Homemade Fire Starters

When camping or any other time a fire is desirable or needed, getting it going is the primary concern. You might be able to MacGuyver a fire at the bottom of the ocean or under a torrential waterfall, but most of us will need help (a Swedish FireKnife will come in handy as well). Enter fire starters. You can bring along commercially made tinder or, much more fun, make it at home.

We made these for our camping trip this weekend, but the weather forecast was so miserable, we decided to wait for better weather. Of course the weather was  no problem in the end, but with an almost 3-year old, better safe than sorry.

Homemade Fire Starters


  • Cardboard egg cartons
  • Sawdust or dryer lint (really!)
  • Paraffin or unscented candle wax – we used tea lights from IKEA, cheap
  • Large aluminum can
  • Pot for boiling water
  • Heat source (preferably electric, wax fumes can be flammable) – I used an electric single burner I bought at a Forest Preserve auction
  • Pliers or pot lifters

Homemade Fire Starters


  1. Stuff sections of egg cartons with dryer lint or sawdust. It felt good to reuse the lint rather than throwing it away.
  2. Place wax into can – prior to this, you can crimp one edge of can to make a pouring spout, if you like.
  3. Heat several inches of water in pot and then add wax-filled can.
  4. When wax melts, carefully pick up and gently pour into egg carton sections previously filled with sawdust or dryer lint. I used 12 tea lights for one egg carton’s worth of fire starters.
  5. After wax cools, use a knife to separate the 12 sections. (I just tore them apart, but…)
  6. When needed, place firestarter under kindling teepee, light, and enjoy!
Down and Dirty Guide to Camping With Kids cover

This fun and handy activity was taken from Helen Olsson’s The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping With Kids (Boston, MA: Roost Books, 2012).

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