Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls


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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 07:01:55 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 08:18:10 MST Print View

Nice detail

You could use wax, like parafin, and do the same thing, less messy when cold.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 08:29:29 MST Print View

altoid tin can - nice, but this is BPL right? the tin has weight and is not leak proof.

some use a ziplock baggie with the air squeezed out.
other use the 35mm ancient roll of film cannisters.
And then the classic paperclip to shove a cotton ball in a Boba drinking straw, the seal the straw ends.


I prefer to use olive oil or bacon grease mixed with a used dried tea bag, then heat reseal the entire cocktail in the tea bag foil wax package.


http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=77179&skip_to_post=734752#734752

Edited by RogerDodger on 02/12/2014 08:41:31 MST.

Daniel Smart
(smartd) - M
Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 08:55:59 MST Print View

On a Survivorman forum, Les suggested using duck tape as a fire starter. Double use. Great idea.

-=Dan=-

Paul Mountford
(Sparticus) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic Canada
Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 08:56:32 MST Print View

I find cotton pads work even better (the kind used to remove makeup). If you grab the edge, you can put them apart. You then apply the Vaseline to exposed inside and then push them back together. Fluff the surface before lighting and the take a spark very easily. The advantage of the cotton pad / Vaseline “Wagon Wheel” is that they make much less of a mess as compared with normal cotton balls soaked in Vaseline.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 09:42:57 MST Print View

NM.

Edited by xnomanx on 02/12/2014 12:05:12 MST.

Matthew Perry
(bigfoot2) - F

Locale: Oregon
(Sigh) Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 10:29:37 MST Print View

Wow. Really? Vaseline cotton balls? What's the next article going to be? Wrapping our Nalgene bottles with Duct Tape or Dutch oven cooking on thru-hikes? Somebody phoned this one in....

Edited by bigfoot2 on 02/12/2014 10:35:21 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 10:35:27 MST Print View

Yeah, I agree, Craig. That whole putting things into a backpack and going for a hike in the woods idea is just so stale and old yet BPL writes articles about it every week and people post in the forums about it everyday. When are they going to come up with something new? *wink wink* *har har*

Yes, the Vaseline soaked cotton ball is an age old technique but it's one that has saved my freezing cold and wet tuchus many, many times when I've needed to light a fire with frozen and hardly-working fingers. I'd say it's a lesson well worth teaching to those who may not know it and as a good reminder to those who may be rusty on the subject.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 10:40:16 MST Print View

Nice, thanks. And good video. Most of the boy scouts use dryer lint, but I'll show them your video and suggest they try this as well. (I keep Coghlan's Tinder in my kit; it's a cotton/wax product.)

Matthew Perry
(bigfoot2) - F

Locale: Oregon
Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 10:42:54 MST Print View

Sam,
I agree that it's good advice for new hikers, but seriously...we paid to read this article? It should/could have been just a post, not an article. Nothing wrong with it, just that it's old news and not deserving of anything more than a blip once a year in the Philosophy & Technique or MYOG sections. Maybe I just expect too much.

Just my opinion.

M

Edited by bigfoot2 on 02/12/2014 10:46:45 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
best container on 02/12/2014 10:47:59 MST Print View

The best container I've found for vaseline cotton balls is a pill bottle or an old film canister. You can really shove them down into a hard sided container and fit a bunch of them.

Zane Dargaty
(zdkayaker) - MLife
Add some sawdust on 02/12/2014 10:51:55 MST Print View

I take the vaseline-soaked balls and roll them in sawdust. I makes them less sticky to handle and gives them a little longer burn time.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 11:09:03 MST Print View

I pack Tinder Quick tabs into an aluminum "spy capsule" and that goes on a lanyard with my firesteel.

+1 on a pill bottle or film can for PJCB's.

Other fire starting aids: Esbit fuel tabs and alcohol jel hand cleaner. A dab of hand cleaner takes the barest spark to light. The ultimate is a road flare or the shorter Orion fire starting flare--- best for emergencies rather than regular use.

John Harper
(johnnyh88) - M

Locale: The SouthWest
Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 11:21:00 MST Print View

Any experience on how these compare to Esbit tabs? Half an Esbit tab burns for several minutes and is what I have always used.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Ballz on 02/12/2014 11:33:09 MST Print View

Two points

- you can heat up the vaseline in the microwave ... Its easier and safer

- dont soak the entire ball ... Youll need to leave some fluff for it to catch a spark if yr using a firesteel

As to the "BPLness" of the article ... a test of various fire starters under conditions with different ignition methods would be ideal

And reflect the scientific approach of BPL

;)

Pat Comer
(WPComer) - MLife

Locale: Aborokas
add magnesium filings on 02/12/2014 11:43:39 MST Print View

does anyone but me roll theirs in magnesium filings ?

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 12:44:23 MST Print View

"Any experience on how these compare to Esbit tabs? Half an Esbit tab burns for several minutes and is what I have always used."

I think they're fairly comparable. It's been over a year but the burn time for a p-ball for me was about nine minutes.

I once made the mistake of heating some water with a p-ball. Huge mistake and won't be doing that again. Took a lot of elbow grease to get the residue off of my ti pot.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 12:51:36 MST Print View

I make some small cotton balls, smaller than a dime, and soak them with candle wax. Then I wind a bit of dry cotton around the outside to make it easier to catch a spark.

--B.G.--

Mole J
(MoleJ) - F

Locale: UK
balls v esbit on 02/12/2014 12:55:57 MST Print View

I have used vaseline/cotton balls many times. Even if well soaked in vaseline they can easily light with a spark if teased out. A moderately soaked ball will burn for 3-4 minutes.

Does esbit light with a spark?? (I have enough trouble getting it going with a lighter!)

Edited by MoleJ on 02/12/2014 12:56:29 MST.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Esbit on 02/12/2014 12:56:48 MST Print View

Esbit works very good. I use PJ cotton balls as my everyday fire starter and use an esbit if I really need to get the fire going quickly in wet weather.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 13:00:46 MST Print View

This might seem like lame article, yet stimulates more comments : )

Cotton ball doesn't have enough vaseline to get wet wood burning. Okay for drier wood or if you're good at fire building

Better to take one egg's worth of egg carton, fill with 0.25 ounce parafin, line outside with foil to contain melted parafin, put in oven at lowest temperature until it melts and soaks into egg carton, forms a little pool at bottom, let cool, take off aluminum foil. When you use it, tear off a little of the edge to expose fibers to make it easier to light.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 13:04:41 MST Print View

Minutes of burn time isn't as important as number of BTUs (or Joules) of energy. That's what it takes to dry off wet wood and get it burning.

And, like stoves, it's BTUs/ounce that's important. Esbit or wood/cotton/paper or alcohol are half as efficient as vaseline/parafin/white gas/kerosene/...

Bob Bankhead
(wandering_bob) - MLife

Locale: Oregon, USA
Esbit on 02/12/2014 13:10:21 MST Print View

Esbit tablets require a continual flame to be applied for several seconds in order to light them. That means a match (can be hard to do in bad weather and/or high wind) or a BIC-type lighter.

I can not imagine someone being able to ignite one with just a spark. If you are depending on spark ignition in a survival situation, go with the cotton ball system.

Esbits will burn for 13 - 15 minutes each, but the heat output decreases as the tablet is consumed.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Good to Cover the Basics...not everyone is experienced backpacker on 02/12/2014 13:10:48 MST Print View

Yes, this is "old" information, but I think that BPL should update older articles that covers the basics like this and to frequently recycle them for the benefit of new BPL members or novice backpackers.

From a business standpoint, it is a good idea to cater to novice backpackers and to traditional backpackers who are looking to transition to lightweight/UL Backpacking.

Having articles that mostly caters to very experienced backpackers might be a bad business model.

Not saying that BPL should ignore the core body of experienced members.

As A Lifetime Member, BPL really cannot make money from me anymore.

New members should be a focus.

Plus, there is a lot of older articles full of wisdom that could benefit from a dusting off and updating to be current with the times.

Off the top of my head, I think that articles should be 40% on the basics, 20% on intermediate skills, 30% on gear, and 10% on advanced skills.

30% on gear because let's face it....only so much new gear hits the market per year. This can easily translate to a 2-3 reviews on gear per month, if you figure 8 articles per month....2 per week.

10% on advanced skills because maybe we are talking SUL type skills?

Plus, recycling older articles does not have to mean less new stuff....we are seeing about two articles per week that are new. Why not simply add more articles each week by whipping out older articles covering the basics that will be immediately valuable to the novice and give them an incentive to join BPL?

Anyway, off topic, but I am glad to see an article like this.


My two cents to vaseline cotton balls: I carry a small square of aluminum foil which I use to create a bowl for the cotton ball to sit in. By narrowing the top of the bowl, I can restrict air flow and slow down the burn to give me a 5-6 minute burn with a 2 inch high flame or more. A very light weight way to increase burn time.

Tony

John Vance
(Servingko) - F

Locale: Intermountain West
Fire Starting on 02/12/2014 13:22:52 MST Print View

How many out there typically don't have fires on their trips? I can't remember the last time I had a fire on a backpacking trip...maybe in the mid 1970's.

I carry three forms of firestarting material as an emergency precaution but don't use it. I should take a look at my materials and make sure they are still good.

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
"Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls" on 02/12/2014 13:26:15 MST Print View

I use vaseline soaked cotton balls. And they can be multiple use- I dip into them for a little bit of the vaseline if I have chapped lips and forgot my lip balm.

They burn a long time, as well, almost like a mini-candle. And unlike a candle, sparks will light them up, so if you have a ferro rod but not a lighter you can still start the fire with ease.

Edited by EagleRiverDee on 02/12/2014 13:27:06 MST.

Daniel Goldenberg
(dag4643) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwet
These are the absolute bomb. on 02/12/2014 13:58:08 MST Print View

http://www.amazon.com/DIAMOND-LIB372218-Diamond-Strike-A-Fire-Starters/dp/B001OLU6HG

They are cheap and work great. Think they are basically paraffin and sawdust or something. I've seen them at safeway and they are super cheap.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Fire Starting on 02/12/2014 14:02:33 MST Print View

I mostly make fires in winter and don't bother with it in the summer. In the winter it is about utility. It keeps me warm, lets me dry out my clothes, and provides a free source of fuel for cooking.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Fire Starting on 02/12/2014 14:42:37 MST Print View

"How many out there typically don't have fires on their trips? I can't remember the last time I had a fire on a backpacking trip...maybe in the mid 1970's."

I'm one of those people too.

The goal is to never get into a survival situation where you must rely on fire for survival. But, never say never!

For some people, in some climates, a fire becomes important, and probably more for morale than necessity. Then there are places where a fire can be pretty important for drying damp clothing and sleeping bags too -- the kind of winter trips Chenault does.

Barry Cuthbert
(nzbazza) - MLife

Locale: New Zealand
Rubber burns really well on 02/12/2014 14:53:10 MST Print View

10cm (4") lengths of bike inner tube work really well. Waterproof, non-sticky, light easily, burn hot, hard to blow out, cheap (free) no preparation required. Perfect for getting fire started when its cold, wet and raining.

Edited by nzbazza on 02/12/2014 14:54:24 MST.

Dave Prefontaine
(Preefs) - M

Locale: Cascadia
Used them for years, Until... on 02/12/2014 15:10:53 MST Print View

When I first used the cotton ball technique I was surprised how well they took a spark. Great fire system that seems to work every time on the wet coastal hikes I Love. Now my preferred technique is the Babybel candle, you just can't beat the cheese!

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Re: Fire Starting on 02/12/2014 15:20:21 MST Print View

if we light a match in SoCal, it instantly summons the fire department and 10 news helicopters.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Fire Starting on 02/12/2014 15:25:44 MST Print View

Nick wrote, "The goal is to never get into a survival situation where you must rely on fire for survival. But, never say never!"

Yup! So I carry redundant fire starting methods, and hope I never need them.

I had a stove conk out on me once, but the real rationale is getting in trouble and needing the heat and the signal potential. It's not heavy stuff.

Survival essentials are antithetical to the UL Commandment that says, "Take nothing that won't be used, " but I draw the line there. You can still apply UL principles and keep those items light, high performance and multipurpose.

Another way to carry PJCB's: stuff them in straws and heat seal the ends shut. Cut it open and spread the cotton out for use and leave the plastic in there to add to the flame.

Michael Gonzales
(dynomo01) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Thanks on 02/12/2014 16:39:49 MST Print View

I have used Vaseline-soaked cotton balls for years and I appreciate you writing and sharing your experience with the BPL community. Too many times we forget that there are novice, intermediate, and experienced backpackers who benefit immensely from an article like yours.

I utilize a double boiler consisting of a dollar store hot/cold container (usually four containers to a pack - cost $1.00)placed inside a small cook pot to melt the Vaseline. When I am finished there is no pot to clean up.

My years of experience of using Vaseline-soaked cotton balls has proven them to be 100% reliable in all weather conditions.

Again Thanks.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 16:47:12 MST Print View

"I'd say it's a lesson well worth teaching to those who may not know it and as a good reminder to those who may be rusty on the subject."

I generally agree with you here Sam. But, in my mind, if BPL really wanted to provide this service instead of just kinda pretending to, they'd create one more main menu item/tab up top, and call it something like "New Here? Start Here!", and when clicking on that you'd have the many articles, like this one, that are great for folks new to the UL concept or new to the site. So one place for such articles, which could be updated as necessary, instead of rehash articles that will soon be lost in the clutter. A month from now a newbie to the site won't see this, or the many articles that would be great for folks new to the site/new to UL. A huge opportunity lost.

Something like that has been asked for for quite some time, but like much else with this site, generally goes unheeded.

Leigh Baker
(leighb) - F

Locale: Northeast Texas Pineywoods
Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 17:24:58 MST Print View

^^^Well said Douglas

@Dena, using pjcb in sub of forgotten lip balm. I'm not sure it would have dawned on me to dig mine out for that. Thanks!

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Re: Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/12/2014 17:38:29 MST Print View

Doug,

What they really need is drop downs for different backpacking items.

You select "Backpack"
It takes you to each type of backpack that has been discussed.
You select that name of backpack.
It takes you to the forums and reviews discussed about that pack as well as a link to the site.

You do the same for Tent, Tarps, Pads, Pots, Cups, and what not and you help answer a lot of question for everyone.

All the info you are looking for anything is also consolidated and you would not have to see the same 10-15 questions that new people ask all the time.

Also a manufacture search that would bring you to each manufactures gear items would be great.
With the above applied it would be easy

Edited by awsorensen on 02/12/2014 17:59:11 MST.

Clyde L Cowan
(lokanagan)
easier & safer way on 02/12/2014 18:25:42 MST Print View

No need to melt the Vaseline, and when hot it is dangerous stuff to work with on a stove.

Put a bunch of pure cotton balls in a Ziploc, add a table spoon sized goop of Vaseline and knead till all of the cotton balls are impregnated. Add cotton balls or more Vaseline as needed.

A more robust coating: Mix 2 parts paraffin to one part Vaseline (which I melt in a double boiler to mix). It is a little stiffer, less greasy, burns even longer.

Lightly greased fluffy cotton balls ignite with a spark from a flint & steel but don't have enough fuel in them to burn very long. Heavily impregnated cotton must be teased out into fine wisps to ignite with a spark, as someone posted earlier.

Lewis Swindell
(lswindell4) - F - M

Locale: Eastern North Carolina
cotton balls on 02/12/2014 18:57:02 MST Print View

I first used this method while serving with the 82nd ABN DIV. We took them to the field in case we got to go admin (non-tactical and could light a fire) and I agree that it is good to point out these things to novices. Dorito's work well too - even wet. They will burn a long time wet or dry and of course as a backup munchie!

Lewis Swindell
(lswindell4) - F - M

Locale: Eastern North Carolina
cotton balls on 02/12/2014 18:58:58 MST Print View

I meant to mention that we would also coat the cotton balls in melted wax for a longer burn.

Jerry Getz
(jerzyshore) - F

Locale: Southeastern, PA
I use dryer lint instead of cotton balls on 02/12/2014 19:26:51 MST Print View

I use dryer lint instead of cotton balls.

It is free, light, and quite flammable on its own, even without the vaseline/wax or whatever you use to saturate it.

Gerald L
(Mtngeronimo) - F

Locale: SoCal
PJCB on 02/12/2014 22:26:31 MST Print View

I carry PJCB stored in a sealed straw and use it for starting my Esbit tabs. I've tried scraping the Esbit but still find that I have to hold the Bic to it for longer than I desire. It is easy to pull just a small strand out of the end of the straw and place it on the side of the tab where it sits in the stove. I wipe the residual jelly on my hands for some much needed balm. The added benefit is always having a small supply of emergency firestarter on hand.

Using straws for light weight waterproof containers is another great idea I believe was a link followed here on BPL.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Esbit and hand cleaner on 02/12/2014 22:45:54 MST Print View

Put a dab of alcohol gel hand cleaner on your Esbit tab and just threaten it with a Bic. It will almost light itself :)

Håvard Skarping
(Koffar) - MLife
Wet balls on 02/13/2014 00:26:00 MST Print View

How do the cotton balls perform when soaked in water?

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls on 02/13/2014 05:44:35 MST Print View

I almost never need a fire starter. I like to have a fire, but it isn't really necessary most of the time. In cold weather, rain and for drying out stuff, I agree. A fire is really needed. It depends on where you are going to hike. Nothing like laying down to sleep next to dying campfire as an owl hoots in the distance, though. I gott'a get out more...

Olive oil was already mentioned, but most oils or fats will work. Cooking oil, fritoes, potatoe chips, bacon fat, parified butter, etc. All are things I often have in my pack. Worst case, I have a small piece of candle that can be shaved for some parifin bits into a cocoa envelope or wrapped into other food wrappers. Insure there is some dry paper, cotton, small pieces of twisted wood or something to make a wick. A piece of bark works as a continer for any melted wax, or oils. I usually have an envelope from hot cocoa or from a supper that works pretty well. Any aluminum foil can be picked out of the fire in the morning, if I use one that has foil in it. Soo, I never carry a specific fire starter. It weighs too much. Like so many things related to UL camping, it is how you use what you have. A 14gm container of firestartes is not something I would carry for only starting fires.

But a new camper may not know these tricks. So, I agree that these type of articles need to be restated rather regularly. Kind of booooring? Yes. Do I read every article in any magaine? I agree, they have their place.

Gerald L
(Mtngeronimo) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Re: Esbit and hand cleaner on 02/13/2014 08:31:26 MST Print View

'Put a dab of alcohol gel hand cleaner on your Esbit tab and just threaten it with a Bic. It will almost light itself :)'

Good tip Dale, I'll give that a try. Hmmm, sounds like that could function as a good hand warmer as well : o

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
RE: Old School and another alternative on 02/13/2014 08:41:23 MST Print View

For improvements tips on the Vaseline-soaked Cotton Balls :

+1 on the microwave use(much quicker and easier)
and coat the cotton balls in WetFire Tender (makes them a lot less messy, starts even easier, if that's possible)



FWIW, there is another alternative that I carry as a part of my emergency fire starting kit: all-in-one firestarter. Here's one of the youtube videos that show how to make it ... the instruction part starts 34 seconds in: Self-Igniting Fire Starter

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Hand sanitizer on 02/13/2014 08:51:30 MST Print View

Be sure that your hand sanitizer has ethyl alcohol as the cootie-killing ingredient (some don't), and that it has the highest alcohol percentage available (70%). Then mix it 50-50 with Everclear. It still is a gel, although less viscous, but you beef up the alcohol percentage to maybe 80-85%. Now you have the good firestarter to get your Esbit tab burning.

But I prefer those Strike-a-Fire sticks, cut into 1" pieces, for starting a campfire. One piece does it.

Ian B.
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: Esbit and hand cleaner on 02/13/2014 08:53:40 MST Print View

"Put a dab of alcohol gel hand cleaner on your Esbit tab and just threaten it with a Bic. It will almost light itself :)"

This definitely works with Purell but I've found some of the generic brands won't light all that well. If you're using something other than Purell, best to do a test run at home.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Re: Esbit and hand cleaner on 02/13/2014 10:37:28 MST Print View

"Good tip Dale, I'll give that a try. Hmmm, sounds like that could function as a good hand warmer as well : o"

The alcohol gel and backyard BBQ dinners seem to make sense for clean hands, but you don't want anyone near the fire using it!

We do use Purell (wife=nurse) and it lights fine--- needs no Everclear :)

The point is that if you have the stuff and you are about to go into hypothermia, it is a great resource. Visions of some cold wet hiker scraping away at a firesteel with a jug of hand cleaner at hand. Alcohol wipes from your first aid kit will do the same.

And of course, everyone needs to practice fuel gathering and fire building when it is not an emergency. A little practice really tells you what kind of tinder to look for.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Esbit and hand cleaner on 02/13/2014 10:47:36 MST Print View

And of course, everyone needs to practice fuel gathering and fire building when it is not an emergency. A little practice really tells you what kind of tinder to look for.

this ...

everyone knows the theory ... but many dont practice under realistic conditions ...

next time its raining hard, try starting a small fire backyard (safely of course) with no cover, and damp tinder and wood ... youd be surprised at how hard it is

;)

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
fire as survival on 02/13/2014 11:24:09 MST Print View

In survival situation, get in sleeping bag in tent, don't waste time with fire.

Worst is when it's raining. Difficult to get fire going and keep it going. You'll get more wet from rain falling on you than dry out from heat from fire.

Although I acknowledge there are times fire could help survival, especially if you get a sheltered location or it's not raining, or if you had no tent/sleeping bag.

Mostly fire is just entertainment or keeping warm before going to bed. Especially in winter, day is short so nice to have a couple hours around fire.

I make fire about half the time. Not appropriate for some locations, but if there's lots of wood around it's pretty harmless.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: fire as survival on 02/13/2014 11:40:43 MST Print View

Jerry,

I concur that in almost all true survival situations, getting out of the weather and into all possible clothes, sleeping gear, and shelter trumps dealing with a fire. Radiant warmth on one side rarely balances out wind and rain on the other three side. When it does, the wind and rain weren't all that bad in the first place.

Early in my UL days (early 1980's) I did a 10-day Sierra trip ranging from 7,000 to 11,000 feet elevation. At lower elevations around 40F, I was fine, wearing all my clothes (I brought no sleeping bag). Higher up, with cooler air and more radiant losses on clear nights, I didn't sleep so well unless I was near a small campfire (which is problematic because there's less wood up high). But it wasn't a survival situation - the fire just let me continue the trip in greater comfort.

Most commonly, I see campfires being used to let people sit around and chat for another hour before getting into their tents and sleeping bags. Similarly, in the morning, people build a fire and everyone gets 1) smokey, 2) warm on one side and 3) cold on the other side. Why not just reach out of your sleeping bag and cook breakfast from there? Socializing is great, but we can be left with the impression that the fire kept us warm. Well, yeah, somewhat, but not nearly as warm as our sleeping bags can.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Re: fire as survival on 02/13/2014 12:18:23 MST Print View

In a survival situation you may not have a sleeping bag and a tent

For simple day hikes or climbs, how many of us carry a tent and sleeping bag?

;)

Ben Feldman
(fenbeldman) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
cotton balls? on 02/13/2014 13:12:11 MST Print View

+1 lint

also, tampons, which are basically *extremely* dense cotton.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: fire as survival on 02/13/2014 13:27:54 MST Print View

"Worst is when it's raining. Difficult to get fire going..."

Not if you know what you are doing and have the proper skills and firestarting material.

"... and keep it going"

Not if you search for relatively dry pieces of wood and stack wet wood on top or around the fire so it will be dry when you need it.

"You'll get more wet from rain falling on you than dry out from heat from fire."

Not if you are using a tarp or open sided shelter. I can be protected from the rain, be inside my sleeping, and still receive heat from a fire.
If you are using a tent and in a survival situation, you can leave the front door open.

Starting a fire in very frozen conditions. We found a vertical snag and sawed/split it to get dry wood. Kyle starting it with esbit while I watch.
a
Fire is going, drying out, wet wood is stacked on the fire to dry out. Once that wood dries out and starts burning well you put on more wet wood.
a
Camp set up. I ended up keeping this fire going all night long because my trash bag liner had a hole in it and my bag/down gear ended up wet (a sort emergency/survival situation, however I would have survived anyways)... needed the extra warmth and to dry out a bit. It was not a big deal or hassle at all, just woke up and restarted the fire from coals every other hour.
a

Keep in mind, this sort of camping or surviving is only practical in an actual forest. Trying to start a fire at the timberline in a storm is pointless.

Edited by justin_baker on 02/13/2014 13:30:59 MST.

Elisa Umpierre
(eliump) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Not a Newbie... on 02/13/2014 21:51:12 MST Print View

...but I liked this article. So what that utilizing vaseline soaked cotton balls isn't a brand new idea. Just look how many responses and helpful other techniques sprouted from this "...can't believe I pay for this" post. If you're sick of the site, move on. The most you paid is $99. Get over it.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
paid on 02/14/2014 12:27:53 MST Print View

Nobody paid for this article. I'm not a subscriber and I can read it.

The issue is that people paid for a LIFETIME subscription expecting many years of quality articles. If this site was unable to supply quality articles for many years in the future, they shouldn't have offered a lifetime subscription.

Susan D
(susand) - M

Locale: montana
Not more warranties on 02/14/2014 22:36:42 MST Print View

Uh oh. This is beginning to bear resemblance to the REI warranty thread...

David Olsen
(bivysack.com) - F

Locale: Channeled Scablands
Jute? Vicks Vaporub? on 02/15/2014 08:11:46 MST Print View

Jute cord starts very easily. Has anyone tried waxing it? Could be a dual purpose item then.

On cotton balls I have used vicks vaporub. Works just like vasoline, but you get another use for the item too.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Hand sanitizer. @Gary Duncke, everclear. on 02/15/2014 14:26:32 MST Print View

Everclear is illegal in CA. In the 90s had a friend smuggle some from out of state. It burned the tongue :P

Suppose vodka or rubbing alcohol is a close substitute.

Edited by RogerDodger on 02/15/2014 14:32:38 MST.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Hand sanitizer. @Gary Dunckel, Everclear. on 02/15/2014 14:54:43 MST Print View

"Everclear is illegal in CA."

It is not illegal to own, only to buy or sell.

--B.G.--

Edited by --B.G.-- on 02/15/2014 14:55:59 MST.

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Hand sanitizer. @Gary Dunckel, Everclear. on 02/15/2014 15:27:00 MST Print View

I thought it was only the higher proof Everclear that wasn't sold in CA; I've purchased the lower proof (151 proof) at BevMo to make limoncello with a number of times.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Re: Re: Hand sanitizer. @BG, Everclear. on 02/15/2014 15:33:46 MST Print View

The high proof Everclear is also illegal to transport across CA state line.

The other low proof 150, 75% alc is ok.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Hand sanitizer. @BG, Everclear. on 02/15/2014 15:52:38 MST Print View

"The other low proof 150, 75% alc is ok."

Yeah, but that isn't the _real_ Everclear.

The recipe for Purple Passion:

One galvanized wash tub, one large amount of high-test Everclear, and one large amount of Welch's Grape Juice. Mix the two liquids at roughly 50-50 in the tub. Use paper cups to serve yourself by dipping from the tub.

--B.G.--

Richard Mock
(moxtr) - M

Locale: The piney woods
my 2 cents on 02/16/2014 12:34:35 MST Print View

I too found the article a little weak compared to a lot of the stuff I read here but definitely picked up some knowledge in these comments so I guess it was worth the read.

jason quick
(jase)

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
Consider Vaseline 'Lollies' on 02/16/2014 15:12:28 MST Print View

Hi all

I love this, and have been doing the same for ages.

What I have done, is after making the Vaseline-soaked cotton balls, is to wrap them like lollies in some grease-proof paper. The paper burns well too, and you don't get all that goo over your fingers. Plus, the end of the 'wrapper' is really easy to light.

Just a thought.
Jase in Australia

jason quick
(jase)

Locale: A tent in my backyard - Melbourne
oh yeah... on 02/16/2014 15:13:45 MST Print View

Oh yeah, and if you need to use a flint/fire starter, just open the wrapper up to expose the good stuff. :-)

Glenn S
(Glenn64) - M

Locale: Snowhere, MN
Drier lint. Eww. on 02/16/2014 22:44:07 MST Print View

Drier lint is nasty. Full of pet fur, body hair, dead skin... not something multi-use for say, chapping or chafing like you could with cotton balls. Not to mention it's messy, and probably partially synthetic materials. Thousands of dollars of gear on someones back and THIS is where they save 99 cents?

The article makes note that this is an emergency fire starter. That's good, because if this is your primary way of starting fires, then perhaps some practice in that area could be a future project.

I used to pack these, I melted the whole jars worth in the oven at the lowest setting with the door cracked open. Carried a couple in an Advil travel size pill bottle. Birch bark is such a great firestarter, and I'm surrounded by so much of it that I just don't carry this stuff most of the time anymore. I do make sure to have an extra ounce or so of stove fuel in my bottle though, so that'll do more for me than a PJCB I figure.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Drier lint. Eww. on 02/16/2014 23:20:05 MST Print View

"Drier lint is nasty."

Mine is as pure as the driven snow. It's full of organic polyester and cotton.

--B.G.--

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Vaselined cotton balls & sparkers on 02/18/2014 21:02:45 MST Print View

I've found Vaselined cotton balls are THE best fire starters when using a sparking stick and steel (or even a wheel type sparker).

That's why I carry both items in a fire starting kit, one for my CC Sidewinder Inferno stove and one for a survival kit.

People seem amazed that I can get a fire in the cotton ball with just one or two strokes on the sparking stick. "Shucks M'am, twern't nuthin'."

William Giles
(wgiles51) - M

Locale: Central Illinois
Fire Starters on 03/26/2014 19:09:27 MDT Print View

I saw an article in, I think, Field and Stream about fire starters that were made from strike anywhere matches wrapped with cotton string and coated with paraffin. I figured that I'd make some and see what I thought of them. I didn't have any cotton string, so I wrapped the matches with jute twine. I then dipped them in paraffin. I found that the paraffin coating made it very difficult to strike the matches, even on a piece of sandpaper. The paraffin gets into the matchhead and makes it difficult to light. In spite of that, once lit, they did seem to make good fire starters. I had been waterproofing matches by dipping them in clear lacquer (clear nail polish, same thing), so I tried some lacquer coated matches, wrapped in jute twine and coated with paraffin. These seemed to work better. Striking the match was easier and they would hold aflame for quite some time. Since I expected that the wax coated matches would stick together when the wax got warm and softened, I wrapped them in bits of aluminum foil. I found that I needed to remove the foil completely for them to burn properly. I tried one and made a twig bundle fire with no problem. Since I always carry a BIC lighter, I'm not too concerned about striking them. Two or three of these don't amount to much weight or volume and they do seem to be fairly effective, so I'll probably try a few when I get the chance.