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How to Use a Tinder Bundle for Fire Starting

When you find yourself in a survival situation, learning how to use a tinder bundle to start a fire is going to be the difference between life and death. The first winter in North America after SHTF is going to be when a lot of people don’t make it. Learning how to keep yourself warm with a tinder bundle and other dry material will save your life.

Roaring survival fire from tinder bundle
Roaring survival fire from tinder bundle

What Is A Tinder Bundle?

A tinder bundle is a bundle of shredded, dry timber. Often, it resembles a bird’s nest when completed. The thicker, longer strands of shredded timber make the circular bird’s nest. Any shavings of wood that you created are placed in the center of the bird’s nest and lit on fire. 

Because you might not have time to shave down wood, such as tree limbs, or the tools necessary, the tinder bundle comes with an expanded definition. 

This term is used loosely to describe anything you have created in the same bundle form that is used as a fire starter. Most people create one using other items. For example, petroleum jelly is often seen to help the tinder bundle burn longer. 

A tinder bundle is the first thing that you’re going to light when you’re making a fire. This will then set other, larger pieces of dry tinder on fire. 

How To Make A Tinder Bundle

Straw as fire starter on grey slate
Straw as fire starter on grey slate

Technically, you would make a manmade tinder bundle using bark fibers. You need to shave down the birch bark into finer fibers on a flat surface. The flat surface will collect any dust that you happen to make. The dust and wood shavings are useful tinder materials that you do not want to waste. (You can make an all wood shaving tinder bundle, too.)

When you find yourself in a horrible situation, manmade tinder from the finer fibers of a nearby tree is not always possible. Cold weather can have a drastic impact on your physical and mental well-being. 

It can also be time consuming, and you don’t have unlimited time to make a bundle of tinder when SHTF. Instead, you may be forced to rely on your previous store bought tinder products or your creativity to use something other than typical tinder materials. Both will work wonderfully. 

Qualities Of A Tinder Bundle

To create a DIY tinder bundle, you need to look at the qualities of the items that you’re using. Keeping these things in mind will help you build a high-quality tinder bundle. 


Your fire starter needs to be dry. The only time it shouldn’t be dry is when you include a wet item in your bundle, such as petroleum jelly. If your fire starter is wet, it won’t ignite.  It doesn’t matter what types of tinder you use provided it is a dry tinder bundle.

If you have a dead tree on your lawn, consider using it for firewood. Dead trees do not absorb as much moisture, so they can be used for larger kindling. Often, you won’t have to wait on dead wood to dry out like you do wet kindling. 

Dead leaves are another great idea in a pinch. The dead leaves that are found at the base of a tree are usually dry. The rain doesn’t reach these dead leaves as easily as it does dead leaves that are not protected from the elements by a tree. 

As Big As Two Golf Balls

Tinder bundles that are too small will burn up before they light anything else on fire. That is why you want to make sure that it’s at least as big as two golf balls or a softball. Remember, you can never make an artificial tinder bundle that is too big. However, you can make one that is too small. 

Flammable Material

Wood shavings or shredded timber are ideal. Natural tinders are always a great option. This is especially true if you have access to a softwood tree, such as a Cedar tree. Tree barks are wonderful, too. 

However, you might find yourself in a situation where these types of materials. For example, you might not live by a natural tinder source, such as a pine tree. There may be wet conditions that have rendered nearby bark from Birch trees useless. (Birchbark will burn when damp, but not when it is soaking wet.)

Thankfully, natural tinders are not the only option that you have. Any type of fibrous material can be used to create a tinder bundle. For example, you can use: 

  • Steel wool
  • Cotton 
  • Dryer lint

What fibrous materials you use to make your survival tinder bundle will depend on your budget, the situation you are in, and what you have available. They should be materials that can be easily lit from the fire starter in your survival kit. Creativity is one of the most useful survival skills!

Creating Your Own Tinder Bundle

The male hand starts a fire with magnesium fire steel, fire striker
Starting a tinder bundle

Now that you know how to make a tinder bundle, it’s time to make your own. We’re going to assume that you don’t have time to shave wood. Instead, these tinder bundles will focus on making use of other things. 

Cotton Balls With Petroleum Jelly

Take cotton balls, and coat them with petroleum jelly. Cotton balls will burn easily, and petroleum jelly is a great additive for tinder. 

Using cotton balls and petroleum jelly is ideal for wet conditions. The combination of these two will continue to burn through both wet and windy weather. 

Dryer Lint And Toilet Paper Tubes

This is an easy way to start stockpiling DIY tinder bundles before SHTF. Everything in your home can be useful, including empty rolls of toilet paper. Save those. Then, when you clean out the lint filter of your dryer, stuff the lint into the toilet paper tube. You’ll have plenty of extra tinder prepared beforehand.

Toilet Paper Tube Tinder Bundles

Toilet paper tubes are a great way to keep your tinder bundle together. You can cut a paper towel tube in half as well.

Next, you fill the tube with fibrous, combustible material. Although dryer lint is a popular DIY idea, that isn’t the only excellent tinder material. You can put several things in the tube to create your perfect fire starter. Examples of other tinder materials you can use include: 

  • Dry grass is great for dry conditions
  • Cotton balls
  • Any flammable substance
  • Dryer lint (you don’t have to fill the entire tube with dryer lint)
  • Small pieces of paper in the middle
  • Steel wool works well in the worst conditions
  • Wood shavings make amazing fire tinders
  • Dry leaves can be found at the bases of trees

You want to put loose things that will fall out, such as steel wool or wood shavings, in the center of the tube so that they don’t fall out. Avoid using too many of these in your tube. It will burn too quickly.

Use Birch From Nearby Trees

While most DIY tutorials show a person shaving down a log, that isn’t the only way that you can use the outer layer of nearby trees. Get out your knife, and shave down the bark of trees near you. If it is thin and curls, it’s birch. This is ideal for making a bark tinder bundle. (You can use tinder fungus to make awesome tinder bundles, too.)

Use a pencil sharpener for small sticks. A pencil sharpener will create shavings that are thin enough to catch fire easily, and that will sit perfectly on top of a tinder bed. 

Bird Nest Shaped Tinder Bundle

Birds leave their nest for good at some point. They will make another one when they find a new home. If you find an abandoned nest, keep it. It will make a great tinder bundle by itself. 

To make your own bird nest-shaped tinder bundle, shave wood with a knife and slowly shape it into a circle, like a bird’s nest. 

Starting A Fire With A Bundle Of Tinder

Once you have your tinder bundle, you need to be able to start a fire with it. Remember, a tinder bundle is a small fire starter. It is not the entire fire. 

Have Your Additional Wood Prepared

Before lighting your fire starter, you want to have pieces of kindling prepared. Make sure that larger pieces of dry wood are in the ideal position for the fire that you have planned.

Every piece of wood should be dry, and flammable. Pieces of kindling are perfect for this, but any firewood will work in a pinch. When using a piece of kindling, it should be dry. You not only want ideal conditions when it comes to weather conditions. You want your pieces of firewood to be in optimal condition. 

Light Your Tinder Bundle Near The Firewood

Next, you want to be directly next to the larger fuelwood. This will make it easier to place the bundle under or near the wood to catch it on fire. 

Once you’re in position, light the fire starter. Tinder bundles consist of highly flammable materials, so all you need is a spark to light them on fire. 

Slowly Blow On Your Bundle

Once your flammable materials have caught fire, gently blow on the spark. Fires need oxygen to spread. This will help your flames get a little bit higher so that your firewood catches on fire. 

Place It Close To The Firewood

The goal is to start a fire. You have to place the flames close enough to the firewood that the wood catches fire. Do not place your tinder bundle underneath so much wood that it does not have oxygen. Without proper airflow, the fire will go out.

From Fire to Survival

Learning how to make a tinder bundle is necessary to guarantee that you can build the perfect campfire. These fire starters will make sure that you, and your family, survive a harsh winter.

If you’ve made a DIY tinder bundle similar to one on our list, please let us know how it worked for starting your fire.

Go here for more information about Campfires and Survival fires.