Make Your Own Fire Starters

In this Make Your Own Bikepacking Gear (MYOBG) tutorial, Miles walks through a simple guide to make your own bikepacking-friendly fire starters. Best of all, most of the necessary materials are sitting in your laundry room garbage right now…

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A quick web search will lead you to a never-ending list of do-it-yourself fire starter tutorials, so I won’t claim this is a revolutionary or even remotely new idea. However, during my scouting mission for our recently published Cowichan Valley 8 Route, my riding companion Julian introduced me to what might just be the best fire starter for bikepacking. They’re packable and light, can be lit as a standalone ‘candle’ or used to ignite a larger fire, and make use of several common household waste items. Julian and I arrived at our camp spot well after dark, but were both ready for some sleep, so we lit one for an easy 15-minute decompression after setting up our shelters.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 standard toilet paper rolls (just the cardboard, not the paper itself!)
  • 2 cups dryer lint
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups of wax (old candles, crayons, or Paraffin wax)
  • 1 sheet of wax paper
  • Camp stove or cook top for double boiler
DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking

Step 1

Measure and divide your empty toilet paper rolls into three equal parts, roughly 1.3″ sections for a standard roll.

Cut them as marked.

  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking

Step 2

Fill the paper rolls with dryer lint. Packing them tighter will result in a longer burn time.

Set aside on a tray lined with wax paper.

  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking

Step 3

Setup a double boiler using a saucepan with 1-2 inches of water, and a smaller saucepan or coffee can inside to melt the wax.

I enlisted the help from a decommissioned MSR camp mug, which will now only be used for wax-melting projects.

Heat the water on medium-low to melt the wax. Keep a close eye on things, wax is highly flammable.

  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
DIY Firestarters Bikepacking

Step 4

Pour about 1/4 cup of melted wax into each of the rolls, making sure to flip and coat the bottom as well. A small piece of the dryer lint can be left on top to act as a wick.

For extra waterproofing, you can dip the exterior of each roll into melted wax as well.

  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking

Step 5

Let cool for at least an hour, or until the wax has completely hardened.

DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking

Step 6

Use a small piece of tinfoil or repurpose an aluminum reflector from another stove, to act as a base.

Use a lighter or match to ignite the top of the fire starter. Enjoy!

  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking
  • DIY Firestarters Bikepacking

To Burn or Not To Burn?

Before you go light up a fire on your next bikepacking trip, take some time to consider the implications of backcountry campfires. In short, gathering and burning wood is unsustainable and prohibits many natural process that ecosystems rely on. If you are going to have a fire, we suggest only using established fire rings and taking some time to acquaint yourself with the possible dangers and impacts of starting a fire. A good resource is Leave No Trace Canada’s article on Minimizing Campfire Impacts. Campfires can be useful and can even be a savior in the event of unexpected weather, but it’s worth thinking twice before gathering and burning deadwood. Instead, light up your new fire starter and have yourself a fun (perhaps slightly smaller) candle lit dinner!

There are so many different ways to make fire starters. Adding wood shavings is a popular method to increase combustion. Some methods use the entire toilet paper roll, or no toilet paper rolls at all. In the end, this is a fun way to make use of some household waste, and will surely generate some conversation at your next campout.

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