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Cool firestarter idea
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Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Cool firestarter idea on 05/17/2011 17:37:34 MDT Print View

So I normally carry cottonballs covered in vaseline as a firestarter. Pretty lightweight, does the job. They're also messy, and require their own plastic bag, etc.

I also carry Chapstick with an SPF 30, because sometimes when my lips get too much sun, I get a cold sore. On top of that, super chapped lips from lots of cold/wind/wet just aren't all that fun.

It occurred to me today that I might be able to combine the two, since the main ingredient in Chapstick is petroleum jelly. I decided it was an interesting enough idea to test it out, so I gave it a try.

I took two cottonballs, and then took a small gob of chapstick and worked it into one of them. Using my woodstove, with the door open (figured it was a decent enough, wind-free control environment), I lit both of them and timed 'em.

Cottonball without Chapstick: 40 seconds burn time, small amount of smoldering.
Cottonball WITH Chapstick: 2 minutes, 5 seconds burn time, smoldered long enough and hot enough afterward that I still could have used the embers to get a flame going.

Pretty awesome!

Two minutes should be enough to get most damp/wet tinder going. This should eliminate a small amount of weight from my kit between the vaseline and bag, although not enough to make much of a difference. The main thing is, it streamlines things.

Instead of keeping messy, vaseline-covered cottonballs in their own bag, I'll just store a few of them in the same small bag as my first aid and emergency supplies, making the cottonballs available for other applications. For instance, if I need a better bandaid than duct tape, I can use them to pack a small wound or sop up/control bleeding.

Anyway, not the biggest deal in the world, but I was excited that it worked so well, and it gives both my chapstick and cottonballs another use. Not bad!

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Cool firestarter idea on 05/17/2011 18:23:56 MDT Print View

Good tip, thanks for sharing.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Cool firestarter idea on 06/14/2011 00:30:53 MDT Print View

Just a tip, don't use a baggie. Use a film canister instead. If you have a hard container, you can really shove em in there and compress them. You can get like 15 of them in the space that would normally be only 2 of them in a baggie.

Michael Meiser
(mmeiser) - F

Locale: Michigan
any petrolium product as fire starter on 08/19/2011 20:40:46 MDT Print View

An idea that's dear to my heart. I mostly bikepack as such I almost always have something with a petroleum base. Most commonly I cart bagbalm as a chamois creame. But I hadn't thought of checking my sunscreen or lip balm. I do not anymore carry any tender as i've been doing the fire thing as my exclusive means of a stove for a while. I do keep the weather in mind, but grabbing tender along the way is as common as reaching for the rain jacket. I have dug pretty deep into my gear for some tender, but have honestly never had to dig very far. There is always a bit of plastic bag, cellophane, cord, or other disposable and highly flammable bit about even if the whole world seems soaked. However I have recently seen the limits of cheap small box lighters. I favor the clear ones so I can see the fuel easily, white work ok too, but even though I often carry two I recently found both completely devoid of fuel. It was either the heat from a couple weeks in my truck in the summer or possibly (but unlikely) that they had both had been packed to tightly in a depressed state. I don't consider fire essential unless winter traveling since I have several water purification options, but luckily I had been experimenting with a magnesium flint. I had my campfire, but my ability is far from dependable with flint and steal and found tinder.

To summarize I prefer trailside replenished goods, knowlege, craft, skill, and experience to storebought solutions, but there are limits to pushing such boundaries just as there are limits to carrying a great storebought solution like a butane lighter or an msr whisperlite international. The key is in a balanced approach and making sure you have multiple solutions and regularly hone your skills.

Josh T
(JoshT83) - F

Locale: Around Sydney, Australia
Re: Cool firestarter idea on 08/21/2011 20:36:18 MDT Print View

I recently experimented with a few different lip-balm products for fire starting.

My usual is to carry plain cotton balls, swiped in vaseline, and stored in an Eclipse/Extra mints tin (the thin narrow ones with swing top lid, probably different brand names in different countries).

I tested using Carmex squeeze from a tube, and a Blistex small pot. Both worked reasonably well, but was just as much mess and hassle trying to spread the goo through the cotton ball. As an emergency backup I think it would work, but for primary use it's just more expensive than plain old petroleum jelly.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
MacD's straw on 08/21/2011 21:04:41 MDT Print View

I carry a few vaseline-soaked cotton balls in sections of MacDonald's straws. One straw is good for three fire starters. Melt the ends to seal them. To use, cut open, fluff cotton, add spark or mini-bic flame. Not only does the cotton and vaseline burn for a good bit, but so does the straw.

Richard Gless
(rgless) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Cool firestarter idea - gag birthday candles on 08/21/2011 21:12:15 MDT Print View

I use the gag birthday candles that you can't blow out. They weigh almost nothing and burn for a fair length of time. You can get more than one fire per candle if you try.

lukee1982 essex
(lukee1982) - F
Re: Cool firestarter idea on 08/22/2011 13:04:34 MDT Print View

instead of vasoline I have read that triple antibiotic works about the same. however then you could use the cotton ball as a band aid with Triple antibiotic

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
Re: MacD's straw on 09/29/2011 13:03:51 MDT Print View

How do you get the cotton balls in the straw?

John Julyan-Gudgeon
(Cyanide) - F

Locale: Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
pull cotton into straw on 09/29/2011 18:17:59 MDT Print View

You might be able to pull the cotton into the straw with a paperclip bent into shape of hook.

Insert paperclip into side 1 of straw
pass paperclip through straw until hook protrudes out side 2 of straw
snag cotton batton with hook
pull hook back through

marcia trussell
(wldspice) - F

Locale: PNW
Re: Cool firestarter idea - gag birthday candles on 09/30/2011 23:34:31 MDT Print View

love this idea! thnk you so much for sharing!

Robert Thurman
(oldfatguy) - F
Dryer lint on 11/14/2011 13:11:39 MST Print View

I use dryer lint instead of cotton balls.

Pete Wilson
(Muddy-Pete) - F

Locale: east coast
Dryer lint on 11/14/2011 13:18:37 MST Print View

Just make sure the dryer lint is from 100% cotton. If it's from a synthetic, you just get a ball of melted goop.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Cool firestarter idea on 11/14/2011 14:05:26 MST Print View

You can buy small tubes (like travel size) of 100% petroleum jelly at most pharmacies, which is really all you need for putting on your skin or lips. If you carry this, you don't have to pre-soak any kind of cotton ball/lint and can instead just carry those in a small ziploc.

Also, I followed a tip on another thread here and carry the cotton part of several, ahem, tampons in a small bag. These are really densely packed and can actually be torn and fluffed up to the size of several cotton balls.

Daryl and Daryl
(lyrad1) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Re: Cool firestarter idea on 11/14/2011 17:37:52 MST Print View


Love this idea. Carrying gooey cotton balls has always been a turn off for me.


Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Cool firestarter idea on 11/14/2011 19:24:46 MST Print View

Personally, I carry Esbit tablets; burn time averages 13 minutes.

Want to be really cool around the old campfire? Potato Chips, Freetos, and Pringles burn too. Lots of oil on and in them. Try it!

Sam McElrath
(ActionMagnet) - F
Re: Cool firestarter idea on 03/25/2012 13:03:14 MDT Print View

One way to keep the mess down... use an old cigar container with pre-chapstick applied Q-tips or cotton balls.

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Online Community Monitor
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Edited by rcaffin on 03/27/2012 14:48:26 MDT.

Bill Segraves
(sbill9000) - F - M
paraffin for dipping cotton balls on 04/14/2012 07:38:45 MDT Print View

I was carrying the packet of petroleum jelly rather than pre-soaked cotton balls (when not wishing to use up my lip balm), but have switched to paraffin-impregnated cotton balls. Melt a little paraffin, dip cotton balls lightly to get them partially impregnated. Easier to carry, non-greasy to handle, and work great.



Matthew mcgurk
(phatpacker) - F

Locale: Central coast California
paper bags on 05/06/2012 23:18:28 MDT Print View

My brother and I both take the cottonballs and wrap them in a small square of brown paper bag. Then open the envelope a light and no mess

Andrew Baxter
(adb0406) - F
Wax Paper on 05/09/2012 07:00:42 MDT Print View

Wrap the Vaseline cotton balls in wax paper. No mess, can burn the wax paper, and no carry out like you have with McDonald plastic straws.