How To: Make Your Own Fire Starter

How To: Make Your Own Fire Starter

Fire is man’s first technology and most outdoorsmen still feel it is essential to the camping experience. Your tinder really makes or breaks your fire-building efforts so be sure your tinder is dry, flammable, and safe to ignite. Here are some safe and effective ideas. Prepared methods—it takes some planning and prep work, but the following are great options:

Dryer Lint

Dryer lint alone is a pretty effective tinder. This stuff is really nice for packing in because it’s virtually weightless and highly compressible. Assuming you have matches, you’ll be happiest with this method in dry weather conditions where the lint won’t soak up moisture from the surroundings.

Dryer Lint, Paraffin & Egg Cartons

If you have matches, this is a great option as well. Simply cut out the cups on a cardboard egg carton, fill with lint, and pour your paraffin over the top. Not as light as lint alone, but it’s an easy start in most any conditions and you can set the tinder up on its end and light it under your kindling very easily.

Cotton Balls Dipped in Paraffin

This is the same concept as the egg carton, lint, and paraffin combination. Simply coat some cotton balls in parraffin then seal them into a plastic bag to keep them dry. They're more packable than the egg cartons, but you'll need to get more tinder as they'll burn faster.

Vaseline & Cotton Balls

If you do not have parraffin readily available, dipping cottons balls in Vaseline will work just as well. Be sure to seal them to keep them dry until you're ready to start the fire. Vaseline is highly flammable, so be careful with this one until fire-starting time.

Sawdust & Paraffin

If you like to work in wood and camp, a little thrift can go a long way for lighting up your night. Save some of that shop dust and fashion some chips by pouring wax over it. You’ll be pleased with the results. Just be sure to limit the amount of parraffin you use so that the wood chips/sawdust remains flammable. On hand in the great outdoors—But what if you’re outdoors and need to find your tinder on the spot? Here are a few more ideas for those of you who prefer to take your chances with what nature provides:


Break off the tip and light the fluff that breaks free. The outer covering of the cattails naturally keep the interior dry so as long as you open the tips in a dry space you should be able to start a fire without issue.

Tree bark

Bark stays mostly dry, even in rainy conditions. If you’re camping near the trees, you’ll have a ready supply. Break your bark into long, thin pieces. Just avoid the rotten stuff as it is going to be too moist to burn.

Dry Grass & Pine Needles

You’ll need the driest you can find, but anything organic will light with enough persistence. Seek out the brown grass and pine needles, which may mean you'll need to dig down a bit. If they're not immediately dry because of the ground moisture spread it brown grass/needles out in the sunshine to dry it before starting your fire. That covers the basics of fire starting, but it definitely doesn't hit every possibility. What is your go-to fire starter? What has (or hasn't!) worked well for you in the past?