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Learn How To Build Your Own Fire Starter Kit

Having and knowing how to use a fire kit can be a crucial part of your camping or survival experience.  Whether your are out for a weekend camping trip with your family, or you are stranded with little more than your emergency bag from your car, a fire can save a life and also add enjoyment and a sense of security to your camp.  Here’s how you can build your own fire starter kit.

I have many varieties of fire kits that I keep with my car camping gear, my backpack for over night hikes, and even in my small day hiking bags.  All of my fire starter kits vary in their content.  Some are bulky and take up more space, but they also have much more in them.  Other kits are light weight yet have all the essentials to be very effective.

fire starter kit

Here Are Some Important Things to Remember When Building Your Own Fire Starter kit

  1. Think Redundancy

    1. The more ways you have of starting a fire the better especially in adverse conditions.

  2. Waterproof Your Fire Starter kit

    1. Water is a natural enemy of fire and fire starting.

    2. If your kit is soaked it can be useless but there are things you can use that wont be effected by fire.

  3. Knowledge and Experience

    1. Know how to use your kit.

    2. Practice using the methods of fire starting that you choose for your kit.

Putting Together Your Fire Kit

There are many ways to start a fire in camp fire pit or in an emergency situation such as: the simple use of matches or a lighter – to the skilled use of making a friction fire with use of a bow drill. (and many other fire starting methods in between)

If this is your first fire kit, I would keep it simple. Get basic fire starting skills down first and grow your skills from there. You should also be familiar with the methods of fire starting that you choose for your kit. Don’t rely on methods you don’t know you can use successfully.  For example, if you have a disposable lighter in your kit you should also know how to use it once the lighters fluid runs out which I will explain later. If you don’t know how to use a bow drill, fire plow, or fire piston I would recommend to not even think of using one in your kit.  Though I do know people who carry at least one of these with them, they will be usable only as kindling if you don’t know how to use them properly. If you want to learn how to use one of these more advance fire starting methods, bring it along and teach yourself on your camping trip. That will make for a great in camp activity.

How Many Fire Starting Methods Should You Put In Your Kit?

I recommend using at least three different methods of starting a fire in your kit, and three different items to keep as a fire starter or kindling.  My personal choices are waterproof matches, a Bic lighter and a ferro rod and for the kindling I like to use dry cotton balls or dryer lint, cotton balls in petroleum jelly, home made fire starters (which are a combination of wax, cotton and petroleum jelly), fat wood and juke twine. Many of these items take up very little space and weigh next to nothing so keeping a second lighter with you might not be a bad idea as well … just in case.

You may choose to keep one method of starting fire as a back up kit separate from your main kit, its the “not keeping all your eggs in one basket” theory.  If a bear drags your pack off into the woods, you might want to keep a backup system in another location, perhaps in a belt pack that you keep on yourself at all times.

A lighter and a match provide a sure flame and can light things directly on fire. So while using one of those, you can light any burnable material as long as it is dry or coated in a water resistant substance such as petroleum jelly.  If you use something that sparks such as a magnesium fire starter kit and doesn’t create an immediate flame, you will need something to catch the spark in. This can be a piece of charred cotton cloth – that once applied to flammable tinder can be blown into a flame. You could also use dry cotton or cotton and petroleum jelly (that will hold a longer flame than just cotton alone), jute twine, or other plant material you find in nature that should spark a fire almost instantly.

Some tinder works very well with only a spark.

  1. Dry Cotton Balls

    1. When using to catch a spark, fluff the cotton so that small fibers are spread out a bit creating surface area.

  2. Char Cloth

    1. Char cloths are made by charring cotton or other natural fibers in a metal tin.

    2. The cloth or cotton catches a spark and turns it into a red ember once blown on

    3. Then you blow the ember into a flame using other dry tinder.

  3. Jute Twine

    1. When using to catch a spark, separate and fluff the twine so that small fibers are spread out a bit creating surface area.

  4. Cotton Balls and Petroleum Jelly

    1. If fluffed up a bit, it will take a spark and ignite

  5. Cattail Heads or Similar Plant Matter

    1. Fluff up and mix with other dry plant life such as grasses or shredded birch bark

  6. Pocket/Dryer Lint

    1. Fluff lightly and it will take a spark with ease

Here Are Some Different Types of Tinder That You Can Put In Your Fore Starter Kit

  1. Fat Wood

    1. Part of a dead evergreen tree branch that is super saturated with tree pitch (or sap)

    2. Once it litghts it burns like a candle

  2. Home-made fire starters

    1. Created from  combinations of cotton, wax and petroleum jelly

  3. Candle

    1. Tea lights work well

    2. If you have the space try a 9hr emergency candle

    3. Birthday candles work well for fire starting (especially the gag candles you cant blow out)

  4. Twigs

    1. Hard woods burn slow

    2. Soft woods burn faster and hotter

  5. Tree Pitch or Sap

    1. Evergreen pitch can be easily collected off the bark of injured trees

    2. Extremely sticky

  6. Rubber

    1. Small pieces of rubber from a bicycle inner tube will hold a flame

    2. Will work when wet

  7. Corn Chips

    1. The kind you eat

    2. Any snack chip with a high oil content will burn

  8. Lip Balm

    1. Can be mixed with cotton instead of regular petroleum jelly

    2. Helps relieve dry skin, burns and chapped lips

    3. Can be used as face protection from wind burn

Examples of Fire Starters

  1. Lighter

    1. Uses a spark from a flint and a flammable fluid that turns into a gas to create a flame

  2. Matches (waterproof)

    1. Once struck on proper surface will burn for a few seconds

  3. Ferrocerium (or Ferro) Rod or a Magnesium Fire Starter

    1. Creates a hot spark when struck with a high carbon steel

    2. Needs a tinder to catch the spark and make it a flame

    3. The Aurora Fire Starter is a great ferrocerium rod you can use
  4. Flint and Steel

    1. Creates a spark that is not as hot as a Ferro rod spark

    2. Char Cloth is preferred tinder

  5. “Flint” Fire Sparker

    1. Creates a spark from a flint that is similar to that in a lighter (made of ferrocerium)

    2. Needs a tinder to catch on fire, cotton works well.

  6. Magnifying Lens

    1. Must have a sunny day to use

    2. Will create a flame or ember depending on tinder

  7. Flares

    1. Road flares are great but large

    2. They self ignite and burn really hot

    3. Small flares are sold for emergency kits and as boat signaling devices

Here are Some Other Items You Can Keep In Your Fire Starting Kit

  1. Knife

    1. To assist in preparing the tinder and kindling

  2. Zip Top Bag

    1. To keep tinder and kindling dry

  3. Light Source

    1. To use for night fire starting

    2. Small LED flash light or glow stick

  4. Altoid Tin

    1. Puncture with a single pin hole and use in a fire to create char cloth

    2. Put cotton (T-shirt or bandanna) or natural material inside and place in fire till no smoke comes out of the hole

    3. Use as container to store your fire kit in

  1. Aluminum Foil Sheet

    1. Use to create a wind barrier

    2. Use as a dry surface to ignite tinder on

    3. Create a dry package for found tinder

    4. Make into a cup and boil water to drink

  2. Bandanna or Handkerchief

    1. Many uses including fire starting, first aid and signaling help in an emergency

    2. Use pieces to create char cloth to take a spark

    3. They will burn when lit with a flame

“Practice makes perfection” in fire starting or any survival skill this statement rings true. Find time to practice making a fire using your fire kit. This will save you time when you need it, it can also save some embarrassment and limit the fumbling around when starting that camp fire for your friends and family. Find a system that you like that works well for you. It also wouldn’t hurt to teach people you’ll be spending time outdoors with how to use it as well.

Okay, here is the lighter tip I promised earlier.

The Scenario – You need to make a fire, but your Bic lighter cracked in a fall and lost all the fluid inside.  Don’t worry, you know that the lighter is not useless because of your practice time in your back yard with your fire starter kit. First you pull the metal piece off the front of the lighter. Next all you need to do is stick a small bit of cotton or cattail in front of the wheel that strikes the flint. Instead of a gas igniting from the spark, the spark will go into your tinder. From that point you can put the flame into your prepared bundle of tinder to then ignite the kindling you have next to it. Simple and effective. Seems obvious once you hear the trick, but it’s essential to be prepared.

I hope this gives you some ideas for putting together your fire kit. Try out every thing in your fire starting kit before camping or hiking. Know how to use everything in the kit in as many different ways you can figure out. Try new methods of starting a fire but rely on your tried and trusted fire starting methods for in the field or survival situations. Try using other materials for tinder than sticks. Teach others how to use your kit – this can be a fun activity with friends and family and give you another reason to be outside. Just remember to be safe while doing so, for yourself, the people around you and nature.

 Watch our video review on the Aurora Fire Starter that is pictured in this kit by clicking the link!

how to build your own fire starter kit

*I would also add cotton balls or dryer lint to this kit. Possibly cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly.

Do you have a fire kit?

If so can you share what we might find if we took a peek in your fire starter kit?

Just leave a comment below!

5 Comments

  • shakil says:

    i love it

  • dorset party says:

    Good article. I will be experiencing some of these issues as well..

  • Jämí Häutzinger says:

    I disagree with your idea of only 3 ways of fire starting. I teach in my classes, a min. Of 5 different ways of producing a spark or flame. Tinder is good, but all the tinder in the world doesn’t help if you cannot produce a spark or flame. So with that in mind, my list:
    Lighter, bic or zippo
    Matches, waterproof and or windproof.
    Spark tool, ie. S.O.L. type
    Bow drill
    Inuit fire drill
    Inuit strap drill
    Spindle drill
    Flint & Steel
    9v Battery/ steel wool
    1.5v battery/ gum wrapper with foil outside.
    Piston Fire tool
    Ferro Rod, 5-6″ long, 1/2″ wide
    (Not those cheap little ones)
    Chemical fire
    From this list everyone should have a great working knowledge and experience on at least 5 of these.
    Doesn’t help if you don’t practice.

    Also, instead of carrying a bunch of unneeded tinder, learn to make your own from fungus. It’s quite simple and burn rate is slower and hotter than a piece of cloth.
    Jämí

  • Dan says:

    Thanks for some great ideas. Time to update a few things in my pack.

    Dan

  • Rick Winingar says:

    I served in the U.S.Navy for 20 yrs. During that time I worked with safety/survival equipment and life support equipment. We put together kits like this for all air crew. What I do with mine now is us empty prescription bottles. The middle will hold 5 or 6 tea light candles large about 10 +, also but cotton and dryer lint mattches magnesium fire starter and keep them in well sealed zip lock bags that way whatever else you want in your bug out bag too.

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