DIY Fire-Starter (That's Both Waterproof & Slow-Burning!)

Have you ever felt the panic of being in bad conditions and not being able to get your fire started (if you are in a fire-friendly region)? Or when you can't find any good tinder in your immediate surroundings? Or everything is wet, wet, and more wet, and nothing will light? Here's a step-by-step guide to making reliable, slow-burning, waterproof fire-starter - an essential on my packing list for any outdoors excursion (and a fun project to do with older kids, too!).

What you need:

  • Cotton make-up pads
  • Unscented candle wax (I always ask around for candle remainders once the wick is done... my friend's mom always keeps them because "they're good for something....." and she's right - repurposing at its best!)
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • Something to melt the wax in (e.g. a pie plate or a large can)
  • Tweezers, chopsticks, etc. - whatever is best for you to dip with!

Now, getting started!

1. Place the wax in an aluminum pie plate, can, or whatever you don't mind getting a little waxy, and melt over a fire or under low heat in an oven. (I've used a can over a fire, or a pie plate in the oven.) Be very careful not to burn yourself!

-Fun tip: Try adding food colouring to the wax while it's heating up if the wax you have isn't coloured - especially great for kids, but who doesn't love a little colour in their life!

-Wildlife-safe tip: Make sure the wax you use is unscented. Using scented wax can attract wildlife, which is a big no-no. Keep the scented candles for at home use only. 

2. While the wax is melting, lay out a sheet (or two) of parchment/wax paper for putting your fire-starter on to cool.

3. Once the wax is melted, remove it from the heat and place somewhere where it won't get knocked over (be especially careful if working with kids).

4. Using tweezers, or your method of choice, take individual cotton pads, dip them in the wax so they are fully covered, then place them on the parchment/wax paper to dry. 

5. Allow them to fully cool until hardened. 


What next?

I always keep a few of these, along with some matches and a lighter, in every backpack I have. To use them, I generally rip halfway across and fold ¼ of the pad up to make sort of a mini-candle (see below). 


Since they are slow-burning, I gradually build my fire around them, as to not overwhelm the flame and allow some smaller pieces of wood to get burning. It works like a charm for me every time!

The plus side of these is they are light, easy to carry, and work in any weather - rain or shine! They also make great stocking-stuffers for the adventure-lovers.

And there you have it! Simple, cheap, reliable, and fun! And they're so good, all of your friends and family will be stealing them from your stash!