Survival Blog | Survival Spot

Add a Cheap, Reliable Firemaking System to Your Survival Kits

by Leon Pantenburg

The best firestarting system can also be the cheapest and the materials are the easiest to find at any drug or grocery store.

. This Boy Scout Hot-Spark and a prescription bottle filled with cotton balls and petroleum jelly makes a reliable firestarting method that is cheap enough to be placed in all survival kits. 

After extensive testing, my nomination for the best overall survival firestarting method is cotton balls, slathered with petroleum jelly, combined with a magnesium or flint stick. I ran across this method several years ago at a Peter Kummerfeldt seminar at the Deschutes Fairground Sportsmen show.

Kummerfeldt demonstrated the method at his booth, and it looked so easy, I figured there had to be a catch. So, I got the materials and tested it myself, then had some of the scouts from Boy Scout Troop 18 in Bend, OR. wring out the system.

Everybody likes the system because of  its reliability. There is nothing to break, it requires no fuel, and temperature has no affect. But an additional benefit is how cheap it is to produce!

Here’s how you can make one of these firemaking kits.

I use a standard Avery 5160 1″x2-5/8″ labels, with Wordperfect software in the “labels” dropdown.  Use 11 point, Aerial type, and this spacing, and all the information fits nicely.

On the labels, type:

Firestarter: Cotton balls and

petroleum jelly. To use: Remove

pinch of firestarter, fluff and light. More info: (Thought I’d sneak that in! I could use the publicity! For Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops, here’s were you put your name out! You could put compliments of your particular organization, or whatever will fit on the bottom line.)

These containers, filled with cotton balls and petroleum jelly, are fantastic promotional give-aways and cost pennies. Scouts can make up a bunch, and give them out at their next campout or public gathering. I give the containers out when I go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing as a public service – it’s scary how often this firestarter is the only survival gear some people have!

Total cost of the complete firestarter kit, with Hot-Spark, is about $2.75 to $3! If you opt to buy  a waterproof match container for the cotton balls, that will set you back another $2-$3. You’re still looking at a complete firemaking system for about five bucks!

Carry this combination in all your survival kits. When you need to make a fire, pull out a pinch, fluff it out and strike a spark onto the cotton ball with the flint stick. If the wood is damp, and the tinder in short supply, use a whole cotton ball. My experiments show that a cotton ball gobbed with petroleum jelly will burn for several minutes.

The cotton balls and petroleum jelly have another use. On a Boy Scout 50-miler hike a few years back, I started to get a blister on my heel. I took out my cotton ball firestarter, and rubbed the hot spot with the petroleum jelly. No blister formed!

When it comes to your survival kit, you decide how much you want to invest. Personally, I want the best equipment available for me and my family, and price is not a consideration. Our lives are worth that to me.

But prepping or making multiple survival kits can be expensive. Find the areas – like this one – where you can cut costs without reducing quality, durability or safety. Then, invest the money you saved on items you can’t compromise on, such as  boots, a survival knife, Cold Steel SRK San Mai III Knife 38CSM
sleeping bags, tents, navigation gear Garmin GPS 60CSx Handheld GPS Navigator

Use common sense in all of this. Find the best, most reliable systems for your survival kits, then practice, research and decide how they can best serve you.

For more related tips and stories, click on the highlighted words:

Strike It, Matchless Firestarter