By Jon DeMeo,
When backpacking, it may not be essential to create a fire each day if you are equipped with a Jetboil or quick stove, but quite often you might want to for either for warmth or to mix up your cooking. There are many options for starting a fire that range from very primitive to high tech, but with any method you’ll need something to initiate the initial spark or flame. Each time I go camping I always give myself a few choices for my flame/spark creation.
For my first option, I currently have a Gerber edition fire starter, but there are many kinds on the market to accomplish a quick spark. These are reliable and lightweight but can prove to be a real challenge if the materials you are trying to light are damp with moisture. Don’t be fooled, starting a fire with one or two strikes is harder than they make it look in the movies. Also, don’t become discouraged if it doesn’t work and you have to fall back on another option. Keep practicing! I also carry with me a trusty BIC mini lighter for an instant flame. If those two options are not working, I travel with one more backup, waterproof matches. These may be “old school” but with low probability of failure, they are good to have as a final backup option.
For your next backpacking trip, here are some options that are not only effective but lightweight:
I have used WetFire multiple times and it has been a great resource for fire making. One of my favorite features is how small they are and that each is individually wrapped. Cabela’s says, “WetFire tinder is the best fire-starting material available in the world, and it even burns longer when it’s wet. It burns at over 1,300 degrees, yet cools instantly.” WetFire is also odorless and nontoxic which makes it a great option. A pack of eight can be purchased for under $10.
This option is slightly larger but one puck allows you to start four fires since it is scored evenly to break apart. REI says it’s a, “Blend of compressed cedar sawdust and wax lights quickly and easily even when wet.” If your wood is pretty dry to start with, you can always use less to get it started so you can have more for the next night. It is also created with all natural recycled materials. You can pick one up from REI for $1.95.
Another cheap and readily available options to take with you is a small amount of cotton balls. While these don’t last long, they will give you a quick flame, and if you have enough dry kindling, this can be a great option to jump start the fire!
There are many options that you can actually create with household items and will give you the upper hand when starting a fire. I have used a very similar type as this and it created a strong flame and burned for quite a bit. There are other options online and some can be much cheaper than buying an “official” fire starter.
Even with these options, finding the right wood, straw and other types of kindling is key to a successful fire. Try to find the driest materials to light first and don’t overload the fire too quickly with larger sticks and logs. Give it time to burn and create a good set of coals. Once the fire is burning on its own, add more wood slowly.