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Your firestarter of choice?
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Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Your firestarter of choice? on 03/23/2012 10:48:52 MDT Print View

I recently posted on my blog ( my last chapter breaking down my 3 season gear list, this time the focus on the little things and kits. One thing I elaborated on a bit was my firestarters, which I call wax rolls, and I make myself. They are my favorite method to start fires, and I often have campfires while I am out. Only weigh about 5g each and one of the most effective and practical firestarters I have used.

What firestarters do you bring with you/use? Or do you not take any? Either way, why or why not?

Bailey Gin
(pugslie) - F

Locale: SLO County
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/23/2012 11:39:47 MDT Print View

Plain cotton balls for a basic firestarter. If needs require more burn time, I add either petroleum jelly, alcohol (denatured, HEET, or even rubbing), white gas, or even cooking oils.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/23/2012 11:50:51 MDT Print View

My favorite quick and dirty is a chunk of Esbit with a dab of alcohol gel head cleaner. One spark and it's going.

My CYA combo is a spy capsule jammed full of Tinder Quick tabs and a firesteel.

I always carry a mini Bic, a firesteel with the spy capsule, and REI/UCO storm matches in a K&D match safe.

Jonathan Rozes

Locale: Pacific Wonderland
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/23/2012 11:50:57 MDT Print View

I usually just carry a small lighter and some cottonballs impregnated with petroleum jelly. Cheap, lightweight and functional. In addition to that, my emergency kit has a Spark-Lite and some Tinder Quick.

When weight isn't as much of a concern, I love using my GobSpark ferro rod. It throws a torrent of long-burning sparks and is easy to use with frozen hands.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: "Your firestarter of choice?" on 03/23/2012 12:00:49 MDT Print View

Disposable lighter and cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/23/2012 12:11:56 MDT Print View

Like everyone else here, cottonball with petroleum jelly, mini bic, and fire steel.

However, one thing that I find that can dramatically increase the burn time of my cottonball is to have a small square of aluminum foil, which I use to create a small fire bowl with a small opening at the top that I shape around the cottonball.

Few years back I tested this in my garage and I recalled getting something like either 4 or 6 minutes of burn time with a good 2" flame.

Very light weight and adds alot to the performance to help you in those "oh crap!" moments when you need a fire to save your butt from the cold.


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/23/2012 12:16:53 MDT Print View

A folded sheet of wax paper. Then I use a little or a lot, loosy or tightly wrapped depending on the situation.

Or little squares (3 cm x 3 cm) squares of corrugated cardboard, dipped in wax. Leave a little corner undipped, and it will light a little quicker.

If you have kids around the house, repurpose the discarded crayon drawings - homemade waxpaper!

Or if you have trail instructions, permits, section maps, etc, that you won't need for the whole trip - multipurpose them by dipping them in wax or using crayons on the backside. It will be more waterproof AND make a good firestarter.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
re: cotton ball and p.jelly on 03/23/2012 12:22:35 MDT Print View

Yeah, I used to use cotton ball soaked in p.jelly, but too gooey and messy. I should test how long my wax rolls burn for. I am pretty sure they are the cheapest firestarter. Esbit is perhaps the most effective, but at much higher price. I guess it depends how many campfires you make a year.

Oh, and I should have added that I always take both a pack of matches and a mini Bic. I used to take my LMF spark stick all the time, but got lazy and like matches best for being quick and easy, though spark sticks are the most reliable for starting a fire.

Tampons work well, though they burn up too fast, so you have to use a few of them. I guess if you are female, it makes them multi-use. I have heard that you can use them for first aid too, but seems like gauze would be more effective.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: re: cotton ball and p.jelly on 03/23/2012 13:03:59 MDT Print View

Have you tried writing in crayon on the shafts of a book of paper matches? They put out a little more heat that way and because they last longer, they don't singe your fingers quite so soon.

For first aid, tampons can be used in either nostril for nosebleeds or if there is bleeding from either of two, lower orifices. The pull strings are handy for gently removing them later, but make for some odd looks from passerbys.

They don't work as well as firestarters afterwards.

Daniel Cox
(COHiker) - F

Locale: San Isabel NF
Long-burn on 03/23/2012 13:55:54 MDT Print View

A small-ish square of dryer lint impregnated with a melted tea light. (melted in the oven and poured on the lint)

This produces a long burn, but not a big flame. petroleum jelly I think has a higher BTU value, and makes a bigger (hotter?) flame, but is messy.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Your firestarter of choice? on 03/23/2012 14:05:50 MDT Print View

I carry dry cotton and smear a little chapstick on it when i need to start a fire.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 03/23/2012 15:05:20 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 06/18/2015 23:11:10 MDT.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Fine points of vaseline and cotton balls on 03/23/2012 15:13:00 MDT Print View

Unroll a cotton ball and cut in half. Put a pea-sized bit of petroleum jelly on one end of each half and roll back up into a half-sized cotton ball with PJ inside. Two fire starters from each cotton ball, not messy (since the vaseline is contained inside), and quite light. If your twigs are thicker than they should be, or damper than they should be, (and you are too lazy to find better twigs) just use two.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Fine points of vaseline and cotton balls on 03/23/2012 15:16:36 MDT Print View

I do the same as Robert, but I use candle wax inside the cotton.


Eric G
(burtonridr) - F
Re: on 03/23/2012 16:36:57 MDT Print View

I usually just pack a water proof container full of dryer lint. Then I pull out a wad about the size of a cotton ball, fluff it, and pile on small twigs, grass, pine needles, sage brush, or whatever I have available.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
pj on 03/23/2012 22:08:05 MDT Print View

nuked pj cotton ballz ... put the pj in the microwave till it liquifies, and then dip 2/3s the ball in there ... itll burn for 5+ min

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
burn times on 03/24/2012 07:21:47 MDT Print View

I went out into my backyard to test out one of my wax rolls, and it burned for 4:40, not bad for 5g. I am skeptical that cotton ball plus p. jelly burns for over 5 minutes. Anyone actually time it? And what is the weight of your average cotton ball w/p. jelly?

Nick Larsen
(stingray4540) - F

Locale: South Bay
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/24/2012 10:56:53 MDT Print View

I'm assuming this is for starting wood fires? Do none of you have resinous trees where you hike?

Maybe I'm spoiled in California, but all I take is a mini bic. Pine needles and cones make great "fire starters", and if all else fails, a chunck of sap will get any fire going.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Your firestarter of choice? on 03/24/2012 11:41:15 MDT Print View

The Diamond match company makes a fire starter called Strike-a-Fire. I break off 1" pieces from the long stick and wrap the pieces together in Glad Cling Wrap. Each piece weighs 5 grams. They light easily with a Bic, and they burn dependably for 5 minutes with a fairly robust flame.

Christopher Heine

Locale: Colorado
Re on 03/24/2012 12:12:20 MDT Print View

I like the tinder quick tabs a lot.