Home Help Glossary About
Uses Name Characteristics

Tinder and Other Fuels
Tinder

Other Fuels

Tinder

The trick to fire building is to build the fire in stages, beginning with tinder and steadily adding twigs, sticks, and branches as the fire grows. Tinder is readily available in nearly every environment; one just has to know where to look.

The peely, curly bark of the birch is valuable as a fire starting tool because it is easy to collect and highly flammable. It only takes a match to ignite a pile of birch bark into a hot flame that will last several minutes. Birch bark also tends to repel water and is therefore helpful in starting fires in rainy weather. Many outdoorsmen fill up a spare pocket with birch bark when they pass a tree so that they are equipped at any time to start a fire.

Dried pine needles are an excellent tinder material and are in abundance on the forest floor. They require a little more initial heat than dried grass, but the pine resin inside them produces a flame that lasts longer than burning grass. Pine needles are also valuable wet weather tinder material because they are dense and fibrous and therefore somewhat resistant to water. In wet conditions a tinder pile made of pine needles should be loosely packed to allow individual pine needles to dry as the fire begins to burn. Hardened resin can also be used to start fires.

The fluffy down of cattail head and milkweed plants is also highly flammable material that can be easily spotted all year round.

The flaky bark of cedar trees can be easily stripped off and used as tinder when the weather is dry. Juniper bark also tends to burn easily.

Dried sphagnum moss is another excellent tinder. However, dried moss tends not to be readily accessible because the areas in which moss grows are usually swampy and wet. Although dried moss catches easily, it does not burn very long or produce as much heat as more readily accessible substitutes.

Powdered oak galls can be sprinkled on a glowing ember and gently fanned to produce a flame.

Dried fibers from the stalk of bull thistle ignite easily.

Other Fuels

The characteristics of different woods make some woods more practical for the task at hand than others. For example, softwoods such as apple, fir, and witch hazel burn quickly and brightly and give off good heat. Unfortunately, they also produce sparks. Because they catch fire so easily they are ideal for getting a fire going or fast cooking. However, the wood is quickly burned up leaving only ashes rather than embers that can be used for baking or other forms of slow cooking.

Dense hardwoods such as ash, birch, hickory, maple, and oak burn slowly and evenly, giving off heat and producing coals that can be used for slow cooking. Keep in mind that the taste of your food can be affected by the smell of the smoke produced by the wood. Pine tends to make food taste like resin, while apple adds richness to the flavor.


Home Help Glossary About
Uses Name Characteristics