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Five Things – Tinder For Real Fires

By Dave Roberts   

on June 29, 2014    No ratings yet.

Five Things – Tinder For Real Fires

If you’ve got a wood burning stove then here’s some ideas of how to get it lit. Tinder is basically anything that will catch fire – either with a match, lighter or ideally with a fire steel (though some definitions state that it has to be with a spark – if it needs a match to ignite, then it’s kindling).

We’ve omitted the obvious can of petrol, we think that’s cheating. As always, if you have to collect any of these in the wild, then ensure it’s legal and non-destructive to do so. It also goes without saying that any fires should be under a controlled environment, and no trace left afterwards. Don’t be the idiot that leaves these traces behind (if you can’t get that log to burn through, you’re not doing it right either!)


1 – Maya Dust – Some will call this cheating, but others that it’s just a helping hand. This is particularly resinous wood shavings that’s meant to be easy to light.

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2 – Pine Cone – Readily available in coniferous forest and easy to get going. Acts as both tinder, kindling and fuel if you’ve got a ready supply.

Siabod_2011_620_531.jpg3 – Bark – Specifically from silver birch. It was used to start the fire in the bowl above and is easy to light.

4 – Dried Grass or pine needles. Foolproof! Just make sure to light it in side the fire bowl or stove.


5 – Moss / Reindeer moss – needs to be dry. The moss below was a bit too damp.


6 – Feather Stick – Takes a fair few minutes to prepare, but the twig will readily catch fire and worth the effort. This was lit with a lighter.


7 – Paper makes great kindling, but you’ll obviously need to take some with you. Chances are you’ve got some on your person, such as receipts. In a true emergency, you could always use parts of your map that you won’t miss. That goes for the cover, key and the edges. Another emergency option is money (which may not always be paper) which would be more valuable as tinder in a life or death situation. Obviously we’re not suggesting you burn your map or a wad of tenners on a casual camping weekend in Snowdonia.

8 – Compressed paper towels – One of these can be used by teasing it out to form strips. Just don’t activate it by putting it water.

9 – Cotton Wool / Lint – Belly button fluff can be used in an emergency, but you’d need to have a load of it for it to be effective! Real wool can work as well – something you might actually find on the British Hills.

10 – Resinous or rotten / Punk wood – This can catch fire quickly, with resinous wood being effective even when wet. Rotten wood burns easily and rapidly, but only when dry.

This is far from exhaustive. We’ve seen strips of rubber tyre being used; specific fungi, charred cloth; basically anything that’s readily flammable and not too toxic. A watertight tinder box is also essential for carrying the tinder, matches and fire-steel – as it’s not much use once it’s wet.

Now you’ve got your fire started – here’s what you can use as fuel.

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Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader. Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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