Do you have a fire starting kit or enough materials to start fires indefinitely? How about when the ground is wet and it is raining? Have enough fire starting items in your kit to sustain you and make sure that you are familiar with them and have practiced how to use each. When you are cold and hungry, this fire starting skill is essential to survival.

We have tried several different fire starters and tinder combinations. We have found some reliable options: cotton balls or make-up pads slathered in Vaseline (even the Vaseline with shea butter works just fine), a ferrocium rod with a striker, fatwood pieces and/or shavings, small lengths of hedge (osage orange), cedar or pine soaked in denatured alcohol, ranger band bits, Live Fire, Wet Tinder, Esbit tablets, charcloth, flint and steel, pencil sharpener and a cigarette lighter (which is not sustainable). The following items that we have tested can be used but are not our favorites and we feel don’t work as well: steel wool and 9V battery, dryer lint with hand sanitizer, tampons and cat tails.

A fire starting kit should be put in a water resistant or water proof container. We love Maxpedition Fatty pouch for this with a fire ball morale patch to identify the pouch. It is water resistant and very tough. Has several pockets and molle loops on the inside and can hold multiple items. It also opens completely like a clam shell in order to find what you need inside the pouch. Make sure that you have your favorite fire starting items in another location as well. Have something in your EDC bag and something in your INCH bag, just in case you lose your kit.

Fire Starting Kit Items

Cotton balls and make-up pads in Vaseline: We slathered both sides with Vaseline and wrapped them in a parchment paper or a plastic zip bag and put them in a Altoids tin with a “ranger band” (lawn mower or tractor tire inner tube cut in rings) wrapped around the outside to hold the lid tight.
Ferrocium rod: we purchased a 1/2″ x 6″ ferrocium rod that has a hole drilled in it to attach a lanyard and a striker unless you have a knife dedicated to the fire starting kit that you can easily use to strike the ferrocium rod. Some ferrocium rods come with a striker. We chose this size and length to sustain fire starting for an extended period of time.
Lightning Strike Fire Starter: All inclusive ferrocium rod fire starter that has a place to carry tinder and throws tons of sparks to light the fire fast.
Fatwood pieces: we bought commercially packaged fatwood (pine heart) that is inexpensive but can be heavy. The good thing about fatwood is you can shave it with a knife and light the shavings, so you don’t have to have a lot of it. You should have a bigger supply at basecamp.
Wood pieces in denatured alcohol: we tried many different containers to keep the denatured alcohol from leaking out (if you keep container half full or more, then you can sustain it by putting new pieces into the container as you use them). We have used hedge (osage orange) and cedar pieces about 3″ lengths about 1/2″ or so in diameter soaked in denatured alcohol in a breast milk collection container that has a nice sealing lid. Denatured alcohol is very important, it will not flash when lit, it burns very hot and you can get about 10 minutes or so of fire from one piece even with wet ground or in the rain. ALWAYS use your multi tool to take the pieces out of the container to keep from getting the denatured alcohol on your fingers prior to starting your fire. Denatured alcohol is relatively inexpensive and can be found in the paint isle of the hardware store or home improvement store.
Ranger band bits: rubber inner tubes that go in small tractor tires or lawn mower tires cut into rings. These burn hot even when wet and can be used as a last resort if you have a way to light them.
Live Fire: a tin of sustainable fire tinder. Opening the lid, you can scuff or fluff up the tinder inside and then light it. Put your other tinder on top, when finished you can slide the lid shut (using gloves) this will snuff the fire and then it can be re-used.
Wet Tinder: these are pretty self explanatory tinders, fluff up and use. Charcloth is similar use.
Esbit tablets can also be used, you can use a crumble or a small bit instead of using the whole tablet as you would in a pocket stove.
Flint and steel: use the flint piece and strike together with the steel causing a small spark into a prepared tinder bundle.
Pencil sharpener: can be used to turn small sticks into shavings, a carpenter pencil sharpener can be used to shave larger sticks. Pencils can be used as tinder.
Cigarette lighter: among the cheap lighters, you can also purchase a lighter that is leak proof that can hold lighter fluid. Numyth Tohil is the best one we have used (e.g. Numyth Tohil and Everstrike).