I'll argue that a candle stub is an easier helper. Why?
You have the consistent flame to dry off and get the small (pencil lead or twice pencil led size) tinder going. Once that goes, you can get pencil sized stuff going. And then you can work your way up bit by bit to wrist sized branches; which make the good coals you want to cook on.
All carrying more robust firestarters helps you do is skip some of the wood collection steps necessary to get a fire going when you don't have them (a section of newspaper lets me skip to logs in my home fireplace all the time).
The trouble with more robust firestarters is that often they fizzle out before you get sustainable ignition in the wood (think of the newspaper example) - and then you are back to square one.
Generally speaking, I've found that building the fire slowly helps to ensure success - and garunteed my dinner when I was a Boy Scout.
The big advantage of a candle is that if your initial blaze doesn't destroy it, will keep going for a while, helping you to work through issues when wood won't light.
Has anyone empirically worked thought the weight merits of the various methods of firestarting?
thought dryer lint was supposed to be soaked in paraffin (the kind used to seal jelly jars).
It can be. It catches a spark easily if not wax soaked but burns quickly. A plain old cotton ball works much better. I like my paraffin saturated paper towels much more that lint. It's more consistant. They burn longer and are easier to light. I don't carry a sparker. Gimme a match!
Loc: California (southern)
It seems to me that starting a fire quickly requires one to gather fuel of various sizes, regardless of the firestarter involved. The flame will propagate much more quickly if a nice "fuel ladder" is available. Of course, it propagates even quicker if you just crack the valve on your canister and apply a match - I am getting lazy in my old age....
I thought dryer lint was supposed to be soaked in paraffin (the kind used to seal jelly jars).
If you want to use it as a lots of heat sort of firestarter that you light with a match or lighter, sure. then it's just acting as a wick for the paraffin. At that point, carry a few birthday candles.
I don't use it as that, I use it as the thing to catch a spark from a ferrocium rod firestarter (i.e. a "light my fire"). It's ususally then the target in the middle of a "bird's nest" of dry grass, twigs, birchbark, etc.
I don't use it normally in the summer, I do in the winter (along with the striker) because I can make a fire in 20 below zero without taking my gloves off.. Can't do that with a bic lighter or matches. not enough dexterity.
As I remember from my years back east, birch bark is the perfect fire starter. Unfortunately, it doesn't grow out here.
We do have it here, although sporadically. so it really depends where you are as to whether or not you have it available.
Finding tinder is the toughest part. I think of tinder as an extension of the match. It can be dry leaves, grass, very tiny dead pine twigs. The function of tinder is to light the very small kindling above it.
The next level is kindling. Pencil lead size at first and building up to pencil size. Twigs laying on the ground in a campsite are almost always wet. If possible, think gray without bark. Often next to a stream is a good place to find dead gray wood. Stomp a bigger piece if it's wet to expose the dry inside. I make a teepee over the tinder with the open side towards a light breeze or 90 degrees to a stronger wind.
Finally, I make a cabin around the teepee with gray sticks.
Personally, I like to build the whole structure before lighting anything.
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