survival preschool: fire starters


I recently attended an entry-level wilderness search and rescue course taught by some State Forest Rangers. At one point in the class the discussion turned to gear and equipment and a Ranger spoke about starting fires. He mentioned a fire starting device I had never heard of before (which isn’t unusual, I’m no expert in the stuff), cotton balls impregnated with petroleum jelly. Here is a video:

Pretty impressive. The cotton, once prepared is even semi-waterproof and will light and burn after a soaking.

The Ranger suggested taking some large-bore drinking straws cut to size, melting one end closed over a flame, stuffing the cotton into it and then sealing the other end (be careful not to ignite the cotton). This gives you a longer term,individual use, waterproof storage container that keeps the cotton from drying out. When you need to use it you slice the straw open, fluff up the ball and light it.

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3 thoughts on “survival preschool: fire starters”

  1. All those years of hunting and camping growing up and I never heard of this one either… nice find and great new article thread!

  2. I have made these and they do work well. I even experimented a bit by using a heat gun to liquify the jelly and let the cotton ball soak it up. This does not work well at all. You end up with too much jelly and not enough cotton and they are harder to light.

    Another lesser known tinder is steel wool. Get the finer stuff, like you might use in woodworking, with no soap in them. Tear a small quantity off (maybe a little less than a cotton ball sized bit) and spread it out a bit (fluff it) and light it. Many people who see this for the first time are impressed and surprised at how well it ignites and how well it works. Best of all if it gets wet you only have to shake it dry. The individual fibers can be used to tie a fish hook to and try to fish with it as well (you may need to tie the other end to larger cord that is too big for the hook or to a stick if you are setting up multiple hooks across a stream). It ends up serving multiple purposes.

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