The ability to start a fire is vital for any situation where you may be outdoors for an extended period of time. Having a fire gives you both warmth and the ability to cook. A complete fire starting kit includes the essentials for starting a fire. It is an extremely important piece of kit to include in your bug out bag.
There are some great ready made fire starting kits available, which are great if you need something quickly. Two good examples are the Polymath Spitfire Fire Starting Kit or the excellent but more expensive Wilmas Swedish Strike a Light Kit. Making your own fire starting kit means that you can tailor it to your own preferences and experience.
Fire Starting Kit Contents
The fire starting kit described in this article is the fire starting kit that I use. The fire starting kit includes various items to start a fire in any weather conditions.
This list will allow you to make your own complete and reliable fire starting kit. Detailed descriptions of the items in this fire starting kit are further down the page.
- Water resistant carrying case for the fire starting kit
- Fire steel (also known as a ferrocerium or ferro rod fire starter)
- Storm proof matches in waterproof pack
- Refillable wind proof lighter
- Small container of lighter fuel
- Small Fresnel lens
- Tinder box (small metal tin with tight fitting lid)
- Char cloth
- Natural fibre cloth for making more char cloth
- Fatwood tinder
- Kapok tinder
- Jute tinder
- Cotton wool balls soaked in petroleum jelly
- Pocket bellows
Water Resistant Carrying Case
A dedicated water resistant carrying case for your fire starting kit is very important. This keeps all of the fire starting kit together making it easier to find fire starting tools when you need them. Keeping all the items of your fire starting kit loose in your bug out bag would make it difficult to find what you need quickly.
I use a WYNEX EDC MOLLE Pouch for my fire starting kit. This is a good size to hold the fire starting kit, water resistant, and fitted with the MOLLE system which means I can attach it to the outside of my bug out bag / backpack for easy access.
For the experienced bushcrafter, nothing beats a fire steel, or ferro rod, to provide the sparks to start the fire. The fire steel is a rod made of ferrocerium flint with a small handle. To start a fire, strike the rod with the striker to to produce a shower of hot sparks. Direct the sparks at some tinder, and the sparks will make the tinder start to smoulder.
The fire steel is an excellent item to have in your fire starting kit. It lasts for a long time, particularly when used correctly, and is not affected by wet or windy weather. Practice using your fire steel and you will be able to light a fire easily in most circumstances. The matches and lighter mentioned below are hoever extremely useful to quickly light a fire quickly in bad weather conditions.
The Friendly Swede Ferro Rod Fire Starter 2 Pack contains two high quality ferro rod fire steels and two strikers. These are fairly soft ferro rods, and are easy to produce hot sparks with. These are not the cheapest fire steels, but they are very good pieces of equipment to make your own fire starting kit.
Storm-proof matches are wind and waterproof. They are easy to light even if it’s windy or raining and virtually impossible to put out. Once lit, they will burn for 10-15 seconds, allowing you to get some tinder well lit.
These UCO Hurricane Matches come in a waterproof case which is ideal for keeping in your fire starting kit. The case also has a striker on the side, and comes with two more spare strikers. There are 25 wind and waterproof matches, each with a 15 second burn time in this pack.
Wind-proof jet lighters are very easy to use to get a fire started, however the fuel will run out much faster than a ferro rod would wear out. A couple of wind proof lighters take up very little room in a bug out bag and are a really quick and easy way to get a flame to start a fire.
This double jet wind-proof lighter has adjustable twin jet flames, which will light even in strong winds, making it easy to get some tinder burning. It is also refillable, so if you have some spare lighter fuel you can use it many times.
Extend the life of your lighter by keeping a small can of lighter fuel in your fire starting kit. No matter how much fuel you have, it won’t last forever, which is why I usually use my fire steel to light fires with the matches and lighter as a back up.
Focus sunlight to create a focussed hot spot on some tinder with a Fresnel lens to make it start smouldering. This method will not produce a flame, but instead a smouldering ember which can be blown into a flame in some tinder.
This pack of Fresnel lenses contains 20 credit card sized Fresnel lenses. The small size makes them easy to include when making your fire starting kit.
A tinder box is a small, metal tin that can be used not only to store char cloth and charred punk wood, but also to make them both by heating the closed tin containing cloth or punk wood over a fire. It needs to have a small hole in it to allow the smoke to escape when making char cloth.
I use this small metal tin with a hinged lid as my tinder box, with a small hole made in the lid to allow the smoke to escape. The lid is tight fitting, however because of the hole in the lid and the possibility of leaks around the hinges, I also store it in a resealable plastic bag in my fire starting kit to ensure that the contents remain really dry.
Char Cloth & Cloth To Make More
Char cloth is made from natural fibre cloth, such as cotton or silk. Add some small (approx. 4-5cm square) pieces of natural fibre cloth to your tinder box before placing it in a fire for a couple of minutes will char the cloth. The char cloth is very easy to light, and will start to smoulder with a spark from a fire steel. Once smouldering, add the char cloth to a larger bundle of tinder such as frayed pieces of jute to start to make a flame.
I also keep some natural fibre cloth in my fire starting kit so that every time I have a fire, I can make a few pieces of char cloth to make sure that I never run out. Any cloth will do as long as is made from 100% natural fibres. Cut up denim from old jeans is great, or cheap cotton cleaning cloths. Keep the cloth in a resealable plastic bag so it stays dry.
Fatwood tinder is wood with a very high resin content, meaning it will catch fire very easily. It is the heart wood of resinous trees, such as pine, that have died causing resin to soak in to the heart wood of the trunk and branches.
This tinder wood block is a small piece of fatwood that is easy to include when you make your own fire starting kit. You use it by shaving a few small pieces off the block and lighting with a spark or flame.
Kapok tinder is a natural fibre obtained from the fruit of the Kapok tree. It is very light and very flammable, and therefore easy to light with a spark.
This tin of Kapok tinder contains 15g, which although it doesn’t sound like much is able to light around 100 fires as it is extremely light and not much is needed for lighting a fire.
Jute is a natural, fibrous material that is often used for making string or rope. It also burns extremely well when the fibres are frayed into a light bundle. A small piece of a few centimetres can be frayed easily, separating the fibres into a bundle instead of a cord. This will light easily from a spark or glowing ember.
It is possible to buy small pieces of jute rope as fire starters, however it is no more expensive to buy this 20 metre, 6mm thick jute rope from which you can cut short pieces to include in your fire starting kit. You’ll have plenty left to replace each time you use some!
Cotton Balls in Petroleum Jelly
A great, cheap and easy to make tinder uses cotton wool balls soaked in a petroleum jelly such as Vaseline. Store a few of these in a resealable plastic bag. They will light easily with a spark or a smouldering ember.
Getting air in to a fire, particularly when you have some tinder and a burning ember, is vital to getting the fire going properly. Although it is simple enough to just blow on to the embers, pocket bellows allows you to direct the air in to the fire without having to get your face too close!
This is basically a telescopic tube which is very small when closed, and when extended allows you to blow through it in to the base of the fire as you get it burning properly.
Now Practice Using Your Fire Starting Kit!
That’s how to make your own complete and reliable fire starting kit, however one more vital element is you. It takes practice and experience to be able to reliably get a good fire lit, particularly in less than perfect weather conditions. Make your fire starting kit, and practice using all of the elements in it. Practice using your fire starting kit, and try out all the different ways of getting a fire lit. Use different combinations of kit to produce a spark, ember or flame and different types of tinder. Try lighting fires using twigs and small logs that you’re able to find. If you can reliably light a fire using the equipment in your fire starting kit and wood that you’re able to find, then you will have no problems in a real emergency situation.