Backpacker Tip: Great Homemade Fire Starters

A great homemade fire starter from our backpacker Gary Hammond from Lancaster, CA.

Before you head out backpacking you can save your selves many problems starting a fire by making simple extremely lightweight homemade fire starters that cost practically nothing.

Take cotton balls and smear them with petroleum jelly, yes the Vaseline brand or other generics. Rub the jelly well into the ball and put them in a zip lock bag. You will be amazed that each ball will burn for over a minute, making short work out of getting damp tinder to burn. Now why didn’t I or you think of that!


Thanks for that great tip, Gary. This sounds like a fabulously easy way to make very lightweight fire starters that will work well for backpacking and hiking trips, as well as for general camping trips.

We have seen people using homemade fire starters made from sawdust, candle wax and egg cartons and also just saw a slightly different approach using dryer lint, candlewax and egg cartons.

However, the cotton balls and Vaseline idea sounds better for backpacking because it’s so lightweight compared to the other types and it also doesn’t require you to melt wax to make them.

To be sure you don’t end up with a petroleum jelly mess inside your backpack, it’s probably a good idea to double-bag them (put them in the ziplock, zipped up tightly, and then put that inside another ziplock bag just to be sure none of it gets out).

I believe you’ve contributed a fabulous tip for the benefit of backpackers, and we’ll give it a try on our next backpacking trip.

Everyone SHOULD “try this at home” before trying it out in the back country, just so you’ve got the right proportions of Vaseline to cotton ball. Don’t ever try something for the first time out on a backpacking trip – try it at home first to be sure!