If there is a skill I am not exactly great, or even passable at, it would be fire making. Even in the years I backpacked weekly, I rarely made a fire. It was often banned where I hiked, and even when not…I’ve never been the “fire tinker” (that would have been my friends rather!). Only once in all my trips did I ever have to make an emergency fire. My friend Steve, after an 18 mile day of hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail in the middle of October, in subzero temperatures, wasn’t feeling well. He couldn’t get warm. I started a fire with a mini bottle of hand sanitizer I always carried in my first aid kit. It worked, but it also showed me a huge gap in skills. Had I not had it…it wouldn’t have been so easy.
Since then I have always carried commercial fire starter in my backpack…however, I decided the boys needed to learn a simple and fun DIY project: Mama’s Lil’ Fireballs!
Although it isn’t a fast project. First you need to collect 2 cardboard egg containers and enough cotton dryer lint to fill all 24 cups. A few rounds of towels in your dryer will accomplish that. Once you have that, lay out parchment paper on your counter (if your counter isn’t heat safe, be sure to insulate under, with cardboard or wood). Rip or cut off the top parts of the egg boxes, and discard. Pack the dryer lint into the cups.
While normally paraffin wax doesn’t come into our house, it works well for this and is cheap. It also burns much faster than beeswax. However, use what you have on hand. Broken crayons would also work and be very thrifty! I used a 1 pound box of Gulf Wax, which you can find in most grocery or hardware stores, often in the canning section.
Using a double boiler setup, with a pot filled a quarter full of water, and a candle wax pot set in it (an empty can will work just fine as well), melt the wax over medium-low heat. Once melted take off the heat carefully, and then pour into the prepared cups. This part an adult will want to do. If it leaks through the egg carton, just let it sit. The wax hardens up fast enough.
Once hardened up, flip over and cut apart into sections with a serrated knife. Stash in a gallon zip loc bag.
Kirk saves me his scrap wood from his shop, and turns it into kindling, so he built me a nest for one of the fireballs. One match caught the cardboard edge.
Within a minute, the fireball was on fire and had the kindling burning quickly. Little effort needed, which on a below freezing day was appreciated!
The boys were quite happy to get a free fire out of it all, and found marshmallows to roast. And were quite disappointed we didn’t build an hours long fire for them 😉