Survival basics: Collecting and making kindling [22+ examples]

You're in the wilderness and need a fire? Learn in the survival article how to find suitable kindling or make kindling yourself.

from Martin Gebhardt | Survival | reading time 4 Min
Updated on 29 May 2023 70.124 views 97% found this guide helpful
Survival basics: Collecting and making kindling [22+ examples]

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out his “About me” page.

👉 The key facts from this guide

  • What is tinder: Tinder is a material that ignites quickly and easily and can be used as fuel for fire.
  • Natural tinder: There are various types of natural tinder materials, such as birch bark, fatwood, tree fungi, and dry grass.
  • Homemade tinder: It is possible to make tinder materials yourself, for example by soaking cotton in wax or making charred cotton.
  • Commercial tinder: There are also commercially available tinders, such as waterproof matches, fire starters, or a magnesium block.
  • Important properties of tinder: Tinder should be easily ignitable, moisture-resistant, and long-lasting.
  • Use of tinder: Tinder is used to ignite a fire by coming into contact with a spark or flame.

You are in the wilderness and need a fire.

Now you need to find the suitable tinder or use self-made tinder.

You have to search for natural tinder and it could be damp.

You are usually on the safe side with self-made tinder.

I will show you what options you have in this article.

What is tinder, and why do you require it?

Tinder is an ignition source that should therefore be easily ignitable. It can consist of various materials, such as the fine membranes of birchbark.

A spark is produced with the striker and the flint or with the fire steel.

The tinder is there to catch the spark.

If the spark falls on the tinder, it starts to glow.

The tinder is then placed in a tinder nest (for example made of dry grass).

You can then create a flame with the tinder nest and ignite your fire.

Create hot sparks for your tinder with the fire steel
Create hot sparks for your tinder with the fire steel

Tinder is one of the basic materials in bushcraft, survival and outdoor activities.

Now let's take a look at tinder that comes directly from nature.

Natural tinder

The following natural materials are good for tinder (all dry, of course):

Here is an example of birchbark as tinder:

Ignite your tinder with a spark from a firesteel
Ignite your tinder with a spark from a firesteel

Or use thistle fluff as tinder:

Thistle fluff as tinder
Thistle fluff as tinder
Seeds as tinder make a great nest
Seeds as tinder make a great nest

You can also use cattails as tinder:

Cattails work wonderfully as tinder
Cattails work wonderfully as tinder

Or here's a short video of Birch Polypore as tinder:

Natural materials are all very useful, but there are also materials that can be made by yourself and work even better.

Now, I am going to introduce you to tinder that you can make yourself.

Making Your Own Tinder

Self-made tinder for bushcraft and survival is a suitable alternative to tinder directly from nature.

You can make it from different materials, most of which can be found in a drugstore, hardware store, or supermarket.


They work well because the cotton is small and tightly packed. To make a tinder nest, split the tampon and fray the fine cotton threads. This creates a dry nest that perfectly catches the sparks from your fire starter.

Tampon als Zunder
Tampon als Zunder

Cotton Balls

You do not need to tear apart the cotton because it is already airy enough. Simply twist the cotton balls slightly and your tinder is ready.

Makeup Remover Pads

Here, you do the same as with the tampon. Fray and tear it apart. Your tinder nest is ready.

Abschminkpads als Zunder
Abschminkpads als Zunder

Charred Cotton

This tinder starts to glow particularly quickly and is a bit more complicated to make. You need to char cotton in a tin can.

What is left is the charred fabric, which quickly begins to glow. Perfect for the fire starter.

The entire step-by-step guide for charred cotton can be found here.

Charred Cotton as Tinder
Charred Cotton as Tinder


Sure, you can buy charcoal. But: you can also make it yourself.

Just like with charred cotton, you put a few thin wood splinters in the metal can with a small hole. Then into the campfire. When no more white smoke comes out, the wood is charred. Let it cool down and you're ready to take it with you.

I have also written a step-by-step guide for the production of charcoal.

Self-made Charcoal
Self-made Charcoal

Linen Tinder

These are, among other things, old cotton scraps soaked in petroleum, oil, fat, or diesel. You can also use old cleaning rags from locksmiths and automotive workshops.

Read: 10 Uses for Animal Fat in the Wild


Fatwood (also known as pine wood or resin wood) finely grated is excellent as tinder.

Also read my article "What is Fatwood" if you want to know how to quickly and easily find Fatwood yourself.

Fatwood is particularly popular among Bushcrafters and Survivalists. My tip is, therefore, to get one and take a closer look at it.

Kienspan ganz fein als Zunder
Kienspan ganz fein als Zunder


Feathersticks are fine wood shavings. They burn rapidly when small enough. A combination with charred cotton is particularly good.

For more information on the well-known Feathersticks and how to make them, refer to my guide article "What are Feathersticks?".

Feathersticks sind, wenn sie ganz fein sind, auch gut als Zunder nutzbar
Feathersticks sind, wenn sie ganz fein sind, auch gut als Zunder nutzbar

Cotton balls or cotton pads with Vaseline

Take a handful of cotton and mix it with two to three tablespoons of Vaseline. Pack everything into a bag or freezer bag and knead the mixture well. Thereafter, you have a good tinder that is even quite waterproof.

Watte mit Vaseline vermischen - der perfekte Zunder
Watte mit Vaseline vermischen - der perfekte Zunder

Once lit, the cotton with the Vaseline burns long and strong. Perfect for any bushcraft and survival fire.

Watte mit Vaseline brennt lange und stark
Watte mit Vaseline brennt lange und stark

Furthermore, take a look at my video. There, I show you in detail how to make the tinder with cotton and Vaseline.

Cotton pads with candle wax

Instead of Vaseline, you can also use candle wax. Dip the cotton pads halfway into the liquid wax.

BBQ lighter fluid

Well, with BBQ lighter fluid, anyone can start a fire. If you don't like the above options, go to the nearest supermarket and get BBQ lighter fluid.

Kitchen paper / toilet paper

The fine papers work as well as kindling. But you have to admit, it's a bit boring, isn't it?

Finally, my tip for you:

Now that you have your kindling, what is the right fire structure for your needs?

You'll find that in my e-book: Fire: 12 Popular Structures

I deliberately kept the e-book simple and equipped it with high-quality graphics.


As you have read, there are many ways to collect or create kindling.

Some can be found spontaneously in the wilderness, while others take time to make.

Surely, you will find a way that is easiest for you. Because what could be worse than requiring a fire, and it won't light?

My tip is charred cotton. It may be more complicated to make, but it glows quickly with a fire starter. Then, put it into a nest of birchbark and your fire is ready to go.

My secret tip for you: If you would like to learn more about tinder, ignition methods, and fire-making, then read my book "The Fire-Fiber".

Now I would like to know from you, what is your preferred tinder?

What methods have you had good experiences with?

Write it in the comments here.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about life in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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