Letter Re: Firestarters

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HJL,

I’ve read with interest and amusement the recent firestarting articles (https://survivalblog.com/letter-re-easy-fire-starting-article/ ) and wanted to add my 2¢.

For everyday firestarting in the wood stove at home, I use egg cartons dipped in melted bacon fat. We have bacon once a week and save the drippings in a big plastic coffee container. (I also cook with bacon fat, but that’s another story!) Once a month or so I carefully melt that fat in Mr. Microwave until it’s clear-ish. Then I dip the egg carton egg “cups” into the container and put them in an open gallon Ziploc to cool. (Yes, I have laying hens, but some of them are slackers and so we also buy a dozen eggs a week for cooking and for the Dogs of Doom. Hence the surplus egg cartons!)

The bacon grease penetrates the cardboard nicely. They start quickly with a long-reach lighter, and they burn furiously for several minutes, which is plenty long enough to get my kindling and small wood going before adding the bigger wood. I’ve been doing this for years. (Funny story: When I first started using these one of our dogs couldn’t resist the bacon odor and pulled one out. She chewed it up a little on the living room floor until she decided it wasn’t actually bacon. Then she unpacked about a fourth of the Ziploc bag looking for where the bacon was! After that, she’s given up on trying to eat the firestarters.)

My go-to firestarter for my BOB, though, is the tried-and-true petroleum gel and cotton. At first I used to take a half hour to hand-smear the gel into the cotton, but that was very messy and slow. Now I (carefully!) slowly melt the entire 13-ounce blob of gel in a pot on the stovetop, and when it’s liquid I add 200 large cottonballs and use a wood spoon to push them into the melted gel. I fluff them around, turn them over, and push them down again until every single cottonball is soaked. To be sure, I usually pull out half a dozen of them at random and squeeze them one at a time between my fingertips. I’ve always gotten a drop of liquid petroleum gel, which tells me they’re good and saturated.

These cotton ball firestarters are easier to separate out for use than the ones I massaged petroleum gel into and start in an instant. They’ll burn for a minute or two and are good at catching a firesteel spark. I carry LOTS of these firestarters in my BOB, since dry tinder is hard to come by in the field, especially in rainy/snowy/extra cold weather. I can usually find kindling that will burn, but tinder is harder to find or make unless I bring my own. I consider these firestarters to be one of the key elements in my primary bugout pack. – ShepherdFarmerGeek

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