dried leaves as tinder

9 Items You Can Use as Fire Tinder

When heading out into the woods, you’ll want to have an idea of what you can use as tinder to start your campfire. It’s vital for warmth and food preparation. With some tinder, you’ll need to prepare it in advance and pack it in with your essentials. The environment will dictate what you’re able to use if you don’t pack your own.

Some of the tinder you can prepare in advance might include tubes of newspaper, paper bags or cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. The tinder you find in the outdoors might include pine straw, dried grass or cattails. It definitely depends on the season as well as what’s natural to the environment.


Pros of Using Leaves as Tinder

When it comes to fire starters, leaves can be incredibly useful since they’re plentiful in the woods. All you have to do is gather them up to use as tinder for your fire. In the Autumn, you should have no issues finding dried leaves.

Cons of Using Leaves as Tinder

The leaves you use for tinder have to be dead and dry. If it’s been raining recently, you’re not going to find dry leaves on the wet ground. In the spring and summer, it can be tough to find leaves that are dried, dead and usable as tinder. You can’t reliably expect to find dry leaves when you’re out in the woods, so it might not be good to rely on them as a fire starter.

Pine Straw

Pros of Using Pine Straw as Tinder

Pine straw is dead pine needles that have fallen from trees. If you’re in the forest where there are pine trees, you’re likely to see a dusting of pine straw all over the ground. This makes for great tinder since there’s often so much available. It’ll save you from using more expensive methods of tinder.

Cons of Using Pine Straw as Tinder

Like leaves, the pine straw has to be dry, or it won’t be much use as kindling. If you’re going to be in the woods for a few days, you could gather wet pine straw and place it somewhere to dry like on top of a table in the sun. Another problem with pine straw is that it can burn out very quickly. You’ll need to gather a lot of it or you might need to mix it with some other tinder

Wood Shavings

Pros of Using Wood Shavings as Tinder

Wood shavings can be scraped from dead branches to be used as tinder. You can scrape wood shavings from your firewood to get the tinder to start your fire. It might be the driest piece of wood in the area. This means you won’t have to search out other dry materials. The shavings can be packed into a bundle for use as tinder.

Cons of Using Wood Shavings as Tinder

One of the problems with using wood shavings as tinder is that you’re using up precious firewood. If you have firewood though, you’ll need a way to get the fire started. It’s labor intensive too. You’ll have to spend some time with a knife shaving the wood to create the tinder. It’s also going to dull your knife blade over time.  Make sure you’re scraping away from you as well, or you could be injured.


Pros of Using Cattails as Tinder

In certain areas, cattails are abundant. You can gather up the old, fluffy part of the cattail to be used as tinder. It’s a natural source of tinder that is extremely flammable. The cattail fluff can be packed into a tin can and set on a fire to be turned into charcoal, which is a better source of tinder than unprocessed fluff.

Cattails as tinderJpaw1991

Cons of Using Cattails as Tinder

Unprocessed fluff catches fire very easily. One spark will cause the entire bundle of fluff to instantly blaze. Once the entire fluff is burnt, the fire is gone. To be used as tinder, it’s best to process it into charcoal, which isn’t as instantly combustible. You’ll need to have more kindling and tinder with the fluff in order to get your fire going at a respectable rate. There might only be a few seconds of embers in the fluff that you’ll need to take advantage of to start your fire.

Dried Grass

Pros of Using Dried Grass as Tinder

You can shape dried grass into a nest or a ball to be ignited as tinder for your fire. It’ll easily transform a tiny spark into a fire. Once the embers are glowing, place it under your wood. Feed it more dried grass until it’s a respectable fire. It’s one of the simplest ways to start a fire.

Cons of Using Dried Grass as Tinder

This is often how forest fires are started. Dried grass and a spark are all it takes to start one. You need to be cautious when starting a fire with dried grass. Make sure that you’re using your body to block any wind from taking the embers towards other dry grass in the area.


Pros of Using Paper as Tinder

Paper is a versatile tinder to use for fire starting. Twist the paper into a tube or tie it into knots to create your tinder. You can use any kind of paper that doesn’t have a glossy finish. You can use your local newspaper, the inserts that come with the newspaper or some junk mail. It’s a great way to recycle paper for another use.

Cons of Using Paper as Tinder

Some tinder can be created ahead of time like paper tinder covered in wax or paraffin. You’ll need to bring paper with you to be used as a fire starter. This can be inconvenient when there are more natural sources of tinder where you’re located. You’ll need room in your pack or belongings when you’re traveling to the woods if you want to use paper for camp fires.

Steel Wool

Pros of Using Steel Wool as Tinder

Steel wool is a great source of tinder when combined with a nine volt battery. It becomes an independent fire starter as well as having the ability to be used as tinder for your fire needs. The steel wool should be fine grade for this to work.

Place the nine volt battery against the steel wool. The metal conducts the energy from the battery into the steel wool, so it catches on fire. The combination means that they can be used as a backup to other fire starting methods in an emergency. Steel wool can be used while wet too.

Cons of Using Steel Wool as Tinder

When using steel wool and a battery, ensure that the two are never stored near each other. They could touch inadvertently in the box or bin, which will immediately start a fire. It might be inconvenient to carry a battery and steel wool with you in your pack because they need to be stored separately. In a survival situation, you might not have steel wool in your supplies either. The smoke from burning steel wool should never be inhaled.


Pros of Using Lint as Tinder

A simple source of tinder can be found in your home. Many house fires are started when a homeowner fails to clean out the dryer properly.

As you clean out the dryer’s lint trap, store the lint in a waterproof container. You can also add it to old cardboard tubes from toilet paper or paper towel rolls. The ends can be glued to create simple, portable fire starters that can be carried anywhere.

Another great way to use lint is with egg cartons. Place a clump of lint in each compartment. Light the lint on fire, and it’ll burn the egg carton too.

Cons of Using Lint as Tinder

There are a few cons with the lint and cardboard tube method. The type of clothing lint can determine whether your lint will ignite.

Some synthetic fibers won’t ignite while lint from jeans and cotton clothing will light easier. This method has to be created ahead of time too. It can take some time to build up lint in the dryer for this.

You’ll need to plan ahead. With every load of laundry, pack the lint inside a cardboard tube. With the time needed to prepare for this type of tinder, you will need a good place to store the lint and tubes.

Cotton Balls and Petroleum Jelly

Pros of Using Cotton Balls and Petroleum Jelly as Tinder

For this to work, you’ll need to prepare them early. Cotton balls should be soaked in petroleum jelly, which is commonly known as Vaseline. The jelly should be warm, so it can soak into the cotton. Once the cotton is soaked, you can pack them into plastic bags or old prescription bottles to be used for your fire needs. They will burn for a few minutes while you work to get your fire going.

Cons of Using Cotton Balls and Petroleum Jelly as Tinder

When creating the cotton balls for use as tinder, it can become quite messy. You’ll need space to gather materials and the time to make these before heading out into the woods. You’ll need to make sure you have one dry area for catching the spark too. It can help to tear open the cotton ball. Make sure that when you pack them, you’re able to pull them out of the container.

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