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For other uses, see Tinder (disambiguation).

Tinder is easily combustible material used to ignite fire by rudimentary methods. A small fire consisting of tinder is then used to ignite kindling. Anything that can be ignited by a match can be considered tinder; or by more rigorous definition, anything that begins to glow under a shower of sparks. The more restrictive definition is important in the study of survival skills, which redefines kindling as material requiring a match to ignite it.[1][2]


Whichever material is used, the thinner it is and the more surface there is, and especially edges, the more easily it will ignite. With wood, this can be achieved by shaving slivers off it. One method to keep these together is to make a feather stick. The best wood from a tree is dead branches that have not fallen to the ground yet.

If a fire is to be lit by sparks rather than matches, char cloth, punkwood, fungus or down are commonly used to catch the sparks. However, fungi should be selected with care as some release toxic fumes on combustion.[citation needed] Char cloth can be made by placing plant-based fabric (usually cotton) in a tin box into a campfire; like charcoal, it is the product of anhydrous pyrolysis. It is very fragile, and should usually be prepared only in small quantities.

Pitchwood can be found in the temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Fir trees, especially the Douglas fir, will leave stumps in the ground when they die. These stumps contain spires of resin-impregnated wood which can easily be lighted using only a single match or lighter. By shaving the pitchwood into small splinters, it will readily ignite. Pitchwood does not absorb water, and so will ignite in any weather when sheltered from rain and wind. In the southeastern United States it is formed from the heartwood of Longleaf pine trees and is called "fat lighter" or "lighter'd" (a shortening of lighter-wood). [3]

Embers of burned paper, leaves and other sheetlike materials are easily carried off by air currents, where they can alight upon other objects and ignite them. In outdoor campfires, paper can be wadded up to reduce this hazard; wadded paper also burns more quickly.

Magnesium is sold in stores in shaved or bar form. Shavings burn white-hot, are impossible to smother with carbon dioxide or sand, and can ignite even wet kindling. Solid bars are impossible to ignite under normal conditions (and difficult even with a welding torch), and are thus very safe to carry. Magnesium powder and shavings are pyrophoric (they oxidise rapidly when exposed to the air). It is dangerous to carry pre-shaved magnesium — at best, it loses potency, at worst, it can spontaneously ignite and is then nearly unquenchable. Magnesium bars are sometimes sold with a length of ferrocerium cast into one edge.[4]

The gathering of tinder, and perhaps more importantly, its dry storage is one of the most critical aspects of many survival situations.

Common materials[edit]

See also[edit]

The dictionary definition of tinder at Wiktionary


  1. ^ "Wild Wood Survival". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  2. ^ Uploaded on September 30, 2008 (2008-09-30). "Test Your Fire-Building IQ | Field & Stream". Fieldandstream.com. Retrieved 2011-06-23. 
  3. ^ Ratliff, Donald E., Sr., Map, Compass and Campfire, Binford & Mort, Publishers, 1964, page 45.
  4. ^ a b Cooper, Donald C. (2005). Fundamentals of search and rescue. National Association for Search and Rescue (U.S.) (illustrated ed.). Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 341. ISBN 0-7637-4807-2. Retrieved 14 Apr 2009. 
  5. ^ "Whipperleys". Retrieved 2009-04-14. 
  6. ^ "Billy Goat Mountain Adventures" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-04-14.