Camping & Survival

Quick Camping Tip: 5 Free Fire Starters

Picture shows drier lint stuffed inside an empty cardboard toliet paper roll.

Cheaper Than Dirt! Quick Camping TipWhat’s camping without a fire? No s’mores, no camp songs, no charred hotdogs! No fun! Besides the reasons listed, fire can be essential to your survival. Following are five common household items that will start a fire.

Picture shows drier lint stuffed inside an empty cardboard toliet paper roll.
Fill old toilet paper rolls with lint.

1. Toilet paper roll, drier lint and newspaper fire starter

Fill your old toilet paper rolls with dryer lint from your clothes dryer’s lint trap. Wrap newspaper or junk mail fliers around the toilet roll. Tuck the paper into the ends of the roll so lint does not come out. Keep these fire starters stored in an old coffee can or in waterproof plastic baggies.

2. Cotton ball soaked in Vaseline

Thoroughly cover a handful of cotton balls in petroleum jelly or petroleum-based lip balm. Keep the coated cotton balls in a waterproof plastic bag or in a waterproof match case.

3. Wine corks

Picture shows a glass mason jar with wine corks soaking in rubbing alcohol.
Collect wine corks in a jar with rubbing alcohol.
Start collecting your wine corks in a tightly sealed glass jar. Fill the jar with rubbing alcohol, allowing room for the corks to expand as they absorb the liquid. Use one cork to start your kindling.

4. Wax-coated cosmetic cotton pads

Melt left over wax from burned out candles. Dip round cosmetic cotton pads into the melted wax to coat. Let the cotton pads dry on paper and then place them in a plastic bag or small waterproof case. To use, scrape some of the wax and cotton from the center of the cotton pad to form a wick. Place the pad on your tinder and light. Note, you may have to repeat this scraping process if the pad does not light.

Picture shows a cosmetic cotton pad dipped in red wax and then dried.
Coat cotton rounds with melted wax.

5. Steel wool and a 9-volt battery

Peel some of the wool off and place it on your tinder. Rub the tip of a 9-volt battery to the steel wool.

Quick prepper tip: Always keep Bic lighters even after they run out, as they will still create a spark.

What is your favorite way to start a fire? Share your tips and tricks in the comment section.

For more about fire starters, read the following posts:


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Comments (19)

  1. wax works great. my method is to cut some newspaper into strips roll and tie with a string. dip this into melted wax. once lit they will burn like a candle for a long time. i make them about the size of a lighter or a little bigger. i then use strike anywhere matches and dip them into wax also to make them some what water proof. i found if i soaked the matches for a day in water they would not lite. i guess the wax is not completely water proof but for short periods in water it works. cheap do it yourself stuff. the waxed newspaper will burn for over an hour which is long enough to lite even wet wood. does not take up much room and if you need a fire immediately it can be a life saver…

  2. I use sawdust and wood chips mixed with parifin, melt parifin then stir in sawdust spread out on cookie sheet or tinfoil. As it cools cut into usable chunks. Lasts for years, waterproof burns for a long time.

  3. A squirt of Hand Sanitizer on your damp tender will burn long enough to dry it further and ignite your kindling.

    I also carry a small candle stub for when I’m just too tired to bother with all the tricks I know for making/finding natural fire starters; set it on the ground (or on a mostly dry piece of bark) and light it with tender, etc. spaced over top of it. When your fire catches, you can fish out your candle stub with a stick – to “save it for a rainy day.”

  4. Aside from the lighter fluid in my pack I don’t like to carry ‘treated fire starters’ because of the danger of accidental ignition. A fellow pyromaniac friend had his stuff packed together and we never did find out what he did wrong but he had to get out of his smoldering pack in a hurry. We were in dry country so three of us had to stomp it out and bury what was left. A fireman friend told us that was a freak accident but aren’t they all?

    I pack everything separately in Zip Lock bags: cotton balls, (tinder), lighter fluid, some crushed twigs, (my kindling), and my Bics. Most fit nicely in snack bags. My back up Zippo is always in my pocket.

  5. , Also, don’t forget that most high velocity centerfire rifle calibers utilize a hot, slow burning gunpowder, which will usually burn intensely hot for 2 to 3 seconds in a small pile, if you find yourself without some of the other aforementioned materials.
    I like the mosquito repellant idea, and the 9v and steel wool idea as well. Fritos, too.

  6. I carry “Goop” brand glue. Handy for repair jobs on tents, packs, etc. Biggest plus is that it burns like napalm! Squeeze out about 1″, put kindling on top and put fire to it. If the tube dries out, simply slice it open and use the dried glue, works just fine.

  7. My tried and true favorite is a sandwich bag of cotton balls and little can of lighter fluid, if you can find it. Nobody smokes anymore. The cotton balls in the bag, if you burp all the air out, will practically fit in a watch pocket. It’s lite and with a squirt of the lighter fluid you can practically start a fire in a hurricane. Just don’t forget your Zippo or a Bic to flip. That’s my favorite.

    Cotton balls work well with alcohol and anything flammable.

  8. Why go to all the trouble of gathering & carrying lint, cotton balls, toilet paper rolls, newspaper and such crap. A small bottle of 97-cent hand sanitizer like Germ X kept in your pocket is highly flammable gelled alcohol.. and a little will go a long ways toward starting a fire. A 40 oz pump bottle costs about $5-6. It will burn hot & clean. Just smear some on any tender… such as grass / leaves / shredded bark …. and then touch it off with your magnesium fire starter flint / a match or a lighter.

    Sterno also makes a great fire starter gel. About $5 for a 8 oz bottle. If you are gonna be storing stuff like lint & other items in a plastic bag, then why not take the easy way out and just get a bottle of gelled alcohol… like Germ X or Sterno? Quick, cheap and easy to carry some in a bottle on your person… plus with the Germ-X you get a disinfectant for your hands too.

  9. Rubber bands burn like crazy, light easy and burn a long time. Bigger the better. Just about any plastic hard or soft you have will burn well. It stinks of course but in an emergency who cares?

  10. Yeah. Your lint you collect BETTER be from cotton clothing and not synthetics, folks.

    And fine steel wool will ignite from any spark you can put into it, you don’t need a battery.

  11. My hand’s-down favorite is potassium permanganate mixed with glycerin.

    (keep separate and mix only when a fire is needed!)

    Fire will start in ANY weather even with wet wood. This is a super combo that doesn’t require a ton of preparation. Be safe!

  12. I’m sure all of you know of rich pine, but if you don’t , if you are out in the woods and don’t have these ready premade fire starters then find a pine tree that has fallen, look for the knots where the limbs were grew out of the tree trunk these are usually full of what we call rich pine, the wood has resin in it, smells like turpentine,with your knife shave some thin strips, and light under kindling gets very hot…also known as pine knots…and if you can find a pine tree that has had the bark knocked off you can find hard resin looks like amber this is even better than pine knots, if you can find both the combo will get you a fire going in a hurry…when you are out in the woods hiking or horse back riding or what ever, look for it as you go along collect it as go then when it comes time to make a fire you will have it, and if you use the same area alot make yourself a catch of along the trail or at the camp if you use the same one often..when I was young and did alot of horse back riding, we would pile rock and in the pile would store the resin and knots for later use or if someone else should need it. and if your lucky enough to have rock outcrop store some wood in out of the rain, this has come in handy on many of our trips into the woods or a hollow tree works good too..on one of our camps there was a tree that had been hollowed out by fire and we would keep emergency rations in it can food and fire starter and dry wood. just in case, haven;t been to it in 15 years but I bet there is rations still in it, don’t know how good it would be, be sure and rotate you stores when you travel through..

  13. Fritos corn chips are the best and certainly most delicious method for starting any fires especially camp fires. If your fire gets away you can always douse with beer! Seriously, light one chip and you have blazing, snapping flame.

  14. For fire starters:
    If they haven’t changed the chemical composition of them, “Off” insect repellant wipes. Use the wipe to put on the insect repellant. Then, stuff the wipe under kindling and light it. I used this method on damp kindling and wood when nothing else would work. The wipe lit and burned hot enough to dry the kindling and start a fire. In 5 minutes, there was a good blaze going

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