Homemade Fire Starters for Your Camping Trip

Contributed by Katie Levy, Adventure-Inspired

On a recent winter camping, two of my trip companions managed to get a fire started in the snow with only fallen, dead, wet branches and the kindling we could find around us. When the temperatures started dropping, I was incredibly grateful to have a warm blaze for us to gather around. It takes some serious skills to do what my trip mates did; location choice, careful planning, and a good foundation were key. But when you’re headed out camping, take a few of these tools to use as fire starters.

Winter campfire outdoors in snowy field [Image: www.notyouraverageordinary.com]

Image: www.notyouraverageordinary.com

My List of Homemade Fire Starters for Your Camping Trip

100% Cotton Ball Soaked in Vaseline

Cotton balls are among the easiest things to carry on a trip because they’re incredibly light and don’t take up much space in your pack. They also burn quickly, and so does petroleum. Take a handful of cotton balls, rub Vaseline or petroleum jelly on them, and seal them in a plastic bag. These will work well as fire starters.

Dryer Lint or Sawdust

Dryer lint stuffed into empty toilet paper rolls to be used as fire starters  [Image: myloveforideas.blogspot.com]

Stuff dryer lint into empty toilet paper rolls for easy transport! [Image: myloveforideas.blogspot.com]

It’s a nuisance when it comes to doing laundry, but dryer lint is among one of the most flammable materials I discard in my house. I get a treasure trove’s worth every time I take care of my dirty clothes hamper. Before you think about throwing out what’s in your lint trap, consider keeping it in a sealed plastic bag for your next outing. Sawdust, another easy-to-discard material, works just as well.

Phone Book, Magazine, or Newspaper Pages

On a backpacking trip this summer, my trip partner brought an entire phone book along for us to use as a fire starter. (Don’t worry, we didn’t take the entire thing on the trail with us!) Grab some old reading materials, rip out a handful of pages, and keep them in a sealed plastic bag so they’ll stay dry.

Natural Cord or Rope

Cord and rope are among the emergency items I try to always have around on camping trips. If your cords or ropes are made with natural fibers, they can also double as fire starters. Fibers like jute, hemp, and sisal are great options. Simply take the cords or ropes, unravel them, and you’re on your way to building a beautiful, warm blaze.

Greasy Snacks

Who knew Doritos were so flammable? [Image: lifehacker.com]

Who knew Doritos were so flammable? [Image: lifehacker.com]

Though I don’t advocate burning food unless you really need to, or carrying things like cheese puffs on backpacking trips, if you happen to have them around, some of our favorite greasy treats have proven to be remarkably effective fire starters. I’ve seen cheese puffs, Fritos and every variety of Doritos work well.

Of course, starting a fire when you’re camping comes with great responsibility. Read rules and regulations for fires where you’re headed before you go. Some campgrounds require you to refrain from gathering wood around your campsite in an effort to protect trees, and some parks and forests restrict fires depending on conditions.

Choose a location far from underbrush and other large areas of flammable materials. Keep your tent, tarp, and other synthetics far, far away. Use pre-built fire pits whenever possible. Make sure the fire is completely out before you leave; check it at least twice to be sure.

What are some unique, homemade fire starters you’ve used in the past? Or tried and true methods you’ll always turn to? We’d love to hear from you!

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