There’s a lot of “buzz” about “fire starters” among campers and scout troops. I am always an advocate of properly built camp fires and discuss this in my article “One Strike Fire” With Natural Materials. Sometimes however, conditions and materials can be damp so starting fires can be a challenge and merits a little help.
Fire starters are easily lit and are created to sustain a flame while the tinder placed above it catches fire. In lieu of fire starters, selecting a good material for tinder can be an asset. Birch bark is great for this as it has built-in oils that, once lit, burns nicely, even if it gets wet (see “Birch Bark Tinder“). Campers are known to use a small pile of corn chips in a pinch. Even small strips of tire inner-tube work. What took me by surprise is the use of duct tape for this purpose. Who knew?! I had to try it out for myself.
I started simply with a small piece then progressed to a more involved set-up. You can take a 2 inch square of tape and drape it over a piece of tinder and place more tinder over it. Then you can light an edge with a match or lighter. Once it catches on fire it burns with a sooty but strong flame. To provide a longer burn time you can create a free-standing candle. I take a 6 inch strip and make accordion folds, fashioning wings and joining the last adhesive ends together. Then I put a small strip at the top center like a fuse, then light that to start the duct tape fire starter going.
I carry a water bottle when hiking and use it as a spool onto which I wrap duct tape around it’s circumference. Duct tape is so versatile and now I know of a new use that could make a huge difference in starting a fire when needed.