When you just HAVE TO make fire?

But seriously…

…for camping I take a big coffee can filled

with al foil and charcoal pre-soaked in lighter


I cal lie the al foil out with the charcoal on top,

protecting the charcoal from the damp earth, and

by pre-soaking the charcoal, it seems to light

pretty well.

You are still of course left with finding a

reliable way to flame it, but in combination

with some of the other techniques mentioned

it should be OK.

In addition, a duck hunter friend of mine claims

to take a big coffee can filled with rubbing

alcohol. He then takes a roll of toilet paper

and removes the inner cardboard tube. Shoving

the toilet paper into the alcohol, cutting a

small hole in the lid of the can and feeding the

TP from INSIDE the roll out of the opening, he

claims to make an alcohol lamp that keeps his

duck blind warm.

I’ve never tried it, but it sounds like it could work.

It does work!
Besides duck hunters, people in broken down cars have used the toilet paper-alcohol solution as a heater. Apparently, there is no danger of carbon monoxide poisoning using this set-up, as oppossed to propane/white stove fuel/sterno in enclosed compartments.

What’s the lid for this alcohol burner?
I assume you couldn’t thread the paper through a hole in the plastic snap-on lid that comes with the coffee can, as that would soon burn away, allowing the entire exposed surface of toilet paper to catch fire, and you’d end up with an enormous bonfire instead of a stove. Maybe one uses a home-made metal lid? I’m curious about this since it sounds like a very neat and workable device.

Frie King Fire Starter

– Last Updated: Dec-16-07 10:56 PM EST –


This is a reusable fire starter made from the same material that a space shuttle tile is made from. It absorbs a liquid fire starter, stores it, and then you put it in a plastic jar. When you want to start a fire, you pull out the block, light it, and have a slow burn to help start wood.

It's a nice product. I used to sell them when I worked retail. Never caught on as an emergency fire starter. Now they're marketed as a BBQ accessory.

Lighting one or nurturing one?
On trips, I bring matches in a waterproof container plus a couple of cigarette lighters. Also a Mg firestarter kit if I ever used up all the rest.

My stove is a tiny Markill unit that has a built-in “ignition.” I could use that in a pinch, and it also fires up fine using matches or lighters.

But it sounds like you want more than just something to get a flame. The ESBIT cubes might do the trick. I’ve used them to nurse some very wet wood into a good fire. I built up the wood, put a cube under the tinder, and lit the cube. This ain’t no Sterno–it is HOT. You can buy them at places like REI. Warning: the ESBIT cubes stink like old fish. Wrap them in two plastic bags.

Propane torch
On each pfd we try to have a flint and magnesium block. If you carry a knife in your pocket, then you are all set. Magnesium will burn hot enough if you scrape enough off the block but that will ruin the edge of your knife.

The candle lantern is great if you can get it to light.

If you really need to light a fire then a flare might be a good bet. But but my favorite firestarter is a torch. If you are a canoe paddler then someone in your group is carrying the coleman propane stove. Since you already have propane then you might also have a torch for brazing or soldering the holes that you ding into your aluminum canoe.

Kayakers will have none of this stuff in their boat in that case the candle lantern a flint a knife and some magnesium are the way to go.

well whatever you decide to use/carry
might be a good idea to give it a go several times a year and especially when its crap weather…

i like the suggestions above…some even new to me like the ceremic balls soaked in fuel then into a plastic bottle…

Just for fun last week I took a drill to a magnesium bar and got a lot of shavings. The shavings are now in one of those pill fobs you see in jiffy marts…the fob then got attached to my neck knife. Magnesium is fun to play with-one good spark and instant 3000F (or higher)…then try to put it out with a douse of water!

Min-bics can be placed everywhere especially in an Aloksak and close to your body…if you want to beat the system put a silica gel pack in the Aloksak with your mini-bic, better yet put a Ritter mini-PSK into the Aloksak too, then put that into your PFD.

On the trail we’ve carried the MSR Fuel bottles for years so why not have one in the kayak. If you make it to shore with the boat then fire is a moot point.

No lid. (Except for storage.)
The principal is the same as a can of sterno (which is jellied alcohol, but with some impurities). Bear in mind, I’ve never had to actually put this into practice. (I first heard about it many years ago at an outdoor survival school outing I attended and have kept the components in my vehicle’s winter kit ever since.) You need 70% isopropyl alcohol. Being one of the safest fuels, it will not explode or burn out of control. It is not super efficient however, because it has a slow burning heat output rate (but it will warm things up enough for you to stay warm and alive in a broken down car.) Take a clean coffee can/unused paint can. Remove the cardboard roll from inside the toilet paper. Stuff the roll in the coffee can, fill and saturate the tp until all the rubbing alcohol is absorbed. Punch three holes at the bottom of the can if you like to create a chimnied up draft. Strike a match to the top of the roll.

There are many variations on this theme (soda cans, etc.) if you do a search on “alcohol stoves”

Stay warm!

President Richard Nixon signed my
Eagle Scout certificate in July of 1972. He would not have done so, if it had taken me more than one match to start a campfire. I was able to start the fire in all conditions back then, by making that one match count. Now I carry lighters, matches and even a propane torch sometimes. It’s not as hard as it looks on TV. Just take your time.

I sneaked out my wife’s Seal-A-Meal
and vacumned sealed my lighter, flares, and fire starters. My version of fire starters is an egg carton with the sections filled with dryer lint & melted old candles that were never used. As I poured the melted candle wax over the dryer lint I would put a trick birthday candle (the kind that do not blow out) in the center of each section.

Magnesium block with flint.
Get one of the magnesium blocks with the flint stick on one side. You scrape some of the magnesium out into a pile and spark into it. The flakes burn incredibly hot and will ignite about any tinder you have…

Also put a Gale Force lighter in the bag. It will light in winds up to 80mph and burns at 2000 degrees.


Emergency fire…
I carry several bars of trioxane, which were used to heat old MREs.

Easy to light with magnesium striker kit, Bic lighter, or matches; all of which I carry in a waterproof container.

Burns very hot for several minutes; hot enough to catch small pieces of wet wood on fire.


I made some really good fire starters…

…in some of the old cardboard egg carton using sawdust and paraffin.

for wicks, i did much like you did, but I used

a long strand of cannon fuse–the kind you get

for the small commemorative cannons. (I got

my dad a .45 black powder cannon that was about 8"

long and mounted on a wheeled carriage; it was a

lot of fun.) then I “waxed” the cannon fuse.

I doubled the fuse and used the same length

doubled candle wick.

after doubling them, I braided them together

in a 4 strand braid, and made candles out of

the paraffin and sawdust mixture.

worked really well.

have yet to fail me. they’re in various dry bags, hypo kit, cags…and the vaseline impregnated dryer lint will burn baby burn…even in the rain. that’s enough to get you going anyways.

where are you that you can’t get out of the wind? even if you just set the boat on it’s side and use it as a temp wind break til you get your fire going.

you NEED fire!!!
The little lighters may be OK the torches in the cold fail, matches get wet and fail.

Here is your $10.00 per fire answer $10.03 US

A mars or hand held marine flare. Not a road flare though they may be fine. They have a striker that does the same thing matches do.

The marine hand held flare lasts about a minute but planted under any type of flammable stuff will give you a roaring fire when nothing else works and all the kindling is wet.

Going where you go you should likely have those things anyway.

They have a steel tube that houses them and a plastic or colapsable wire handle. the steel pipe glows bright red when the flare is expired. These things burn VERY hot and kick out huge candle power.

Now try the Bic lighter first… 100,000,000 smokers have proven the reliability of the Bic for normal conditions.

The marine flare will light up the country side all around as well.

Don’t depend on disposable lighters
Every time I prepare for a trip, I check my firestarter. The BBQ type lighters always seem to work, but admittedly they are big and bulky. The bic-type disposables are rarely dependable. They don’t work well in the cold, and if they have gotten damp, they don’t work later, either. I have done my pre-trip check on the lighters that have never gotten wet, and too many times they just don’t work. I don’t know why. The key thing is that I would not/could not be able to rely on them in a critical situation. I have firestarter/lighter backups, but I sure would like to find a DEPENDABLE waterproof and windproof AND cold resistant lighter that is compact.

As to the windproof/waterproof matches…well…I don’t know how many of you remember the tale when I almost melted my Swifty in the garage. I was doing my pre-trip check and opened the waterproof match container, which I had evidently overpacked. When I unscrewed the lid, the matches exploded everywhere. I stamped around trying to put them out, but these Storm matches couldn’t be extinguished! It was like Candid Camera and trick birthday candles on steroids. Finally, all I could do was round 'em up into a small group on the concrete floor to let them burn themselvesout. That’s when I started smelling the distinct aroma of melting plastic. One of the escapees had rolled under the Swifty, just out of sight. I managed to kick it out from under the boat before it melted a match-shaped groove in the boat…but the poor Swifty still has a small brown battle scar! The garage floor also has a funny pattern of elongated black ovals on the concete.

Maybe a fire is not the best answer
Where I live, in Cleveland, the woods are generally wet in cold weather and they don’t dry until spring. Melting snow, occasional rain and cold weather mitigate against dry wood.

A good firestarter seems the least of the problems. How to keep a fire going with very wet or frozen wood is quite another matter. I’ve done it in good conditions when I wasn’t wet and frozen myself and it is quite a chore.

Maybe a more certain solution is the standard dry bag with spare clothes: fleece/woll jacket, pants, hat, socks, gloves and windproof/waterproof overgarments (and jacket with hood).

For generating warmth, those hunter-oriented heat packs can be torn open even with cold fingers and generate heat just exposed to the air. Take a bunch and if necessary, tuck them between clothing layers. Although the lack of lots of oxygen will hamper some of their effectiveness, they will work to generate some extra heat.

My last suggestion is, once extra clothes are on, is to run, even in circles if all you’ve got is a small area. Once, snowshoeing high above the eastern shore of Lake Superior in Canada I fell through a lake where a creek met it. It was minus 40 (F and C are the same at this temperature). I hoisted myself out, and stood there stunned for a moment, then grabbed a big parka out of my pack and a balaclava, put both on and started running for the cabin about 4 miles away.

In a 1/2 mile I felt the cold, stinging sensation in my feet, which was painful, but good, and soon after started sweating. At that point I slowed down and realized everything was going to be fine and walked the rest of the way back.

Running can bring enough sensation back to your extremities to allow you to deal with getting yourself warm and dry again.


the only problem with
chemical hand-warmers: when they get damp they don’t work

Damp & chemical packs
Do you mean ‘damp’ as in modest perspiration or as in lying next to good wicking clothing that has been in a dunking, or do you mean ‘damp’ as in dunked in water?

You might be damp after hurriedly changing, say just outer clothes after a dunking. Maybe leaving the wicking layer on but putting on thick fleece on top. You’d want those chemical packs between the wicking layer and the fleece. Would proximity to wet wicking garments cause those packs to not work?

If they’d still work in that situation, then they’d need to be kept with the clothes in the dry bag until needed.


Magnesium Shavings
My one experience with magnesium shavings in a stout wind is the reason I now carry cotton balls and petroleum jelly in a film can. ;^)