with vaseline.

And I have one of those magnesium thingys for back-up.

Cotton Balls

– Last Updated: Aug-24-06 12:26 PM EST –

covered in them in an old film canister until needed, and they have many other uses as well..from lubing paddle shaft connections to medical uses....

a cotton ball soaked in vaseline will burn for a long time....

Heat tabs...military trioxane or the older hexamine....Esbit tabs if you have one of the esbit stoves....

Waterproof matches
in a waterproof container (kinda like wearing suspenders AND a belt). :slight_smile:

Sometimes we use fine grade steelwool or homemade firestarters (paper egg carton with dryer lint or pinecone bits and old candle wax inside).

This summer, I saw something interesting at our local dollar store. They had a small box of 10-20 packets of a firestarter gel, I think it was called Green Stuff or something like that.

This stuff works great! A buck for a box full of packets. Tear it open, squeeze some of the goo out, lay the packet on your kindling, and you only need one match to light it. It burns for 20 minutes, which is more than enough to light even stubborn kindling. I went back and grabbed 2 more boxes.

Swedish Fire Steel
Didn’t see this mentioned anywhere…

Just carry the old 35mm film canister w/vaseline and cotton balls in it and you’re ready!

Bacardi 151and Coke

– Last Updated: Aug-24-06 1:29 PM EST –

Bicardi or Ronrico 151 will work in a Zippo for at least 3 days in a pinch.