Starting a fire in wet or damp conditions can be a daunting task. If there is no dry wood available, you need a way to start a small fire to dry out some bigger tinder to get it going. This is why many people carry pre-made tinder in their survival kit to ensure that fire is possible in any conditions.
Charred cloth, also known as “char cloth” acts as a quick, easy ignitable tinder to get a fire started in almost any conditions. It has been used for many generations and is basically cotton cloth that has been slowly charred to the point just before in would burn, producing cloth that is highly flammable to even the smallest sparks.
To make char cloth all you need is some 100% cotton cloth scraps which can be found from clothes like blue jeans and t shirts, a metal container such as an Altoids tin, and a heat source. Cut up your scrap cotton into small squares and place them into the tin and close the lid. With a nail and hammer, poke a small hole into the lid of your tin container. This will allow smoke to escape when we heat up the tin.
Make a small fire and let it burn down until you have a bed of coals and place the tin on the coals. After around ten minutes you should start to see a jet of smoke coming out the hole. This smoke is what is preventing the cotton from fully burning because oxygen can’t get in the tin. Watch the tin over the next ten minutes and wait until the smoke stops coming out of the hole and take the tin off the coals immediately. Let the can cool and enjoy your char cloth.
Cotton and Petroleum
This ones pretty simple. Just get some cotton balls and a jar of petroleum jelly. Work the petroleum jelly into the cotton balls with your fingers and your done. The petroleum acts as fuel for your flame allowing the cotton to burn for a few minutes instead of a few seconds. Store the balls in a water proof container or ziplock bag.
If you don’t want to get your hands dirty you can always just buy a synthetic fire starter like Wetfire at your nearest camping store. It’s more expensive and not as fun as making it yourself but if you don’t plan on using much retail tinder will work just fine.