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Unique Fire Starters You Have Laying Around

The warm feeling, the soothing crackling, hobo dinners and s’mores; nothing completes a camping trip like a campfire. Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you can’t get your hands on tinder, or you have weather that’s not conducive to starting a fire. You’d be surprised what you can use for ignition and may even have some on hand already! Here are some unique fire starters you have laying around already!

Pencil Shavings

If you use pencils, keep the shavings! This turns out to be great free tinder! Shavings are small so they burn fast and hot. They’ll give you nice heat and help to catch the kindling and so on! If you don’t use pencils that regularly, you can keep one along with a sharpening in your camping gear. When you’re out in the woods you can just shave off what you need! To save the pencil for more emergency situations when wood is scarce, sharpen sticks that fit into the sharpener and use them instead. Be sure to burn that stick afterward so you don’t have a sharp spear waiting for your feet.


If you’ve packed some Doritos or other crunchy snack made from cornmeal along for the trip, you already have your fire starter! These chips are made from compressed cornmeal, which is basically dried plant material. Just like dry grass, this plant material burns quickly! Use a pile of Doritos, Fritos, or Cheetoes when you need to get the fire going and it’ll be roaring in no time!

Ping Pong Balls

The original ping pong ball was so flammable that they would sometimes combust just from the friction of the paddle hitting them. They have since changed the chemical makeup by adding in a few properties to keep them from bursting into flames during game play. Today ping pong balls are made of celluloid which is still pretty flammable! Bring along some ping pong balls for a rousing game or to get your fire going. They burn very hot and very fast so be ready to back up and don’t use too many. Don’t breathe in the fumes from this. We were unable to find a definitive answer on if the smoke is toxic so use caution just in case.

Cotton Balls

Most people have cotton balls at home and if not you can get a pretty good-sized bag for a buck at the dollar store. They burn relatively fast so they make for great tinder on a dry day! You can pack tons of them without taking up a bunch of room! If you want a fire starter that’s great for wet or windy weather, simply coat the cotton balls in petroleum jelly and it will control the burn better. The petroleum jelly burns slowly like candle wax so it won’t blow out or go out from a few raindrops as easily. It also protects the cotton ball from moisture so it will stay dry and be able to burn on the inside!

Hand Sanitizer

Keeping hand sanitizer on you can help to keep your hands clean and kill germs. This is especially important if you’re preparing raw meat. Since hand sanitizer has alcohol in it, it’s pretty flammable! If you’re trying to get a fire going and struggling, you can use hand sanitizer as an accelerant on your tinder and kindling! Just squirt a little on there and light it on fire! It will burn until all the alcohol is gone!

Dryer Lint

If you’ve ever seen the videos about the dangers of not cleaning out your dryer vent then you know that dryer lint is very flammable! It burns super hot, super fast, and you create some every time you do laundry! Using dryer lint as tinder can get your fire going quickly but you have to be careful. It is very light and fluffy and if a wind picks up just as you light it, it can blow into an area you don’t want it. There are some precautions you can take to contain it as well as slow the burn just a little. Stuffing it into a toilet paper tube will keep it in one place a little better so you can get it lit without it blowing away. Coating the lint in petroleum jelly, like with the cotton balls, helps to slow the burn and keep the inside dry. If you’re looking at a damp or rainy situation, get out the Vaseline to make it work.

As always, use caution when starting any campfire. Keep an eye on it, never leave it unattended, and ensure that it is completely out before you leave the site. Use these fire starters to help kick off your fire when tinder is either not enough or there’s none around! These will all help get that rolling fire going so you can sit back and relax in the glow!

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