>I've hard of this. What's the verdict from the expert panel? Lint balls with vaseline?
Depends on your priorities:
Lint is cheap certainly, but it burns so quickly that you really have to be prepared with the next kindling stage and even then you have to hustle.
Cotton balls are better, IMO because they can serve a multiple uses. Drizzle a bit of Everclear on them and they burn like the d*ckens. (Ha! The board censor rejected "d*ickens!)
Cotton balls and vaseline burn longer and let you be a tad more laid back about getting your kindling on the fire. The cotton balls are thus made less useful for other purposes, however. Vaseline is not a very good antiseptic.
In my youth, I used to stuff vaseline-impregnated cotton balls into waxed-paper soda straws with the tine of a fork. Cut off the soda straw, fold it over at both ends, and you have a convenient, if single purpose, fire starter.
Don't much like to start fires anymore, though, because of a bad experience on the AT a few decades back. Those new-fangled alcohol/ esbit systems are pretty durned good. However, using the new multi-fuel Caldera Ti-Tri with wood-burning capability leaves you with long-term trail independence, especially if you use the kindling that nature provides and carry along a few four-gram esbits as backup.
The tiny esbits also make pretty good fire starters, BTW, and they come ready made. If you can stand that fish-oil smell, a few of them in a snack-sized ziplock and a mini-bic are a good alternative to all this fire-starting rigamarole.
(BTW, I didn't invent any of this. Thanks to my old man and a couple of threads on BPL for the inspiration for this post.)