Tinder has a special place in the outdoorsman’s heart, probably because it’s the catalyst to the process of keeping him warm and feeding him; two things dear to just about everyone. There tends to be an even split in numbers between those that bring their own tinder from home and those that use what they find in the bush.
1. Dryer lint
Dryer lint is one of the most popular, primarily because it’s free and requires little work to gather. It packs very small when squished and makes an excellent fire starter. Some of the synthetic fabrics produce lint that doesn’t burn so well, however, and lint has a hard time lighting when damp.
2. Cotton ball and Vaseline
Probably second only to dryer lint in popularity, cotton balls coated in Vaseline are great tinder. Vaseline is basically petroleum jelly so it burns pretty well, and of course, cotton wool catches very easily.
3. Cedar or Cottonwood bark
The inner bark of cedar and cottonwood trees can be torn into strips and rubbed between the hands to fluff it up into a ball that makes the “bird’s nest” to cocoon your ember.
The feathery material inside the head of the plant is quite cotton-like and burns well. Of course this isn’t available everywhere, chiefly by slow-flowing rivers and lakes in North America.
5. Birch bark
Thin and papery, dry birch bark makes good tinder and can just be peeled off a tree as needed. If it’s wet, strips can be torn off and placed inside clothing for body heat to dry out.
6. Wetfire cubes
Developed for the military, these packable cubes of tinder light and snuff out easily, and are unaffected by wind and water. It actually burns longer when wet.
7. Gels and pastes
There are also commercially available gels and pastes, such as Coghlan’s Fire Paste, which act as tinder.