The essential skill of starting a fire can be a daunting task when everything is wet and the wind is howling, your hands are stiff and cold, your body is shivering and you’re faced with a do-or-die situation. At a time like this, you need all the help you can get.
The good news is that you’re probably carrying a number of items in your pack that can serve to make your tinder bundle better. Toilet paper, a gauze bandage (and its paper wrapper), a cotton ball, cotton swabs, paper towel, lint from your pockets and clothing fuzz all do the trick.
Pull the gauze, cotton ball or cotton end of a swab apart to increase the fluff factor. Raggedly tear toilet paper or paper towel and then direct the striker spark at the frayed edge of wadded paper, rather than at the center of a flat piece.
Don’t be afraid to cheat a little by using an accelerant. Pitch and fresh evergreen sap are good natural accelerants, but some common household products work as well or even better.
Alcohol Swab - Quickly takes a spark and turns it into an inferno. Gun oil wipes work well, too.
Carmex - Readily bursts into flame and turns paper into a long-burning candle.
Chapstick - Extends the burn time of paper by a factor of about five.
Deodorant - Wipe it on paper, and the paper will burn much longer than it would without it.
Hand Sanitizer - The alcohol-based stuff is like napalm. Will take a spark directly.
Insect Repellent - Very volatile, so it bursts into flame quickly after a spark is struck.
Neosporin - Takes a while to ignite, but burns slowly to sustain a flame for a long time.
Petroleum Jelly - An excellent accelerant that burns long and hot.
Snack Chips - Fritos, Doritos, Cheetos: They all burn like an oil field on fire.
Zinc Oxide - Burns slowly but steadily, keeping the flame alive after paper is consumed.