Starting a fire can be challenging, especially when conditions are less than ideal. When it’s raining or snowing, the ground ends up cold and wet. In such cases, dry tinder and kindling can be pretty hard to find. If you do get a fire going, moisture and some tough winds can easily snuff it out. That's why any sensible prepper must have a stash of firestarters in their bag to make the process easier and faster.
In a tricky situation, firestarters are a godsend. They are not only quick to light, but they also burn long and hot enough for you to get a fire crackling. The best thing is you don't have to shell out hundreds of dollars just to get a decent firestarter. Some very effective ones can come right out of your kitchen or backyard and you can definitely make them at home.
Here are 7 dirt cheap firestarters to get you nice and toasty for your next outdoor trip:
Egg Carton Firestarters
This is the poster child of all firestarters. Egg carton firestarters are a staple in many a bug out bag. They’re highly combustible, very easy to make, and like most firestarters in this list, they cost virtually nothing.
As shown in the video above, all you need is an egg carton, some dryer lint, and melted wax. Take the egg carton and put some dryer lint into each cup. Pour some melted wax into the cups and let it dry.
Once done, cut each individual cup. Congrats, you now have a dozen firestarters! Easy as pie, right?
If you’re up for it, you can take an extra step and make these firestarters waterproof. Instead of pouring the wax into the egg carton, you can cut them up first into individual cups. Take one cup (already stuffed with lint, of course) and tie it up with some dental floss. Dip it into a pot of melted wax and let them dry. This way, each cup would be coated with wax and you can be sure that they stay dry, even in the worst weather. See full instructions of waterproofing your egg carton firestarter here.
The first rule of firestarting: if it’s got dryer lint, it’s bound to light up. Firestarter logs are basically a variation of the egg carton firestarter; the only difference is you’re using a toilet paper roll instead of an egg carton. Simply stuff your roll with dryer lint and pour a generous amount of wax into it. Make sure to pour into both ends of the roll. You know you’re done when it’s good and dry. You can use the entire roll to start your fire or you can cut the log in half to expose the fibers before lighting it up.
Drinking Straw Firestarters
Using cotton balls soaked in vaseline or petroleum jelly is probably the cheapest way to make firestarters. Adding a drinking straw to the equation takes this trick up a notch by making your firestarters more compact, visible and waterproof.
What you do is take a drinking straw and cut it to make around four pieces. Take one piece of straw and seal off one end with a pair of pliers and a lighter. Next, take your soaked cotton ball, pull it apart a bit and stuff it right down the drinking straw. You can use a stick or a small screwdriver to do the stuffing.
Once you’ve done that, you can seal the other end of the straw. It’s that simple.
If you’re ready to use your firestarters, simply cut off one sealed end and expose those cotton fibers. You’ll be able to light up a fire in no time. You can easily make dozens of these firestarters with just a handful of straws. They’re ultralight and take very little space in your bag, too.
Pine Cone Firestarters
People usually dismiss pine cones as nothing but squirrel food or holiday ornaments. They’re also the bane of many lawn mowers across the country. But did you know that they’re also great firestarters?
Pine cones are wonderfully flammable. With little work, you can turn them into handy firestarters. To prepare, you'd need some dried pinecones (make sure you bake them first), some candle wax and string.
You can even throw in some food coloring to make your firestarters a bit festive. Simply melt the wax in a crock pot over low heat. Dip the pinecone once for priming. Let the first layer of wax dry off before dipping the cones again. Make sure the wax coats the cones thoroughly. Let it dry and you're good to go.
Cotton pads are great to have in a bug out bag. They’re very absorbent and can be used in disinfection and first aid. They're also wafer thin and very fibrous, making them ideal firestarters. With some wax and lamp oil, you can turn this first aid kit staple into a “fire disc”. Simply melt some candle wax and add some lamp oil into the mix. Then take your cotton pads and dip them into the mixture.
Set them aside to dry. The melted wax keeps the cotton from getting wet and helps it burn longer. To use, all you gotta do is tear the disc in half to expose all those flammable cotton fibers and light them up. You can store them in a waterproof zip bag and they will be good to go.
Just when you thought you’ve seen it all, a cool innovation comes. This self-igniting firestarter combines at least two elements needed to start a fire: the ignition source and the accelerant. To make a self-igniting firestarter you will need a strike-anywhere match, tissues, and the ever-present melted wax. Wrap the tissue around the match, then dip it into the wax.The result is a nifty firestarter that has its very own ignition source which can burn for several minutes. It’s like a match on steroids.
Sawdust is dry and fibrous, making it very flammable. If you mix it in with some wax, dryer lint and a bunch of cotton balls, you’d have a very potent firestarter.
To make these, whip out your muffin tin and line it. Next, put a mix of sawdust, dryer lint, and cotton balls into each cup. Pour melted paraffin wax into it and wait for it to dry. It looks like a modification of the egg carton firestarter minus cutting up tough cardboard. It doesn’t hurt that they do look like real muffins, too. Just make sure nobody eats them!
Building a fire in bad weather is a tough job. Imagine shivering in the rain, desperately willing that sliver of flame last just long enough for you to feed some kindling into it. Just when you thought it would hold up, it sputters and dies. The frustration of not being able to keep a fire going can drive even the most seasoned preppers nuts, so it’s always best to keep something that would make fire building a tad bit easier and faster, especially if time is of the essence.
This, my friends, is where the firestarter comes to save the day.
Keeping a firestarter in your pack not only lends convenience, but it also increases your chances of survival. They’re very easy to make and cost next to nothing. There’s no reason a prepper should be caught dead without a stash or two.
Just remember in making your firestarters make sure to exercise safety at all times. Always use a double boiler when you’re melting the wax. Melting them over direct fire is otherwise hazardous and should be avoided at all cost. Lining your workspace with wax paper makes the cleanup easier, too.
Well, that’s about it. Any other cool ways to make firestarters that we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below!