35 Easy-to-Find Sources of Tinder

May 17, 2013 by | 4 Comments

The ability to start a fire can mean the difference between life or death, but even in the best of scenarios, it will mean the difference between relative comfort or absolute misery. Of all the elements needed to start a fire, tinder is the most critical because it allows you to make up for poor fuel, kindling, and ignition sources.

Tinder is an easily combustible material that burns very hot. This allows it to ignite your kindling material, which burns for longer, allowing you to finally ignite your fuel source, typically logs. Tinder also burns very quickly so you should have plenty of hand before attempting to start your fire. The last thing you want is to have your fire on the verge of starting, and then running out of tinder. I usually aim for three times the amount I think I’ll need to get my fire going.

So how do we find tinder in a survival situation? It’s a lot easier than you might think. Generally, you want something that burns easily and has a large surface area. In case you missed physics class, that just means it should be shaved, shredded, or torn as finely as possible. Some excellent options are:

  • Birch bark
  • Shredded paper or cardboard
  • Steel wool
  • Cattail fibers
  • Gauze bandages
  • Finely shredded plastic or rubber
  • Punk wood
  • Bird nests
  • Tobacco (cigarettes or cigars—not chewing tobacco)
  • Dandelion heads
  • Certain fungus
  • Sanitizing wipes
  • Dry grass, pine needles, or leaves
  • Char cloth
  • Trioxane or hexamin
  • Magnesium or other alkaline earth metals
  • Lint
  • Animal dung
  • Seed down
  • Saw dust
  • Cotton balls, tampons, or maxi pads
  • Plastic bags
  • Cigarette filters
  • Pine bark
  • Hair or fur
  • Bird down
  • Diapers
  • Rope, string or twine (natural or synthetic)
  • Dead Spanish moss
  • Nearly anything flammable, such as kindling sized sticks, once covered with petroleum jelly, shoe polish, ChapStick, paraffin wax, lard, pine sap, or any accelerant like gasoline can be used as tinder as well.

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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  • Geoff Bricks says:

    Steel wool + 9 volt battery = instant fire starter.

  • Brandon says:

    Don’t forget about Lighter Knot (Fat Wood) stumps. They are easy to find in piney areas, if you know what to look for. One stump can last a super long time, and burn like gas!

  • Duct tape burns too. You can also find small amounts of lint in the bottoms of your pockets and if you _carefully_ scrape your knife blade across your clothing, you can also make “lint”.

  • cat fury says:

    The shredded dry inner bark of cedar trees. The dry inner pit of dead cattail stalks. Dry cattail fluff. The fuzz scraped off of dry mullein leaves. The fluff from willow tree seeds or thistle heads. The powdery dust from the inside of rotten logs. Old abandoned songbird nests. The shredded dry leaves of sedge grass. Dried cow dung broken into shreds. Old empty nests of paper wasps. These are ones that I tested by going out into the woods in Northwest Arkansas. I specifically picked rainy days or days when it had rained in the last couple of days, and looked to see what I could find that was dry. Pine resin wasn’t a good fire STARTER but it seemed to work as an accelerant. The wetter the day, the finer I shredded the tinder. Cedar bark shreds surrounding a core of cattail fluff was the best.

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