Fire is the essence of the survival spirit.
You can somehow survive without it, but the many advantages make it indispensable.
It provides heat, and light and you can both cook food and boil water.
You typically need three materials to start a fire: tinder, kindling, and fuel. Your fuel is wood, but what exactly are tinder and kindling?
Now let’s clear this up in the guide.
Tinder and kindling are not the same
Your goal is mostly to ignite a fire quickly and effectively without much effort and wasting resources.
The right preparation is essential for this and you should know what you need. But what exactly is tinder and what is the difference and kindling?
So what is the difference between tinder and kindling?
Tinder is used to start a flame and the kindling causes it to build up into a fire and then keep burning for a while.
First of all, tinder and kindling ensure that a fire can develop from your initial flame.
If you try to ignite a fire with your flame directly on the wood, you will very likely fail.
Tinder is the first stop for a fire to start from a flame. You can find tinder in the wild or buy it ready-made.
However, tinder should be very fine so it will burn quickly.
In my opinion, you don’t need to buy Tinder. There is a whole range of plants and materials that nature provides you with free of charge.
Some of my favourite plants for tinder are things like:
- birch bark
- dry flowers
- dry leaves
- dry grass
- pine shavings (resin-rich wood)
- A handful of thistle seeds
You only need to look out for dry and fibrous raw materials. You can then separate the fibres. The smaller the material, the faster it will burn!
An example of tinder made from plant fibres
For further processing, I use a shell and the pommel of my knife. If you are unsure about the knife, you can use any other blunt object. Then I grind the material until it is very fine.
Now you can gather the ends of the fibres and knot the ends together with a thin rope or simply with other fibres. This is how you get an ideal bundle of tinder. I usually use about a handful of the source material for a bundle. That should start a fire!
You can create a few bundles of these and store them in your backpack.
As mentioned, I don’t believe in man-made tinder—there’s just enough in nature. For the sake of completeness, I’ll go into it anyway. Some of you might do better this way.
Because this type of tinder is usually much more effective than natural tinder. This often consists of wool and paraffin wax. Although they are harmless to the environment and health, they still cost money. You can certainly make your own tinder a little cheaper.
What is a tinder nest?
You can think of a tinder’s nest as a kind of bird’s nest. It consists of fine and very dry materials such as hay or grass.
You need the Tinder Nest when you have something glowing and want to turn it into fire. The embers then jump over to the dry nest of cinders and the flames are created by blowing.
How to get kindling
Kindling can be obtained through two methods:
When collecting, you should make sure that you only choose dry wood. Stay away from green branches, in particular, otherwise, you will only create a smokeless fire.
I divide the kindling into three categories.
- Matches: These are fine little knots, something on a spruce or pine, as thick as a matchstick. This species is placed directly over the tinder and immediately catches fire. This is essential because these decide whether your flame becomes a fire!
- Pencils: These are pencil-thick branches that you place directly over the matchstick-thick branches.
- Thumb: The third type is slightly larger twigs, pieces of wood and branches that I add little by little – something as thick as a thumb. This gives the fire enough room to breathe and at the same time, new fuel follows.
Split kindling through wood
The other method of getting kindling is to split wood to the desired size. Even with normal wood chopping, small pieces of wood often splinter off that you can use. However, you can also chop targeted kindling.
However, you should not hit the log wildly but split it in a targeted manner. I often use a homemade one for this mallet and set the axe where I want it. So I hit the desired size of kindling.
I like to use a combination of both methods. That way I don’t spend too much time looking for suitable material in the forest and at the same time, I use the wood that I already have.
Preparation and organization for making a fire
Proper preparation is the key to a good fire. You should definitely plan your time here. Especially if you still want to search the environment for the respective materials.
Therefore, I recommend that you prepare tinder bundles in advance so that you are only confronted with finding your kindling.
Then I organize everything so that it isn’t spread out all over the camp and start my fire. All of the above categories I arrange in separate piles. So I have everything ready to hand, I can start my fire in a controlled manner and also take care of it later.
First, I’ll start with my tinder bundle. One thing can go wrong. I have another one handy! Then I gradually put the smaller kindling on top of the bundle.
Then comes the matchstick-sized kindling to really get the fire going. Then I add the big wood. So nothing should stand in the way of an efficient fire.
With the amount, you should always prepare more kindling. I often thought that I had enough of it and had to go again later. To the detriment of my fire!
Questions and answers
Do I still need tinder if I want to start a fire with fire steel?
Tinder is definitely required because the fine and hot sparks from the fire steel require very dry and fine material to turn a spark into a flame.
What if my tinder nest doesn’t catch fire?
If the tinder nest doesn’t catch fire, you’ll need to try to light it again or use a different lighting method.
What types of wood are unsuitable for burning?
Wood that has been treated with chemicals, paint or varnish is unsuitable for burning.
What material is best for tinder?
The best tinder materials are dry, clean, and highly flammable fabrics such as cotton, fine plant fibres, cotton pads, or even tampons that have been plucked open.
Conclusion: Preparation of tinder and kindling is essential
For the ideal fire, you should be well prepared and have both tinder and kindling ready. Both raw materials ensure you a quick fire that can burn reliably.
Tinder is fine and burns directly. Kindling, on the other hand, is larger and ensures that the flame turns into a fire that you can use to warm and nourish yourself all evening.
The better you understand the difference between tinder and kindling, the easier it will be for you to succeed over and over again when starting fires.