5 Must Have Fire Starting Hacks

Because fire is so critical to your survival, it is recommended that you have at least two ways of starting a fire. In this example, we’ll outline five tips on how to quickly and effectively start a fire when you need it most. Survival is too important to take chances. This guide is designed to stack the odds more heavily in your favor.

Fire Starter Tip 1 – Use Cotton Balls Dipped In Petroleum Jelly

This is a great tip for a couple of reasons. The materials are dirt cheap and very light. It makes sense to keep these items in your bug out bag or survival pack. The great thing about adding some petroleum to cotton balls is that the petroleum burns slow so you have time to get the fire going.

Key Ingredients

You’ll need a pill container or small Tupperware container, cotton balls and a jar of Vaseline or generic petroleum jelly. You can either pre-dip the cotton in petroleum jelly then store in the container or you can carry the cotton and petroleum jelly separately and prepare them as needed.

To use, simply place the petroleum dipped cotton in the middle of your tinder and strike your fire starter or match. If you have a magnesium fire starter, you can really ramp up the initial ignition by scraping some magnesium shavings directly onto the cotton ball. Again, the petroleum dipped cotton will burn longer buying more time for you to get your fire going.


Fire Starter Tip 2 – Water Proof Tinder

Key Ingredients

There are many different ways to make tinder but my personal favorite is to use jute twine that has been dipped in melted paraffin wax. Jute twine is a brown natural cordage that is cheap and widely available online and in most hardware stores. The preferred wax is paraffin, which can be purchased in grocery stores. Gulf Wax seems to be the most popular and works great for our purposes. You’ll also want an air tight container to store your tinder in.

Key Ingredients

Heating the Paraffin Wax

First, find an old pot or aluminum can. The wax is very difficult to remove from the pot so we advise you to not use your good cookware. Again, a soup can or coffee can will do the trick. BE CAREFUL! Especially if you’re using a campfire as you cannot regulate the temperature. The wax is flammable and can be dangerous if accidentally ignited. Ideally you’ll melt the wax at low temperatures.

Dipping the Jute Twine

Cut the twine into strips about 4-6 inches in length. Then toss them into the slowly melted wax and stir them around for about two minutes. The wax should have the chance to really soak in. I like to fish the wax soaked twine out of the wax with wooden chopsticks, but a wooden spoon or an old pair of tweezers will do the trick. I then place the strips on a rock or old piece of wood to let them cool and dry.

Ready For Testing

When you’re ready to test your newly water proofed tinder, simply grab one of the strips and unravel it into as many of the individual strands as you can. When you’ve pulled them apart, ball them up into what resembles a small bird nest. It will then be ready for your fire rod or whatever ignition source you prefer. Be careful and choose a safe place to test this because it should ignite quickly and aggressively. Take note of burn time. Knowing this in a survival situation is invaluable.


Fire Starting Tip 3 – Making Fire with a Soda Can and Chocolate Bar

This is a neat little trick. No chocolate is not flammable! It is used as a polishing agent so if you do not have chocolate, toothpaste or the soda itself may work as a substitute.

Key Ingredients

You’ll need an aluminum can, chocolate, a cloth or towel, and tinder.

Step By Step Instructions

Step 1: Rub chocolate on the bottom of the can.

Step 2: Wipe the chocolate off with a towel, cloth, or paper, rubbing and polishing as you wipe.

Warning – Do not eat the chocolate after it’s been in contact with the aluminum – the residue may be toxic.

Step 3: Repeat this process several times until the bottom of the can shines.

TIP – The can has been polished enough when it shines and reflects like a mirror.

Step 4: Angle the can in direct sunlight. Find a direct ray of sunlight and angle the bottom of the can so that it reflects the sun’s rays.

Step 5: Place your tinder – dry leaves, sticks, or paper – in a spot where you want your fire.

Step 6: Reflect the concentrated beam off the can and onto the tinder, similar to how you might with a magnifying glass and a leaf.

Step 7: Hold the beam on the tinder until you see smoke. As soon as the tinder starts to burn, add wood to build your fire around it.


Fire Starting Tip 4 – Pencil Sharpener Shavings

I love cheap, easy to store, and easy to carry tips for survival. This is one of my favorites. You can get a decent pencil sharpener for under a dollar. A contractor’s sharpener is ideal as the blade quality is slightly better and it is still cost effective enough to toss one in your bug out bag. Pencils and/or twigs will work just fine as tinder for this tip.

What You Will Need

In order for you to effectively prepare with this tip you will, again, need a contractor’s pencil sharpener, pencils and or twigs, and a tobacco pouch. If you do not have a tobacco pouch, a sturdy zip lock bag will do. When you need tinder, simply shave the wood into about a two inch diameter pile.

You can really supercharge this technique by combining this Tip with Tip #2. Take your wood and/or pencils and dip them into melted paraffin wax. When the wood dries, the collected shavings will leave you with some highly flammable tinder for emergencies.

Even better, you can take the shavings and stir them into the melted paraffin wax. When the wax and shavings are dried, store them into a dry lock container and, again, you’ve got a great source of tinder.


Fire Starting Tip 5 – Making Fire with a Bow Drill

The idea of using 2 sticks to make a fire may seem archaic, but sometimes it is absolutely necessary. Generally, a bow drill will be your last resort. But as a survivalist, you should know how to use one and you should practice to develop some confidence in the technique. Trying to figure it out on the fly is a recipe for disaster.

Assembling the Bow Drill Set

You will need to find a piece of semi-hard wood for the hearth of your contraption. It should be about 12 to 14 inches long. A sturdy wooden hanger will work extremely well. Next on your list is to find a piece of wood that is about 2 feet long for your bow. Another way to find the perfect length is to use the length of your arm as a guide for the length of the bow portion. Next you will need cordage. If you have para-cord, a length of rope or even a shoestring, you’re in luck. If not, you can use vines. Another piece of wood, about 6 to 8 inches in length will be needed to act as your spindle. Lastly, you will need a handhold. A small piece of hardwood, a rock or even a bone will work.

Create a circle in your hearth with a knife or use a stick to create a pie or pit on one end. Ideally, the base should have a crack or some way of allowing just a little air under the place where your ember will be. Depending on your hearth, some find it easier to use the edge of the piece. Make a notch on each end of the branch you have chosen for your bow and string the cord from one end to the other. Create a dimple in the handhold to keep the spindle in place. Now, this part may sound gross, but you need some lube to make things go easier. You can use the oil from your skin. Just rub your face and then rub the end of the spindle that will be going into the handhold. If your face isn’t quite greasy enough, you can use earwax or even snot. It isn’t pretty, but it will keep you alive.

Using the Bow Drill to Make Fire

Step 1: With one foot on the end of your hearth piece, place one end of the spindle in the pie portion of the hearth. You will need to put some dried moss or a small amount of other flammable material in your pie to catch the spark that is generated from the friction of the wood rubbing together.

Step 2: The spindle will need to be held as close to straight up and down as possible. Using the cordage on your bow, wrap it around the middle of your spindle one time. Your bow will be held in the opposite direction to your hearth making a T shape.

Step 3: Put the handhold over the top of the spindle and press down. Do not put too much pressure on the handhold. This will make it difficult for the spindle to freely spin back and forth.

Step 4: Start out slowly moving the bow back and forth to make the spindle turn. Once you get the hang of the motion, pick up the pace.

Step 5: Once a spark has been produced in your fuel, take the coal and put it in your tinder bundle and follow the steps listed in the matches section.

Please note, this is not a process that will take five minutes. It can take you up to an hour and can be physically exhausting and mentally frustrating. However, it can be done with a little hard work and perseverance. Don’t give up. You may have to make several “pies” in your hearth until one works just right.

*You can skip the bow and handhold and go with what is known as a hand drill. This involves you spinning the spindle in the hearth by rubbing your hands back and forth like you are trying to warm them up. This method can work, but it can be very rough on the hands. Protect your hands with leaves or gloves if available.

WARNING: When attempting any of these techniques, make sure you are outside in an area that is safe. Stay away from homes and trees. Do not attempt these techniques in areas susceptible to wild fires especially during fire seasons. ALWAYS have a fire extinguisher nearby when testing these techniques. Always take the proper safety precautions including proper eye gear and clothing.