Ask any survival expert about basic essentials out in the wilderness, and fire usually lands in the top spot. Getting a fire started doesn’t just mean you have a crucial source of warmth and light; it can be an invaluable source of morale as well. Think Tom Hanks in Castaway). Even if you’re just out camping with your friends, you’ll need a way to cook all the grub you brought or pulled from the wild.
The best way to check fire off your in-the-wilderness to-do list is to have pre-made DIY fire starters. The concept is simple: Just combine combustible material, an accelerant, and a way to slow the rate at which the material burns so the flame can live long enough set the wood alight. Fortunately, they’re easy to make and you probably already have most of the materials you’ll need around your house. Below is a list of our favorite DIY fire starters and guidance on how to make them.
Cotton Pads and Wax
Small and Effective
Materials needed: cotton facial pads, wax, wax paper.
Dip and cool. Heat up chunks of candle wax in a pot (preferably one you don’t mind being temporarily caked in wax) until it’s in a liquid state, then dip cotton facial pads in the wax, submerging all but a small area of the pad. The exposed cotton will serve as the wick.
A New Twist on Print
Materials needed: newspaper, twine.
Twist, fold, twist. Newspaper does a decent job as kindling — if you have enough of it. So if all you have is newspaper and you only have two or three pages, take one page and tightly twist it. Then fold it in half, bringing the ends together, and twist it again. Tie the ends together with twine so it doesn’t come undone. Now you’ve given the sports section a second life.
Egg Cartons and Shredded Paper
Pour-Over Fire Starters
Materials needed: egg cartons, shredded paper, drier lint, wax.
Make a few fire starters at once. Take an empty egg carton and stuff shredded paper and dryer lint into each holder.
Pour it on. Heat up chunks of wax until it’s a liquid and pour it over each section of the egg carton, covering the paper and lint but leaving a small amount exposed to use as a fuse.
Cut it up. Now cut each section out from the carton to make each individual fire starter.
Dryer Lint and Toilet Paper Rolls
Indoor Plumbing Needed
Materials needed: dryer lint, spent toilet paper roll.
Do laundry first. Take a spent toilet paper roll and stuff it with the lint from your dryer filter. The more lint you stuff in the cardboard tube, and the tighter you pack it, the more efficiently this fire starter will burn.
Cotton Balls and Vaseline
Exactly What It Sounds Like
Materials needed: Petroleum jelly, cotton balls.
Rub the cotton balls in petroleum jelly. Do that with a few cotton balls and that’s it — you’re done.
One Big Wick
Materials needed: twine, wax paper, wax.
Heat it. Heat wax in pot or sauce pan until liquid.
Cut it. Cut up a piece of twine into multiple pieces.
Dip and set. Submerge the pieces of twine in the liquid wax, then fish them out (it’s probably best not to use your bare hands to do this) and let them cool on wax paper.