The essential items for survival are shelter, water, fire, and food. Fire is essential for staying warm, purifying water, cooking food, and sending a signal if you’re in need of help. Read on to learn how to make a fire starter kit so that you’re never left out in the cold.
The good news is there are lots of options for materials to use to make a fire starter kit. Even better, they’re easy to make, and most of the supplies are probably in your home right now.
Types of Simple DIY Tinder for Your Kit
We’ll talk about ways to store and transport your fire starter kit later. First, let’s start with one thing that should be in every kit: a waterproof lighter or waterproof matches. Keeping either of these items in a zip-style bag will ensure they are ready to use.
In addition to a lighter or matches, you’ll need tinder in your fire starter kit. Here are some ideas for different types of tinder to include in your kit.
1. Petroleum Jelly and Cotton Balls
Simply place about a tablespoon of petroleum jelly inside a baggie, drop in a few cotton balls, and knead them until they’re coated in the jelly. Don’t completely saturate the cotton balls; try to leave the center dry.
You can also turn the baggie inside out, place it over your hand like a glove, and scoop the petroleum jelly out. There are no extra utensils to clean up doing it this way.
The petroleum jelly itself isn’t flammable. However, the cotton ball is. The petroleum jelly simply helps the cotton ball burn longer. Leaving the center of the cotton ball dry will give you something flammable to light.
Keep your cotton balls stored in the baggie in your fire starter kit until you’re ready to use them. Simply pull one out, pull it apart a little bit to get to those dry fibers in the middle, and light your fire.
2. Wine Cork and Rubbing Alcohol
Got a stash of wine corks? Use them for your fire starter kit. For this method, simply fill a jar, or another airtight container, with your corks. Be sure to use natural corks, not synthetic ones.
Next, fill the container to the top with rubbing alcohol and secure the lid. Easy as that.
These corks need to sit and marinate for a few days to soak up the alcohol, but there’s no limit to how long they stay. In fact, the more alcohol they soak up, the better.
3. Cotton Pads and Wax
For this fire starter, you’ll use cotton makeup remover pads coated in wax. We’ll talk more about how to safely melt wax later.
Using tongs, dip your cotton pad into the melted wax. Then lay the coated pad out on wax paper, or hang it up, to dry.
Be sure to leave part of the cotton pad dry so that you have something to light when you’re ready to take them out of your fire starter kit for use.
4. Toilet Paper Tube and Lint
Instead of throwing away the lint from your dryer, collect it in a baggie for a few days to get a good supply to use for these fire starters.
Take a toilet paper tube, cut it in half, and loosely stuff it with some of the lint you’ve collected. Next, roll the lint-filled tube in newspaper that’s a little longer than the tube. Finally, tuck the loose ends of the paper into the roll to keep everything contained.
You can also add melted wax to help slow down how quickly this fire starter burns. This doesn’t take much wax at all. You can simply light a candle before you start working.
This not only keeps your house smelling good but also supplies you with the wax you need to make the items for your fire starter kit.
Simply place half your lint in the tube and drip a bit of wax from your melted candle over the top. Fill the tube the rest of the way with lint.
Another method is to dip the ends of your tube in wax and set them out to dry.
5. Egg Carton and Wax
Similar to the toilet paper tube and lint, this fire starter calls for lint from the dryer. This time, however, you’re going to use a cardboard egg carton instead of a toilet paper tube as the vessel.
Simply fill each empty compartment with some of the dryer lint and pour melted wax over the top. When the wax is dry, you can cut apart the filled compartments.
6. Other Items That Can Be Coated in Wax
While you have a pot with melted wax, you might as well coat some other items for extra fire starter kits. In addition to the items listed above, you can also coat pinecones, cotton string, and even tampons in wax to use as tinder.
How to Safely Melt Wax
As you’ve probably noticed, several of these fire starters call for melting wax. You can use paraffin wax, wax from old candles, or even crayons.
Technically you can melt wax in the microwave, but it’s not the safest method. And you definitely don’t want to just throw the wax in a pot and put it on the stove. That’s just asking for disaster.
To safely melt your wax, you’ll need to make a double boiler. You can do this by placing a pot with your wax over a pot of water on the stove. Or, to keep from ruining your pans, place the wax in a can before putting it in the water.
Bring the water to a simmer and slowly melt the wax in the top pot or can. Use a pot holder to remove the container with the melted wax and gently pour it over the lint, paper, makeup pads, or whatever else you decide to use.
Keeping Moisture at Bay
Now that you know what materials to use to make the tinder for your fire starter kit, you need a good storage container to keep moisture out. After all, your tinder will be no good if it gets wet.
Luckily, just like with your DIY tinder, chances are you have just the right storage containers around your home too. When looking for a container, be sure to keep in mind the size of the tinder you decide to keep in your fire starter kit and choose one large enough.
A few ideas of containers you can use for your fire starter kit include an Altoids tin, mason jar, pill bottle, zip-style bag, or a food storage container with a lid.
You can really use any kind of airtight container because most of them are also waterproof. However, if you’re concerned about the items in your fire starter kit getting wet, just place your container in a zip-style baggie after filling it.
How to Use Your Fire Starter Kit
Fire needs heat, fuel, and oxygen to thrive. Your heat source is the matches or lighter, along with the tinder from your fire starter kit.
You’ll need to gather small pieces of dried twigs to use as the fuel to get the fire started. While you’re gathering the twigs, be sure to get some larger pieces of dry wood to keep your fire going.
Prepare the area by clearing any dried leaves or grass away and making a ring out of rocks to help keep your fire contained.
Place the twigs in a pyramid shape with your tinder in the middle. This will allow oxygen to flow through.
Next, using waterproof matches or a lighter, light your tinder. You may need to gently blow on the fire so that it gets more oxygen. Just remember you’re not blowing out birthday candles!
Even though this post is about how to make a fire starter kit, sometimes you simply can’t be prepared ahead of time. If this happens to you, don’t panic.
If you have a lighter or matches to use for the heat, you may just have some items nearby that you don’t even realize you can use as tinder to start a fire.
Most people these days carry hand sanitizer. Check the label to make sure it’s made with alcohol, and squeeze some onto gathered dry kindling.
You can even use food like greasy potato chips, the greasier, the better, or dried orange peel as tinder to get your fire started.
Wrapping up How to Make a Fire Starter Kit
A fire starter kit is a great addition to any camping survival kit or as part of an emergency kit you keep in your car that would also include things like a flashlight, first aid kit, jumper cables, water, and non-perishable food.
You can learn more about survival fire starters and fire starting methods in our Fire section.