Emergency Fire Starters for Backpacking

It’s cold, wet and miserable. You’re drenched to the bone. All you really want to do is get warm. Now would be a good time to start a fire, but dry tinder material is scarce.

In such a situation it pays to have an emergency fire starter close at hand. Listed below are five lightweight and reliable options:

1. Vaseline Coated Cotton Balls A long-time favourite. Store in a tiny Ziploc bag.

Vaseline-soaked cotton ball in action (photo from Backpackinglight.com)

2. Dryer Lint – In the weeks prior to your hike, empty the contents of your dryer’s lint catcher into a plastic bag. If you’re a tad short out in the field, politely ask any nearby hikers to empty out their belly buttons. Every little lint counts.

3. Fritos Corn Chips – This one is courtesy of Justin “Trauma” Lichter. Burns slow and evenly. Other oily chips work just as well. 

4. Trick Birthday Candle – The ones you can’t blow out. Works well in wind and rain. Multi-purpose;  just in case you decide to have an impromptu candlelit supper.

5. Light My Fire / Firesteel –  This lightweight (1 oz) fire starting tool makes for a reliable backup if your BIC lighter is on the blink. Can take a bit of practice to get the right pressure and striking angle. Works great with Dryer lint. Bonus points for the old school/romantic factor of starting a fire with a spark.


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