I was working for a counseling camp that provided an educational outdoor environment for troubled teen boys. I was assigned two boys 14 years old while various counselors read their assessments and decided where the newcomers fit into the program. They had been abused, neglected, hooked on drugs, lived on the street and told they would never amount to anything. It was raining and had been for two days. I took them on a hike and we trudged through the Tennessee woods in our rain ponchos. I suggested we build a fire and was met with their certainty that it was too wet to get a fire started. I pulled a wad of lint from my jeans and they followed suit. In a moment we had a large pinch of lint and found some pine needles under a log that were dry. I handed my lighter to one of the young men and he lit the lint. I taught them how to tend the fire and enjoyed seeing them get excited about being able to make a fire in the rain. Clearly, at that point in their lives, building a fire in a steady rain was one of their greatest surprise achievements and one of mine.
I have a grocery bag of lint at home beside the dryer. It is filled with dog hair infested lint and when it gets bulky enough that I consider throwing it away, I know it is time to make more fire starters. You’ve likely heard of this or done it yourself. Here is my lazy man’s version of making fire starters with lint, wax and an egg carton:
- Take some old candles or the wife’s candle that comes in a glass container, you know the one that makes the house smell like an ice cream factory. On second thought, leave that one and take the one that is pumpkin spice (I hate pumpkin spice) and set it in a pot of water. I used a blue scented candle that was supposed to be ocean driftwood. It did not smell like ocean driftwood. I’m certain that if I came home smelling like that candle I would have some explaining to do. Bring it to a boil.
- Place lint in the egg carton.
- Melt the wax and pour it on top of the lint. I use an oven mitt to grab the glass. Hot wax will drip on the counter so use wax paper as a liner to protect the countertop or live by yourself.
- Cut the carton into little scented colorful pods after it dries. It takes about 2 hours to dry, but I leave it overnight before cutting them up. Store the fire starters in plastic bags. These are made of an obnoxious scented candle and I don’t want my camp box smelling like a Bed, Bath and Beyond. You may get teased for having a fragrant fire, but only after you are praised for getting coffee going in a downpour.
If you want to recycle the bathroom waste basket and add some wood chips from the grill try the following. I call it the TITES (Throw It In The Ex’s Sunroof). Just kidding, I would never do that, but I do like the acronym.
- Pack some tissue paper into the toilet paper tubes that will be thrown away. Smile as you sort through the refuse. You are saving the planet. Pour hot liquid wax into the tube.
- Add some wood chips. I usually have some handy at the bbq grill for making meats mesquite or hickory flavored. Sometimes, I use chips from the neighbor’s landscaping and hatchet them up into smaller pieces that will fit into the tube. I do things like this just to keep in touch with my inner Neanderthal. I drench my wood chips in lighter fluid outdoors earlier and let the chips dry.
- Then I pack a healthy pinch of chips into the tube and you guessed it, I pour more hot wax on top. Now the tube is fairly sealed up on both ends with wax. At any rate, the wax will hold everything together.
When you use these fire starters with pine needles, bark or dry leaves, it helps getting a fire going. These homemade egg carton beauties will burn up to 15 minutes and about 20 minutes with the toilet paper roll fire starters (TITES).
Even in the rain, I will try to find a downed tree with exposed kindling like this one to get a fire going. Merely clawing at it for a moment will produce very dry chunks of wood.
Wherever your adventure takes you, stay warm and dry and may the joy starting a camp fire always be with you even in a downpour.