What’s camping without a fire? Of course, fun friends and outdoor adventures make good times, too, but the campfire is the place where people come together and where stories get shared. Desert campfires are among my favorite memories…the smell of juniper branches burning is a smell like no other. But I’ve also enjoyed some other good fires over the years.

I just wrote an article on the About.com Survival Skills website about how to make your own tinder (“Improvised Emergency Tinder”), which reminded me that every fire…no matter how big it becomes…must start out with small, dry pieces of tinder. Even this massive bonfire in Vallorcine at the French-Swiss border started with some tiny burnable chunks:

I prefer a smaller, more manageable campfire…like this one, which is just cozy enough for après-activity conversation and quiet enough to hear the coyotes howling:

Even a good stove fire needs tinder and kindling before it gets going. I normally use shredded paper (if I have some), dry pine needles and twigs, and small wood chips as tinder to get this stove going. I pile tinder underneath a kindling pyramid and light the tinder at several locations with a match.

Then…after the tinder lights the kindling, it’s time to add some small pieces of wood as fuel and then continue adding larger pieces of fuel from there. If you’re in a survival situation and don’t have dry tinder, you’re in luck if you’ve made some emergency tinder at home and carried it with you in a watertight container, such as a film canister. You can make tinder from common household items or items you might normally throw away:

It’s also possible to make improvised tinder from petroleum-based lip balm, insect repellent, hand sanitizer…and a slew of other things. But no matter how you get your fire going, you’ll appreciate it when it’s radiating warmth–whether the fire’s heat keeps you from freezing to death or whether it creates a nice atmosphere on your next starry night out.

Want to know more about tinder?
Read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:
“Improvised Emergency Tinder”
If you need to build a fire in a survival situation, you’ll want to be able to get your fire lit quickly, and you can enhance your basic fire-building techniques by having emergency tinder available…click here to continue reading

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.


One response to “Tinder…Kindling…Fuel…Fire!

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