A small fire can keep you from freezing. Additionally, it can boil drinking water, cook food, and raise your spirits. Carrying a flint and steel or lighters will help you keep yourself out of the dark, but what about your magnifying glass?
You can certainly start a fire with that concentrated beam, but it’s a lot easier if you have some tinder to get things going. In a pinch, some pocket lint or leftover dryer lint would work, but you may not always have that on hand. Plus, your lint collection could get wet, and then you have nothing to work with, so I did some research on tinder that works best with a magnifying glass and turned up some better options.
Turning Trash Into Fire (Scavenge for Tinder in an Urban Environment)
Making fire isn’t hard if you have the materials you need. It’s best to have pre-made tinder, but either way, you should collect up a small pile of kindling, at least the size of your fist and keep some small sticks on hand to feed your fledgling fire. Kindling sticks should be smaller around than your thumb. If you have large chopped or scavenged wood, then you’re ready to make a fire. All you need is tinder and a spark.
- Newspaper- Paper, especially newspaper, burns easily as long as it’s dry. A phone book will work the same. The trick is to tear off individual sheets and ball them up small and tight.
- Mail- Sure, it’s a federal offense to take mail that isn’t yours now, but if the world as we know it ends tomorrow and there’s no society beyond what you can build, then no one will miss their junk mail. If there are any of the clear plastic windows, you’ll want to tear those off and avoid burning them since burnt plastic is toxic.
- Cotton Balls or Q-tips- As long as you remove any plastic parts of the Q-tips then they are like small cotton balls. Shred the cotton into fluff and make a little nest with it to catch the sparks.
DIY tinder is so easy to find in an urban environment it’s ridiculous. Choose natural materials. Pine needles, cotton fluff or papers all make excellent tinder. Even powdered coffee creamer will catch fire in a pinch. It’s always better to have what you need in your EDC instead of hoping for good luck, but if you lose your bag, you can still stay warm.
How to Structure a Fire
Quick start logs are great when society is functional, but you won’t find bottles of kerosene or self-lighting charcoal briquettes when the supply chains break down, and stores are not being stocked. You can stock up on them now, but eventually, you’ll run out. Plus, they’re much more cumbersome to transport than a magnifying glass and some tinder.
If you’ve never made a fire before, it’s time to go camping. You can always pick up a basic fire building manual to learn from, but you need to memorize at least a couple of types of fires so you can build one in an emergency.
Make A Firepit
If the world has ended, we’ll assume you don’t have a ready-made fire pit. Whenever possible, you want to dig down a little in some soft earth or sand. A few inches is fine. Make your fire pit about two to three feet across. Find stones or pieces of brick that are about the size of your fist, larger is alright too, and surround the pit with a ring.
It’s best to build a fire in a wide-open space where there’s dirt around and never dry grass or dead plants. If you have gravel or small stones, then line the pit with a thin layer, or use more large rocks. When you lack these circumstances build your fire on cement since it doesn’t burn. Never rely on a carpet or other floor.
Cone & Pyramid
Just throwing down some wood is incredibly inefficient and can be dangerous. Instead, use one of these two basic techniques to make a good fire. A cone is a simple structure made of firewood that’s stood up on end and leaned together like a little teepee. Alternately you can build a pyramid. Take four logs about the same width around and lay them parallel in a row. Add two more, slightly smaller on top, so it looks like a rough equal sign if you look directly down on it. From there continue upward with another two to four layers in the same way, first one direction then crosswise on top, so it looks like a 3d hashtag with spaces between the logs from above.
Best Tinder Picks For Magnifying Glasses
If you don’t want to rely on luck, and you shouldn’t, picking up premade tinder is the best way to be sure you can light that fire. While there are plenty of options, I’ve rounded up some of the easiest for you to choose from.
1. Zippo Waxed Tinder Sticks
Zippo’s water-resistant tinder sticks are designed to burn longer. If you’ve ever tried to start a fire, you know it’s not hard… except when it is. Sometimes your kindling doesn’t want to catch, or your logs are a little damp with dew. Once in a while, it’s just too breezy to get your kindling to catch.
A long-burning tinder ultimately gives you a better survival chance. Zippo has a top tier reputation because they make outstanding lighters, lighter fluid, and other fire-starting equipment, so you’ll be impressed with their tinder too.
The orange wax on these tinder sticks serves two purposes. First, it makes finding your tinder in low light much more accessible. Second, white or pale tinder is challenging to ignite with a magnifying glass. The darker shade of orange facilitates the process.
Test Zippo’s tinder here.
2. Char Rope Charcord Fire Starter
Dark tinder works so well with a magnifying glass that Char rope is an ideal firestarter. The hundred percent cotton black ropes are just right for surviving bad circumstances. Dark material absorbs heat better. That means a good fire more quickly with less effort.
You’ll get a spark much faster with a Bushcraft Survival Gear Char Rope than a regular cotton starter. Two feet per rope means you can start a lot of fires and customize what you need for your situation. Plus a good char rope burns hotter and lasts longer than most alternatives.
Just as important, a char rope is unlikely ever to be stolen. Short lengths of rope have plenty of uses, but in a terrible situation, your average crook would pass right over you firestarter, leaving you with one of the essentials you need most.
Get a great deal on Char Cord here.
Cerebrum Char-Cloth has a nice double thick weave. Any company that goes the extra mile is worth a second look. The dark material will work with you even when the rest of the world is making life harder. Moreover, they test every batch to make sure you won’t end up with a useless piece of cloth at the wrong time. You’ll find extra sheets to do your own tests as well.
When you order from them, they ship promptly. Cerebrum also has outstanding customer service in case you have questions or need assistance. We all like a company you can rely on, plus char-cloth is another small item thieves may not instantly identify as useful. When the SHTF, you will almost certainly have to deal with pilfering at some point.
Choose Char-Cloth here.
DIY Bonus- The Readyman Survival Cards Tinder Scraper
For the true DIYers, you can carry a Readyman Survival Card in your wallet. This company does a whole line of flat cards that can get you out of a scrape, but only one can help you scrape your tinder out of a board or whatever wood is available.
This card looks like a tiny cheese grater, but most cheese graters aren’t going to last long in a survival situation. The thin aluminum isn’t useful. A card is smaller and sturdier, not to mention a whole lot more portable.
Choose softer woods for the best results. Ebony is barely going to scratch under pressure, but pine will shred easily. Plus pine is easy to find anywhere, and the bark can add to your tinder and kindling nicely.
Reach for your Readyman here.
Renewable resources are all the rage, and you can apply that to your prepping easily. Choose items like a magnifying glass that don’t wear out or need parts replaced. Smart preparedness will leave you with self-sustaining solutions, in the long run, so be an early adopter of these sorts of savvy solutions. Plus you’ll end up carrying less disposable junk that won’t last when the SHTF.
Whether you need to send a signal or ward off wild animals, fire is essential for more than survival. Humans began thriving on earth when we discovered the secret of fire. Everything before that must have been cold and dark indeed. Rather than getting knocked back to the dark ages, try out some tinder and a small magnifying glass of your own. There’s not much to perfecting the skill for using it, and you won’t run out of sunshine even if you have to wait out a storm to get what you need.