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Fire Week – Day 2 – Tinder

Right off the bat I want to apologize for my tardiness in getting the rest of the Fire Week series of posts written. I was a little under the weather earlier this week, and actually called out of work for the first time in a couple years.

Anyways, back to the topic of fire. As stated before, there are four components of Fire:

  • Spark
  • Tinder
  • Kindling
  • Fuel

We have covered Spark already, so today we will get on to the topic of Tinder.

What the heck is Tinder?

Tinder is generally considered to be anything that can be easily ignited by a match, or something that can catch a spark from our firesteel and begin to burn. Pocket lint, cotton balls, lint from your clothes dryer, and some types of paper are all examples of man made tinder.

In the outdoors, there are also some types of natural tinder, such as “punky” wood from a rotting tree stump, some types of fungus that grow on dead trees, paper birch bark, etc.

I have found that it is a whole lot easier to bring some tinder with me when starting a fire than it is to try and find good, dry, natural tinder. This isn’t to say that you should not attempt to find some natural tinder, but if you do not want to spend all day searching, it may be best to bring some as well.

What I use for Tinder.

As with spark, there are thousands of different things that can be used for tinder. My all time favorite tinder is a cotton ball smeared in Vaseline. I like to smear about half of the cotton ball in Vaseline, leaving the other half dry. What happens when I create a spark is that the dry portion of the cotton ball begins to burn quickly, which then acts as a wick for the Vaseline creating something like a candle, which will burn for 7+ minutes in good conditions. I keep them in a little waterproof container, and just pull one out when I need it.

The container I use most is a soda bottle pre-form. This is a soda bottle that has not been formed into a bottle yet. Its waterproof, small enough, and light enough to ride in my backpack.These can be picked up pretty cheap at different places online.

As you can see below, the cotton balls smeared in vaseline burn well, and catch a spark easily from a firesteel. (Sorry, its hard to see the cotton ball, white on white, my bad.)

This is the cotton ball right after catching a spark from my Firesteel.com firesteel. It took 3 sparks for it to catch, then it took off quickly.

These cotton balls will catch a spark from a good firesteel, and burn on their own, so you don’t even have to mess around with shaving magnesium to get them to burn.

60 seconds of burning (Yes, it burned through my white background…oops)

2 Minutes:

3 Minutes:

4 Minutes:

5 Minutes:

6 Minutes:

7 Minutes:

8 Minutes (Somewhere between 7 and 8 minutes the visible flame disappeared, however we are still left with a nice ember that could be used to start a fire)

Other types of Man-Made Tinder:

Dryer Lint, you know, the crap your wife never cleans out of the dryer? That stuff is very flammable, especially after doing a few loads of mostly cotton clothes. If you do a bunch of synthetic fabrics, it will still burn, but not nearly as well. Keep in mind if you are going to use dryer lint, that is burns very fast, so make sure you have some good kindling ready, or it will burn out before you know it.

Charcloth. This is a piece of cloth that has been smoldered in the absence of oxygen, leaving behind a black fiber that will easily catch a spark. I’ve only attempted to make charcloth once or twice, and while it does work for starting a fire, there is a lot more effort involved, and in my experience, it does not burn as well, or as long as Vaseline on a cotton ball. However, last week I wrote about advancing our skill sets, and learning different methods of doing something is always a good thing.

Lastly, one type of man-made tinder that I saw Les Stroud of Survivorman use recently on an episode was to take a piece of 100% cotton fabric, and roughen it up on a rock to break up the fibers so it will catch a spark. This is one I need to try soon. I suspect that if the fabric is rough enough, it will catch a spark and burn about like a cotton ball.


Now that I’ve covered both spark and tinder, its time to start practicing and adding to your skill set. Come up with a way to create a spark, try some different tinders, and see what happens!  (Make sure you do this outdoors, in a safe area for fire-building)




About Lucas

Editor/Head Honcho at Triangle Tactical. Lucas is a life long shooter and outdoorsman, avid concealed carrier and competitive shooter, and a lover of pork fat.

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