DIY Fuel Tablets from Pine Mountain Firelogs

March 11, 2013 by | Be the first to comment »

Fuel tablets can range from handy to life-saving in a survival situation. You can use them to provide warmth, signal, start a larger fire, or even cook, and while commercial options, like the Esbit fuel cubes are convenient, they are pricy and don’t last as long as a DIY fuel tablet.

I’ve experimented with a few different ways to make your own effective yet inexpensive fuel tablets, but stumbled across a shockingly simple solution while grocery shopping. My wife, ever the bargain hunter, was perusing the clearance rack and while standing there, I noticed a few Pine Mountain® fire logs on the bottom shelf priced at just under $3 each. You can buy these artificial logs in most grocery, convenience, and home improvement stores.

Pine Mountain fire log

I cut the log into 10–1″ thick chunks with a simple hand saw for the core of the fuel tablets.

Fuel tablet core

Next I laid out a roughly 24″ long piece of wax paper, and set one chunk of the cut log, flat side down, on the paper and covered it with a thick layer of petroleum jelly. Then I flipped the chunk over and applied a thick layer to the other side as well. This is critical because it makes the fuel tablet much easier to light.

Petroleum jelly

I rolled the wax paper over tightly and neatly like a burrito, squeezing some of the petroleum jelly down around the sides of the log chunk in the process. A small piece of masking tape held the roll closed.

Wax paper roll

The last step was to fold the excess wax paper over to opposing sides and tape them down. Now you have a neatly packaged fuel tablet.

Pine Mountain fuel tablet

I tested a few of these out and they performed quite well. I used a two–hour log, however, the completed tablets burned for roughly one hour. That’s still significantly longer than the 12 minutes that the Esbit cubes advertise. I don’t know what temperature these DIY fuel tablets burned at, but I can tell you they exceeded the 600° max of my IR thermometer—plenty of heat for cooking. They were easy to ignite and burned cleanly with little visible smoke, however, do not use them for open-flame cooking like roasting over a spit, because the flame will add chemicals to your food that you definitely do not want to ingest. Using them with a pot, skillet, or something similar is fine though, as it will protect your food from the chemicals. Also, I recommend propping them off the ground a bit with small sticks or rocks so that air can circulate freely, making them easier to ignite and producing a fuller flame.

Just a few dollars in materials (log, wax paper, masking tape, and petroleum jelly) and a small investment of time produced inexpensive yet effective fuel tablets. Each log will produce ten tablets, giving you a total of ten hours of burn time.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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