We’re long past the days of rubbing two sticks together to start a fire! But even that was never enough if you didn’t have the right materials to start the burn and keep it going. Tinder has always been a necessity for a wood fire, and that hasn’t changed. Fortunately, you can now get it delivered to your door!
(We apologize in advance to anyone who landed here looking for info on the Tinder dating app – that can help get an entirely different kind of fire started! But here’s a link to it on Google Play and here’s one for Apple’s App Store.
Whether you’re starting a fire pit or bonfire in your yard or planning a camping trip in the deep woods, these small but powerful packets will simplify getting the flame going. You won’t have to scramble to find dry leaves, twigs, or other materials. Instead, you can just pull some tinder out of your kit, apply a match, and you’re underway!
In this article, we’ll look at what goes into a good fire starter. Then we’ll make recommendations about a few products that we think we’ll serve you well. Be sure to buy some before you build your next fire – and enjoy how easy they make life!
Why You Need A Fire Starter
Ok, you may not need a fire starter. You may have enough dried grass, small twigs, and newspaper around to get things burning brightly. But you can’t always guarantee that. Newsprint could be classified as an endangered species at this point. Gathering natural elements to start your fire depends on their availability and the weather.
So it’s always a good idea to have something reliable on hand to help get started. This is even more important on a camping trip. But it’s helpful around the yard, too. And they work just as well in your charcoal grill, too!
What Makes A Good Fire Starter
Fire starters aren’t complicated tools by any stretch of the imagination. All they need to do is burn long enough and hot enough to allow heavier pieces of wood to catch fire.
As we said, you need a material that will catch fire easily, but not burn out too quickly. This is one of the problems with using hay, dry grass, or dead leaves, too. The best fire starters consume themselves more slowly.
Sawdust forms the basis of a lot of commercial fire starter products. But by itself, it, too, would go up in flames immediately. So it’s treated with other materials that will slow the process down.
With any fire starter, you do have to carefully build your wood around it. Don’t expect large logs to start directly from a fire starter! Remember, you need to go from tinder to kindling then to the larger pieces!
Of course, the size of the fire starter affects how long it will burn. But a larger one also means that more of your firewood has a chance to start burning.
That doesn’t mean you need a huge piece of material to get things underway, though. Most fire starters are pocket-sized, and that’s plenty to get the job done.
Not long ago, most fire starters were made with artificial chemicals. And many of these were harmful to the environment. Lately, though, the industry has turned to more sustainable alternatives. Sawdust, as we mentioned, is one common ingredient. Recycled wood chips – which we guess means they’re bigger than sawdust – are the most common ingredient.
These are products that would have ended up incinerated in many cases, anyway. They still meet the same fate, but at least it serves a good purpose.
Of course, you don’t want everything to stink when you start your fire, either. Many lighter fluids have a horrible odor. And in the past, so did many firestarters.
Since almost all are now using wood chips, there is almost no odor other than the “normal” smell of wood burning. That’s better for your nose – and better for the taste of any food you cook over the fire!
Doing It Your Way
Of course, there are many ways to avoid spending extra money on commercial fire starters. They involve recycling common household waste, for the most part. Here are some ideas:
A pine cone: pine cones burn relatively slowly. And this is more environmentally friendly than many other methods!
Sawdust works great – and it’s even better when mixed with some wax! If you cut a lot of wood, be sure to keep the sawdust in a bucket. Mix it around occasionally so that moisture doesn’t get trapped on the bottom. To prepare it for burning, put it inside a paper cupcake cup (don’t use foil ones!). Stir in a bit of melted wax to help it stick together and slow the burning process.
Used paper towels and cooking oil do a good job, too. We suggest curling each towel into a “rope” then tossing it in a container with the oil. Be sure to keep the container covered, though; otherwise, it may attract bugs.
You can even use food to get your fire started! Dried orange peels or peanut shells work well. And if you’re out in the woods and stuck, you could even try potato chips. But we don’t recommend them for regular use – they’re too expensive!
Best Tinder Fire Starters
Let’s look now at some of the best tinder-type fire starters available. Be sure to buy some before your next bonfire – you’ll be glad you did!
To save space and spare you some unnecessary reading, we’ll mention here that all of these are made with wood chips.
We’ll also mention that we see a lot of complaints that fire starters of this type don’t work well with kamado grills. We’re not sure why but it’s a theme that runs throughout!
This box contains 50 fire starters. Each is shaped like a short, thick dowel. They’re thick and dense enough to burn up to ten minutes. That should be plenty of time for your kindling to be burning!
Our biggest problem with this is the somewhat sexist description (at least as of this writing) that says it’s a great gift for your “husband or neighbor”. Really? We know women love a good fire pit or campfire just as much as any guy!
As far as the product itself, though, we don’t find anything to complain about. There’s no odor and little smoke. They light easily and keep burning long enough to do the job.
There are a few complaints around that it takes more than one piece to start the fire. Honestly, that doesn’t seem to be a common opinion. But we never trust any manufacturer that says “it only takes one” – there are too many variables that go into starting a fire! Overall, though, most online reviews we’ve seen rate these highly.
The wood is pine and it’s coated with wax.
Our second review comes 30 to a pack. It was a good bit more expensive per item than the one above.
We like the burn time on these – the company says they can last 15-20 minutes. We feel that on average, it’s closer to the lower end, but that’s how advertising goes! Still, that’s a nice, long burn to get your fire started.
These wood shavings are packed with wax into a small container, similar to the white paper kind you get for ketchup at a fast-food place. That makes them even easier to light, too! They’re dipped in “food-grade wax”, which helps maintain a slow, steady burn.
One disadvantage is that they’re relatively small. That may help them burn longer, but it concentrates the flame under a smaller part of your kindling.
These aren’t individually packed, but the bag that holds them is waterproof. Just remember to seal it!
So far, it seems like fire starters can come in any shape. And Rutland’s look like thin brownies or Rice Krispie treats!. Despite the dark color, they are still wood and sawdust with wax.
As of this writing, they had four sizes available – you could buy one, two, three, four – or 144 fire starters. That seems like a big jump to us, but maybe they’re working on
You have to break off the squares from a larger sheet. Each piece measures about 1.5 inches square. They come in multiple sheets, of course.
These, again, don’t have a large “footprint.” But they do burn well, mainly because the wood is so tightly compressed. They burn for about 10 minutes so a properly-built fire should get started easily.
Greensparks offers this pack of 70 fire starters. Like the first entry above, they’re short, round “poles” of recycled pine wood. They’re about 2 inches long and an inch in diameter
That’s not huge, of course, but it’s slightly better than many other entries.
The wood is held together with stearin, which is a wax product. They’ll stay lit for around 10 minutes.
Inside the box, they’re packed in a resealable bag – which is great for any product like this! The company says they light “when wet” but we don’t want to take the chance.
Most people find that it takes one or two of these to get a good fire going.
Ok, fire starters come in all shapes and sizes. But tumbleweeds? Yeah, that’s what you get!
Ok, they kind of range in shape from the dowel pieces like those above to a more rounded tumbleweed.
Seventy pieces come in a box. We think. The box says 70. The name says seventy. We counted 70 (or thereabouts – I think we lost count. But it’s close). However, the description on Amazon says there are only 60. Typo? Maybe. But we’re pretty confident saying 70.
Each one burns between 8 and ten minutes. With one or two you should be able to get a properly-stacked fire started.
It’s almost impossible to get a fire started without tinder. It doesn’t matter if you’re camping or in your backyard! Using a fire starter helps make the process easier. Fortunately, the best ones available nowadays are natural and sustainable. They’ll help save you time and energy when you’re ready to build a bonfire, light the fire pit, or get the charcoal grill going!