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. 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.
Read tip with video: "2 foolproof tricks: Make a fire 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.
The following natural materials are good for tinder (all dry, of course):
- Birchbark (also read my guide to fantastic birchbark)
- Coconut fiber
- Tinder fungus (here's my article on tinder fungus) or Birch Polypore
- Plant fibers, such as nettle fibers, hemp fibers (read more about nettles here)
- Cattails (caution: some species of cattails are protected)
- Thistle and dandelion fluff
- Dry pulverized leaves, lichen, hay, grass
- Mealy fibers from decaying wood (called punk wood)
Here is an example of birchbark as tinder:
Or use thistle fluff as tinder:
You can also use cattails 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?".
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.
Once lit, the cotton with the Vaseline burns long and strong. Perfect for any bushcraft and survival fire.
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.
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