Knowing how to easily start a fire while camping is one of the most important skills in order to have a successful and fun camping experience. Fires provide warmth on a cold night, creates a relaxing atmosphere, and it is the best place to cook dinner! I could create a long post describing the fire triangle of fuel, oxygen, and heat, and go through the boy scout method of gathering tinder, kindling, and fuel, but that’s not the intent of this post. The intent here is to teach you the easy way to start a fire.
Just about every campground sells nice dry and well seasoned firewood. In fact, most states do not allow you to bring your own wood to protect against the spread of harmful insects. Each bundle of wood will cost you anywhere from $4-8 and in a typical evening you will go through 2-3 bundles. Even though this wood is nice and dry, you still cannot simply light it with a match or lighter directly, it needs a constant flame for several minutes in order to start burning. That is where the homemade fire starter comes in handy!
These homemade fire starters are super easy to make, and are a fun project to do with the kids. You need three materials: egg cartons (the fiber kind, not styrofoam), candle wax, and a material that can burn easily (paper shredings, dryer lint, or saw dust work best). The candle wax can either be from old candles or you can buy wax in bulk from any craft store. Here is a good example of the kind of wax you can use.
Start by heating up the wax in a double boiler. I just heat water in a pan and use an old tin can from the recycling bin to put the chunks of wax in. Heat the tin can full of wax in the boiling water, being careful that the water and wax don’t mix. You want the wax to completely melt into a liquid. While you are waiting for the wax to melt, take your egg cartons and fill each “cup” with your paper shredings, dryer lint, or sawdust. Each “cup” of the egg carton will be a fire starter, giving you 12 or 18 per carton. Once the wax is melted, carefully pour it into each cup on top of your paper shredings until it fills up to the top. I suggest putting some tin foil underneath since some wax will spill out.
Let the wax harden and when it is cool enough, simply separate the cups by ripping them apart and put them in a ziploc bag and in the camper. Then when it is time to start a fire simply place one or two of the fire starters in the firepit and place the wood above the fire starter in either a log cabin or teepee arrangement. The fire starter will burn long enough to easily light your wood logs directly, and all you have to do is sit back and relax. No more gathering sticks, using a gallon of lighter fluid and blowing on a smoky mess!
Another pro tip is to save your bacon grease from breakfast. Wipe up the bacon grease with a paper towel and put it in the fire pit. When you go to light the fire later you won’t even need to use a fire starter. The bacon grease burns for a very long time and is enough to get a log burning very well!