In this post, we are going to talk about something that should be in everyone’s survival and/or emergency kit. It doesn’t matter if you are going camping, hiking, skiing, fishing, or just going on a road trip.
Tip #1 is actually two-fold; it will help you get a fire going if you are stranded and (even though it is going to burn like the dickens) it’ll also help you clean wounds in case you are injured.
First, get yourself a box of plastic, zip-top bags (only around $3.50 for the nameless brand at your local store for 100).
Secondly, grab a bag of jumbo-sized cotton balls from the beauty aisle of the same store (only around $2.75 for 80). If you wish, you can also use tampons in place of cotton balls. Tampons will give you a longer burn time (if you are using them to start a fire).
Finally, pick up a bottle of 91% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol (found in the health section of the store for around $3.50).
Now combine them together – Take some cotton balls (or tampons (make sure you remove them from the applicator first)) and place them into a zip-top bag. Pour in enough rubbing alcohol to thoroughly soak the cotton balls, then remove as much air from the bag as possible and zip the top. Now you will have a batch of alcohol-soaked cotton balls that can be used to start a fire or clean out a wound. For under $10, you can stock enough for an entire weekend and then some.
Tip #2 is along the same lines of Tip #1 but instead of using alcohol as your fuel, you will use petroleum jelly (vaseline). This method requires a little more work but it is worth it in the long run.
Warning: Petroleum jelly is flammable (hence why we are using it), so take care and precautions when you are melting it down. Also, it technically doesn’t have the same medicinal perks to it, so in hindsight, why not make a batch of both?
With Tip #2, you will have to pick up a jar of petroleum jelly (also found in the health section of the store for around $3.00)
Here you will have to take a few tablespoons (depending on how many you wish to make) of petroleum jelly and put it into a small cooking pot. Place the pot (with the petroleum jelly) on the stove, over low heat and wait for the jelly to melt into a thick liquid. After the jelly is in a liquid state, you can toss in your cotton balls or tampons and allow them to soak up the petroleum jelly (obviously, the more saturated the cotton balls or tampons are, the longer they will burn). After they soak up the liquid jelly, take them off of the stove and allow them to cool.
Also for around $10, you have a nice little batch of fire starters that are just as good (if not better) than the little pre-made fire starters at the store for much cheaper.
I personally make both the alcohol based and petroleum jelly based fire starters. The petroleum jelly based starters work better in wet conditions and you do not have to worry about the alcohol evaporating from the cotton balls/tampons (which is also why you have to make sure that the alcohol-based fire starters are well sealed). But when it comes to making sure that I have the ability to clean out/disinfect cuts and scrapes (without needing to take additional gear), the alcohol fire starters are invaluable.
Also, I have used numerous store bought fire starters over the years and while there are some good ones on the market, the homemade fire starters seem to be the best bang for the buck (with exception to magnesium fire starters).
Fire Starting Sticks (as priced on Amazon) run about $6.30 for a package of 12 (or about $0.53 each).
Homemade Alcohol Fire Starters (using cotton balls) run about $9.75 for a package of 100 (or about $0.10 each).
Homemade Petroleum Jelly Fire Starters (using cotton balls) run about $9.25 for a package of 100 (or also about $0.10 each).