You dream of those perfect campfires you see on Instagram. You know the kind: Campmates gathered ‘round a bright blaze, cradling hipster tin mugs filled with cider and cocoa, heads thrown back in laughter. The fire’s warm glow lights the scene.
You must recreate this setting. It’s your social media duty.
So, with blazing expectations of greatness, out to the fire ring you go, armed with a full box of matches and tinder. But strike after strike, each match fizzles, chipping away at the chance for that quintessential Instagram photo moment.
Social priority sarcasm aside, a campfire — in authorized places — is a tradition many outdoor folks like to indulge in the front country. They can also be the memory-making epicenter of your camping trip.
Blame it on the weather or on your tinder — either way, you’re in need of help. Not to fret, dear camper: As with all things internet, there’s a DIY solution out there. And we’re here to provide it.
Make room in your pack for these household items, place under your tinder at your campsite and turn your legacy as a fire disaster into the fire master.
Fair Weather Campfire Starters
- One of the simplest tips: Make a lint collection from your laundry dryer’s lint trap.
- Soak wine bottle corks overnight in rubbing alcohol. Make sure the soaking container you use can be covered; otherwise the alcohol will evaporate — same with carrying them into the field.
- Apply a generous layer of vaseline to individual cotton balls, then place them in a Ziploc or other container until you’re ready to use.
- Similar to above, using wax and cotton swabs: dip the cotton in melted wax, then ignite under your tinder at the campsite. Note: please don’t use the cotton swabs that have plastic centers; burning plastic releases toxins.
- Car camping? Bringing newspaper? Roll it into paper logs to create a longer burn. Take a sheet or two, tightly twist, fold at the center, then twist again to bring both sides into one “log.” The longer burn time helps the wood in your fire ring have more time to smolder and catch fire.
Wet Weather Campfire Starters
- Using tip number 5, above, simply cover the twisted newspaper in wax. Scrape off a section of wax at the end when you are ready to ignite.
- Waterproof matches? Save your cash and make your own. Melt some candle wax, then dip a match into it. Make sure you cover not just the head of the match, but also just beyond to a little of the stem, too.
- Fine-grade steel wool ignites readily with any spark even when soaking wet. Just keep in mind, the burn on these don’t last long so make sure your tinder is immediately available to catch the burn. If you’re out of matches but have a batter handy (check your headlamp), touching the battery’s receptors to the steel wool will also ignite it. Bonus: if you end up not needing it, it’s a great pan scrubber.
- Lint to the rescue again! This is probably the most involved homemade wet-weather firestarter but can burn up to 20 minutes, so it’s worth the investment for fickle weather. Cut out individual egg cups — top and bottom — from a paper egg carton (not plastic; see tip #4 in the “Fair Weather” section). Pack each cup with lint, close the cup using twine or dental floss. Keep a six-inch tail of the string to help you lower the “egg cup” into a pot of melted wax, making sure the entire thing is coated. Dry before packing.
Bonus: An easy tinder tip — handheld pencil sharpeners are easy to pack and the shavings they create are easily ignitable. If allowed (please confirm first), you can gather pencil-sized dry twigs from the ground to create the shavings. If you’re in a desert area or otherwise not permitted to gather wood, pack a pencil.