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There are four optional tinder sources that can help with making a fire in an emergency situation. The ability to make a fire is an essential part of survival in the outdoors or in an emergency situation. The experts usually discuss making a fire with the use of natural materials. Demonstrations of primitive fire making occupy the discussions in the survival and outdoor literature. One of the essentials of making a fire is the use of combustible materials to start a fire. Let us take a look at some optional tinder sources to consider for your fire-making kit.

Cotton Balls or Cotton Pads

The most common type of optional tinder source are cotton balls. Cotton fiber is a natural material from cotton plants. The fibers are harvested and processed into cotton balls at a cotton mill. If you happen to be going by a cotton field you may see cotton-like balls on the plants. These white balls are called, bolls. Cotton bolls are combustible material. Cotton bolls are not as dense as the cotton balls in the local grocery store.

Moreover, a simple cotton ball will take a spark very easily. It has one disadvantage; the cotton fibers burn very quickly. Potentially, the cotton ball can burn out before a tinder bundle can catch on fire. There are a couple of ways to help the cotton ball hold or extend a flame once the fibers begin to ignite. One method to help the cotton ball hold a flame is to saturate it in candle wax. Another method is to saturate the cotton ball in petroleum jelly. Candle wax and petroleum jelly produce the same affect on the cotton fibers as a wick on a candle. They help the fibers burn more slowly while retaining the flame. Thus, after application of the wax and petroleum jelly to cotton, they act as fire or flame extenders when the cotton fibers catch fire. In turn, the cotton ball now is an optional tinder source.

Hand Sanitizer

A second tinder option for your fire making kit is a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Hand sanitizer contains both rubbing and ethyl alcohol at a concentration between 65% and 95%. The kind of ethyl alcohol that is in hand sanitizers is flammable. As a result, the liquid or semi-jellied hand sanitizer will ignite with a heat source such as a match, butane lighter, or ferro rod. The semi-jellied compound that forms the hand sanitizer does not evaporate easily and will hold a flame longer that just the liquid alcohol by itself. However, when liquid hand sanitizer combines with other tinder sources, it functions as an accelerant to create fire. Not only is liquid hand sanitizer a good consideration as an optional tinder source, hand sanitizing wipes are also a excellent options for a tinder source.

The best hand sanitizing wipes are those individually wrapped by Purell™. Hand sanitizing wipes are different from an alcohol wipe that is in a first aid kit. They are also different from a Wet Wipe®. The hand sanitizing wipes have a concentration of ethyl alcohol of between 50 and 70 percent (PURELL® Hand Sanitizing Wipes Alcohol Formula, Safety Data Sheet, 2016). This makes them an ideal item for a personal emergency survival kit or to keep in your wallet, purse, or backpack as a multi-use component of your EDC loadout.

 

Alcohol Prep Wipes

The third household item that makes a great tinder for fire making are the alcohol prep wipes in your household first aid kit. These wipes contain up to 60% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol infused into a small paper or cotton cloth square. It is important to know that there is another kind of wipe in a first aid kit that is an antiseptic wipe containing .13% benzalkonium chloride as the active ingredient. Benzalkonium Chloride is an antimicrobial soapy substance which makes it useless for making emergency fires.

Furthermore, the major difference between using a wipe that contains hand sanitizer and one with rubbing alcohol is burn time. Rubbing alcohol evaporates very quickly and when it ignites it will burn off before the paper or cotton square starts to burn. Remember that experiment your high school chemistry teacher did by soaking a wash cloth in rubbing alcohol and lighting it on fire and the cloth did not burn? By contrast, the wipes containing hand sanitizer will burn more slowly and this quality makes them ideal for starting an emergency fire for survival.

 

Dryer Lint

A fourth household item that makes a wonderful optional tinder source for emergency fires is dryer lint. There are many blog articles and YouTube® videos discussing the various ways to employ dryer lint as a fire making item. Dryer lint has a similar quality to cotton balls. Loose fibers from the clothes that are being dried fall off of due to the rubbing and tumbling in the dryer. Those fibers collect on the lint catch. They, then, can be collected for later use to start an emergency fire. The major difference between dryer lint and cotton balls is that dryer lint sometimes has within it multiple types of fibers, such as cotton, wool, and polyester.

Final Thoughts

A major component of survival is being adept at improvisation. The homesteading community calls it “repurposing”. The list of optional sources of tinder are by no means exhaustive. There are many other kinds of materials that can function as tinder sources. The experts agree that being able to make a fire in an emergency is essential for wilderness survival. The same skill also is critical in an emergency in other locations such as a suburban or urban environment. Therefore, improvising tinder materials from household items is one way to think outside the box to prepare for an emergency.

Sure there are tons of articles and info out there on the subject of fatwood, so what makes this one different. In this article, we plan to reveal a few things you probably didn’t know about it and what works best when using it. This survival blog will even show you how to make it on your own if you can’t find any  good fatwood.

What is Fatwood?

Fatwood, is a resin impregnated pine wood that can be found on pine trees and is probably the best natural fire starter available. It’s waterproof, rot resistant, extremely flammable, and in abundance when pine is in the area. Most evergreen trees contain terpene in their tree sap. This sap flows to an area that is scarred and damaged, attempting to heal that area. As the terpene evaporates in the sap it will harden, becoming resin and over time it will not be sticky any longer. The resin at all stages is flammable and burns well. This same resin can be used for pitch glue and all types of bushcraft needs.

Fatwood more detailed info!

Where to find fatwood?

The best way to find fatwood is to find fallen dead pine trees that are on the ground. When a tree dies the terpene in the wood will move to the interior heartwood of the tree and it will saturate the inner wood creating fatwood. Sometimes you can find sections of it the size of a small tree, within the inside of a large fallen rotten tree. You can also dig around rotten pine stumps to find large sections of it as well. Remove the punky rotten material from around the fatwood and this wood will be golden in color and very resinous in feel. You will also smell a heavy scent of turpentine in the wood and the stronger the smell the better the wood.

Fatwood can also be found in the lower branches of the tree in the small node that connects the branch to the tree. Where the tree connects to the trunk, is usually where it is found and most times it can be 2-6 inches in length out along the branch. Spruce fatwood is found only a couple inches up the branches and does not have as much fatwood as pine. Having some fatwood in a tinder box or tinder pouch , can be very useful in all type of weather conditions. So see if you can find some in your area then you definitely want to store it for later fire making uses. Fatwood makes a great tinder anytime, it will burn long and hot. When in wet conditions, its used for drying damp materials so they will combust into flame and this can make the difference with marginal wet tinder material. It will catch almost anything on fire if you have enough of it.

 

Other Uses

Large sections of it can also be used as a torch for lighting purposes around camp. Put the fatwood into the spears we make on the youtube channel and have a portable torch you can use for light in the woods. These can be used to attract fish for night time fish spearing as well! Since the fatwood puts off a tremendous amount of toxic smoke, this can also be used to combat mosquitoes in your camp. You do not want to breath fatwood smoke though, so caution should be used when in primitive shelters. Some people even take large sections of fatwood and make them into walking sticks so they are insured to always have a great firestarter.

How to make your own fatwood?

If you can’t find any fatwood in your area then you simply need to make some. It is so simple to make fatwood and you will have the same types of results as the natural fatwood. All you need do is melt your sap down in a container large enough to soak your sticks into. Once the sap is melted completely in the container, then add your finger sized sticks of cedar or dried pine to the melted sap. Lightly simmer the sticks in the sap for around 30 minutes and make sure you don’t get fire to hot or the sap will ignite into flame. Once the sap has soaked into the pre-cut sticks, then all you need do is let them air dry and they are ready for fire making.

You’ll need the following 3 items:

  • Sap from pine, cedar, or fir tree
  • Good flammable dry wood such as white cedar or dried pine
  • Boiling container; preferably something you don’t mind ruining such as an aluminum can.


How to Prepare it?

Methods to prepare fatwood for fire starting is most commonly done in a two ways. The first is by taking a knife and thinly shaving off the fatwood to make shavings. The shavings should be thin and usually will be curled. A small pile the size of a golf ball or larger is a good amount. The shavings will light easily by using a flame or even sparks from a ferrocerium rod.  The second way is by taking a sharp edge on the spine of a knife and scraping the fat wood to make a sticky dust. Also, the fine dust can be scraped off with a sharp stone, a piece of broken glass or other sharp object. After getting a small ball of dust in a pile you will be able to light this with a flame or ferrocerium rod. The SIGMORA (Official S3 Survival Knife) has a custom scraper on the back that makes perfect scrapings of fatwood for catching sparks and it is our preferred tool for this job.
Conclusion:

Fatwood is probably the single best fire tinder you can carry with you and is usually in great quantity if pines are in the area. This tinder is even better than birch bark and many modern tinders as well. It’s free, abundant, and one of the most useful fire making tinders you can harvest. Go out and get some and try it today!

 

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