Four Top Do-it-Yourself Firestarters Tested


Survival Skills


We made and then tested four of the best do-it-yourself firestarters to see how they stack up against each other. Firestarters are not all created equal, read on to learn how to make your own firestarter no matter your destination.


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To make your own cottonball firestarter, melt the paraffin wax on a stove using a double boiler (or improvised double boiler, by flipping the lid and lining it with foil). Dip the cottonballs until thorughly soaked, allow to mostly harden, then roll into balls.

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Cottonball firestarters burned relatively quickly and with a large flame. They are easy to stack into a pyramind, allowing you to adjust to your kindling conditions.

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To make your own sawdust firestarter, melt the paraffin wax on a stove using a double boiler (or improvised double boiler). Fill a mixing container with sawdust of varying courseness (avoid very fine sawdust) and poor in wax, mix until evenly coated. Allow to dry until tacky, mold in your favorite shape (we found using a large spoon to work best).

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Sawdust firestarter burned longer than cottonballs, but with a lower flame. This might be good for fires which you need to add lots of tinder to get going, allowing you to benefit from the extended burn time.

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To make your own tampon firestarter, melt the paraffin wax on a stove using a double boiler (or improvised double boiler). Dip the tampons (of varying sizes, if you like) until thorughly soaked, allow to harden.

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Tampon firestarters burn similar to the cottonball counterparts, with a large flame. The thicker the tampon, the longer the burn time. Bonus points for using the string as a lighting wick.

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To make your own egg carton and lintbox firestarter, melt the paraffin wax on a stove using a double boiler (or improvised double boiler). Trim an individual egg carton from an egg carton (paper variety), leaving tabs around the edges so you can close it more completely. Next, fill tightly with dryer lint and poor wax into the carton until it is topped off. Take some floss and wrap around the carton, closing the top. Dip in wax, if you want the entire thing waterproof.

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This was the most effective firestarter of the bunch, likely due to the amount of lint and wax used. However, the variety of materials, wax, carboard, and lint, provided a medium sized flame with long burn time. If you have the time to make these, they may be your best overall bet.