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When you get to your campsite, you want to get things setup and done as quickly as possible. Why? Because you’re there to relax! You want to plant your butt in front of the roaring fire, feeling the warmth, getting lost in the hypnotic flames dance on the pieces of wood. But what are the best ways to get that fire going quickly? Here are the top 7 ways to get that fire going and spending more time enjoying your tent camping time.
Whenever you do laundry, it’s inevitable that your dryer will be collecting lint in the lint trap. How convenient that your household chore would spin off a great fire starting tool! This is something that you can be collecting throughout the year, so you should never be without it (of course if you have a clothesline and nice weather, hanging laundry outside to dry is ideal). You can easily store the dryer lint in a gallon sized plastic resealable bag, and it hardly weighs anything. It really doesn’t have a shelf life either, so you can store it for a long time and it will still light up (provided it’s kept dry). If you can’t seem to get enough lint from your own home, ask your neighbors to save their dryer lint for you, or you could go to your local laundromat and get lint from their dryers. No one wants it anyway (except for campers like you), so you’ll be doing them a favor taking it off their hands.
You can take your dryer lint firestarter to the next level by packing it loosely inside a cardboard toilet paper roll. Lint can flame out quickly, but the thicker quality of the cardboard will help your starter stay lit longer to get the small stick going. You could also coat the lint and/or the inside of the toilet paper roll with petroleum jelly to keep things burning even longer. One of these bad boys will ensure that it’s a “one and done” lighting job for your fires!
A third option that is very popular is to use cardboard egg cartons. Put some dryer lint in each depression in the carton, then pour a little candle wax (another way to get the most from your candles!) over it, and consider adding some dry pine cone pieces. When the wax hardens, cut up the carton and you have a dozen portable firestarters. Keep them in that gallon resealable bag to keep dry, and you’re in business!
Now this sounds like some sort of urban legend! Sure, just toss a few Doritos or Fritos on your fire and light them up. In truth, this actually does work. But why? Why are they both delicious and a great fire starter? There are 2 reasons for this, and it works for both the flavor and burnability. The first is that these chips are typically fried in oil, and some of that remains in the chip when it is bagged up. This oil will burn (as all oils do at various temperatures), so that explains part of the flaming question. The other part is the flavorings used on the chips. These spices are also flamable and help the chip to initially catch fire. If you do some experimenting you might find that certain Doritos flavors are easier to light than others. The same can be said for Fritos chips as well. Not that you want to use your lunch to light a fire, but if you want to impress your friends, or if it’s really the only option left for starting your fire, give this option a try.
You might think I’m going crazy on this one, but hear me out. It’s possible to use small batteries, like AA and 9 volt batteries, to help get a fire started. One option that works really easy and well with the 9 volt battery is to use some steel wool. Ideally you would want steel wool that was fine in nature, as this will be your smouldering fuel to light more combustible items like paper and small sticks of wood. Stretch out your steel wool so that its “fluffy” and then you can touch the probes of the 9 volt against the steel wool. It should start smouldering and shining orange. You can also do this with a AA battery but remember that the 2 poles are on opposite ends of each other, so you will probably want to wear gloves or have some hand protection to get the steel wool to start to smoulder. Another option, and one that you may have more handy than steel wool, is a foil gum wrapper. Trim the middle part of the foil to be thinner than the ends, then touch each end of the foil to one of the poles on the battery. The middle of the foil will catch fire and you can use this to start other combustible materials on fire. You may not use this much, but like the chips its a neat way to impress your friends.
Okay, maybe a little bit of cheating here? But, this is a way to have a more stable and long-lasting initial flame to get things going. Obviously you would light the tealite candle, then add larger and larger sticks to build up your fire. What makes these nice, aside from them having a longer lasting flame, is that they are cheap and you can buy a big package of them from dollar stores.
These are the modern day portable firestarters. Basically what you have is a rod or block of magnesium, which is flammable, along with a rod of flint. The set also comes with a shaver/sparker. To use this, you scrape off some of the magnesium into a small pile, then add some other tinder that will help catch fire. Then you scrap your sparker across the flint rod, causing a LOT of heavy sparks to shower the magnesium, which should catch fire. These are nice because they can be put on a lanyard for easy carrying and use, added to a carabiner and hooked onto your belt or day pack, or packed in with your other gear. Great when all other firestarters are wet or not available.
Matches are great for starting fires, but this makes them just one tier better. You can even use old candles with a little wax left to do this. You will need to heat up the wax so that it’s liquid, and then dip matches to cover the head with wax. This will prevent the matches from getting wet, making them useable even if they get submerged in water. It’s not lighting your fire with chips, but it’s a good way to make sure your matches work in a variety of damp/wet weather.
So, this is definitely the cheater’s way out, but sometimes its just fun to do things in a way that is complete overkill. If you have a propane blowtorch, like what you would use for sweating copper pipe fittings together, then you’re all set! Get your small fire ready to go with the kindling and tinder, then apply the blue flame of justice to it. Fire good! This feeds your inner pyro a little, but its fun too.
So what we have are some different and interesting ways to get your fire started. Some aren’t all that difficult or different (wax-dipped matches, tealite candles), some are parlor-style tricks (Doritos or batteries), some are practical (dryer lint and magnesium firestarters), and some are just plain overkill (blowtorch). But, they are all different ways you could start your fire, and many of them are done with things you probably have at home or already in your camping kit. There are other ways to start a fire in a more survivalist setting, but we probably won’t be in a position that we would need to use those. In all seriousness, I recommend that you have a couple of options for starting your fire so that you aren’t reliant on just one way. What’s your favorite way to get your campfire going?
Got some feedback on this topic? I’d love to hear from you! Comment below, send me an email or share it on social media! Happy Tent Camping!
Featured Image photo courtesy SupremeRyan, 7/26/2016. Photo was taken from: https://pixabay.com/en/users/supremeryan-2966505/
Fire starter: smear cotton balls in Vaseline, store in a small pill bottle
Excellent idea, Maryanne!