Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Your firestarter of choice?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Pine needles, with a fire straw for back-up on 03/24/2012 12:18:46 MDT Print View

Here in the southern Sierras and transverse ranges, in areas where fires are allowed, there are almost always dried pine or fir needles available to start a fire, even if there's been a bit of rain. I carry a couple of firestraws (cotton with petroleum jelly sealed in a piece of plastic straw) for back-up or emergency use. The sealed straw keeps the cotton dry even if submerged. I open it with a knife, or even teeth! Pull out a bit of cotton, fluff it, and it will light with a mini-Bic or spark. Burn time depends on how much petroleum jelly you've put in the straw.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
pitch on 03/24/2012 12:29:26 MDT Print View

A small piece of pitch ( resin) works great to start a fire. The drawback is how sticky it is and it can be hard to get off your hands or your knife. Trees affected with pitch canker have a large supply of it. Should you accidentally lean against one of these pines and get it on your hair (!!!), the best way to get it off, which works well on your hands too, is with mayonnaise.

Cesar Valdez
(PrimeZombie) - F

Locale: Scandinavia
Re: Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/24/2012 12:30:01 MDT Print View

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

Yes this is for starting wood fires, sorry, should have noted in the OP. Yes, I have plenty of resinous trees where I hike. But, I also have lots of rain, dew, mist, and water in general where I hike too. When it is dry out, and I have the time/energy, I won't use any brought firestarter, and just stick to birch bark and/or dried pine needles and such. On other occasions of either damp conditions or lack of time/energy, then having a firestarter is a nice alternative. I would say it's about a 50/50 ratio of using my wax rolls vs. just natural stuff.

I am into bushcraft too, so just to challenge myself, I have actually started a fire under difficult conditions. Once without any matches or lighter using a bow drill, which was fairly difficult, and took like 2 hours from start to finish--gathering and prepping all the materials, making the components, trial and error, etc. Last year in early April, after it has been raining for several days, including on the morning I set out, I started a fire using only my knife and a fire striker. Took over an hour, but I got the dang thing going. Feather sticks are big help.

Oh, and I looked on youtube for cotton ball with p. jelly burn times, and got mixed results. Mostly around 2 or 3 minutes, but I was surprised to find one that lasted for a little over 6 minutes. This has to mean that some people soak the cotton balls with more fuel. Makes me wonder how much fuel a cotton ball can absorb.

For cost, over all efficiency, and less mess I will stick to wax rolls.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/24/2012 13:50:00 MDT Print View

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Mayo and mustard on 03/24/2012 14:01:05 MDT Print View

@ Kat: "Should you accidentally lean against one of these pines and get it on your hair (!!!), the best way to get it off, which works well on your hands too, is with mayonnaise."

I like a little mustard in my mayo - it gives me blonde highlights! ;)

Actually, anyliquid or semi-liquid with a good bit of oil in it will get the pitch out. You can use Noxzema (seriously!), olive oil, gasoline (yikes!), etc. Something like gas or kerosene works very well, but introduces other problems, like flammability and stink. Noxzema actually works well, and leaves your skin soft and smooth!

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Would you like fries with that? on 03/24/2012 16:09:49 MDT Print View

>"lean against one of these pines and get it on your hair"

It was always amazing as a teen working on a beater car, how dirty, greasy hands would be magically cleansed by eating a pack of McDonald's fries.

You didn't want to think about where all that dirt, motor oil, tranny fluid, etc, ended up, but it wasn't on my hands anymore.

How would a dessicated McD's fry work as a fire starter? Fuel on a stick, sort of.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re: Mayo and mustard on 03/24/2012 17:49:26 MDT Print View

Mayo works better than olive oil for me, probably because the lemon/vinagre makes it slightly acidic. Since I am all about Olive oil : ) that was what I tried first. Mayo finished the job. Same with my hands. I will have to try the Noxzema!

Daniel Benthal

Locale: Mid-Coast Maine
Firestarter on 03/24/2012 19:49:32 MDT Print View

My favorite firestarter is Jute Twine. I carry a short 2' section with my fire steel. Cut off a 2-3" section and separate the twine into a loose ball of fibers. It starts easily with spark or flame and really takes off.


Edited by DBthal on 03/24/2012 19:51:29 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 03/24/2012 20:07:24 MDT Print View


Edited by justin_baker on 10/06/2012 11:06:09 MDT.

jason quick

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
PJ Lollies on 10/06/2012 03:22:16 MDT Print View

...refreshing an old thread...

I soak half a cotton ball in melted PJ. All of this is done inside a snaplock bag that is dunked in & wafted over hot water... so no mess. After pulling them out with a pair of long tweezers, I place them on a pre-cut square of wax paper, and wrap it up like a lollie.

Your hands stay clean when handling them prior to lighting!...and no need for a canister/container to store them.

The great thing about this is, they light really easily due to the lollie-like edging of wax paper. They are also packaged tightly so they tend to burn for a good 4-5 minutes. You can also 'unwrap' it like a lollie and open out the cotton ball (exposing the PJ) if you need to spark it, or for getting a bigger flame.

5g each.

PJ Lollies

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: PJ Lollies on 10/06/2012 04:42:21 MDT Print View

Very nice Jason!

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: PJ Lollies on 10/06/2012 05:23:03 MDT Print View


I like your idea and love the fact that you can keep your hands clean and PJ free while using them.

I do have one question...

Wrapped Sweets do carry your fire starters separate from your walking food and snacks, right?


Great idea and technique!

Party On,


jason quick

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
PJ lollies on 10/06/2012 05:40:36 MDT Print View

" do carry your fire starters separate from your walking food and snacks, right?"


The thought crossed my mind to mark them, but yes, they're in my ditty bag, in a ziplock with other fire-start equipment (wp matches and minibic)....

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 10/06/2012 08:58:41 MDT Print View

Take one egg's worth of egg carton - 0.1 ounce. wrap aluminum foil on the outside

For summer dry wood put in 0.25 ounce of parafin, 0.5 ounce for winter wet wood.

Put on tray in lowest temp possible oven or out in the sun. Let parafin melt so egg carton totally absorbs and some is pooled inside egg carton at bottom - the parafin doesn't have to melt completely, just enough to stick together so it doesn't fall out. Remove aluminum foil when it solidifies a little.

Then, when you use it, tear off a corner to expose fibers so it lights easier. Light it. Set it down in the middle. When it starts burning a little put small stuff on making sure not to put out the flame...

Parafin has about as high BTUs/ounce as any material. You need about that much parafin to provide enough BTUs to get wet wood burning. In summer you don't hardly need anything to get dry wood going, but wet wood is trickier.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 10/06/2012 10:40:28 MDT Print View

Here is some dual use food for thought!

I know it was a terrible pun but you can either eat Fritos on the trail or use them to help get your campfires started.

This second video is just kind of funny and informative in its own right.

These two seem to have "appropriated" someone's lighter and the speaker seems to make sure that the "bored" participant "shares" equally in the "demonstration". ;-)

Here's a hint on how to carry them so that they don't take up too much space. Use a clean sterilized sewing needle or straight pin to pierce the bag. Make only one hole so that air can escape the bag. Use a rolling pin to crush all of the chips until the bag is flat. Go slow enough to allow the air to escape the bag. Use the tape of your choice to seal the hole that you made in the bag with the needle.

Now your bag of Fritos is flatter than a pancake and will take up hardly any space.

FWIW I understand Doritos and Cheetos work in this manner also.

Party On,


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Your firestarter of choice? on 10/06/2012 11:04:04 MDT Print View

I use a firesteel and PJ cotton balls. Well, I usually use a bic but the firesteel is there if I need it.

A lighter or matches require much less prep to get a fire going. You can use a bundle of teeny tiny twigs or light up some curls/feathersticks really easily. It's also really hard to get pine resin lit with a firesteel.

With a firesteel, you need to make wood scrapings or very, very thin curls and fluffy tinders require some fluffing up. But the firesteel is always there for backup (usually around my neck) and to practice with.

Kenneth Jacobs
(f8less) - F

Locale: Midwest
Coghlan's Emergency Tinder on 10/06/2012 13:48:28 MDT Print View

I use good 'ole Coghlan's Emergency Tinder. Smoosh'em flat and tear them apart. They fuzz at the tear. Stand the piece up with the fuzz on top, one strike from a fire steel and done.

I'm liking the idea of Jute twine though! Dunk pieces in some paraffin and they'll probably work as good as birch bark (strips). Another great fire starter if people done know about it. If you find a downed birch tree, steal the bark off of it and make some strips.

Occasionally I'll use some home made char-cloth .


Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
My kit on 10/06/2012 21:04:08 MDT Print View

FireSteel and Vaseline coated cotton balls (INSTANT flame!)

Firesteel and 1/2 ESBIT tab surrounded by Vaseline coated cotton ball

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Firestarter on 10/07/2012 06:15:26 MDT Print View

Last year, the night before the last leg of our section hike, we slept here...

Old Orchard Shelter

...and found one of these sitting in the corner of the shelter in its original unopened packaging!

Duraflame "Log"

The nearest road access is about one and three quarters of a mile away. It was probably left there by some "locally experienced" overnight camper. If memory serves me correctly, the front of that shelter faces North. ;-?

Look closely on the bottom right of the packaging and you'll notice that these things weigh 6 pounds! Definitely not part of an UL campfire starter "kit". ;-)

Party On,


jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Firestarter on 10/07/2012 07:58:37 MDT Print View

I saw one of those Duraflames on top of East Zigzag Mt near Mt Hood. Someone hauled it up there but couldn't get it lit. Over a couple years it gradually disintegrated into sawdust.