Blowing The Lid Off Char Containers

by Todd Walker

If you don’t like something, change it. This isn’t easy to do in some area of life. Especially when applied to stuff beyond our control.

I’ll spare you the philosophical mumble floating in my head. You’re welcome!

You want practical, field tested, physical stuff that works. Today I want to show you a simple modification you can make to your char container.

In controlled settings, charring cloth on my fish cooker in my outdoor kitchen, my Altoids char tin worked like a gem. In the field, not so much. Something caused the lid to blow at a most inopportune time… while in the fire.

No longer starved of oxygen, the fire triangle was complete and a natural chain reaction occurred: char cloth ignites and I blow my lid!

Taking a gamble on theory is a sucker’s game. Time to…

Purge Your Preps

Doing the Stuff with your gear is the only way you’ll discover what needs to change. That’s the process of trading theory for action. Act. Analyze. Adjust.

Don’t depend on any gear in your kit, BOB, kitchen, shop, or any other place without proving your preps. Taking this action will cause you to lighten your load, devolve, and simplify.

Here’s an easy fix to keep you from blowing your lid!

Blowing My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Easy button fix ~ 500 count .22 cal. pellet container

“Leave lame containers behind!” was my thought. To prevent you from racking your brain to find the almost-perfect charring container, allow me to show you mine. DRG and I began the hunt. Nothing. We scoured store isles I had no business walking down – ever!

Then, in a stroke of brilliance, an “Aha Moment” occurred.

I blurted out, “I’ll use one of my pellet tins!” The lady next to me pretended not to notice my outburst.

When I got home, I emptied a 500 count .22 caliber pellet tin into another container. Don’t have a pellet container with a screw-on lid? Sporting goods stores sell these for under $10. Pellet rifles and pellets are a great addition to your preps anyway.

Dirt Time at Walker Woods

I made some char pads to prime my new tin. Scraped off the brittle, chipped logo from the lid at home, grabbed my bushcraft kit, and headed to the woods.

Here’s a pictorial guide to my journey:

Blowing My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Punk pine!

With only a few pieces of charred cotton pad in my new tin, I pulled up my mental map of resources near my Dirt Time Camp. There was an old dead fall 70 yards away as I recalled.

If you haven’t formed the habit of making mental maps, or you’re just plain forgetful, keep a journal in your kit to jot down what, where, when, how, and why to help you find resources near your Dirt Time Camp.

Punk wood makes great natural char material. Find wood that is partially rotted but not deteriorated to dust.

Blowing My-Lid-Over-Char-Containers

Punk wood in the tin

Place small pieces of punk wood in your char tin with any existing charred material. In this case, the punk is on top of a bit of char cloth and char pad I’d made previously.


Smoke coming from the pin hole in the top

Screw on the lid and place in the fire or coals. Watch for smoke (wood gas) coming from the small hole in your lid.

The wood gas will combust if making contact with flames from you fire. Not a problem. The material will char anyway.

Once the smoke (or flaming wood gas) stops coming from the hole, your material is charred. Remove the tin from the heat source and allow to cool.

I took advantage of rare Georgia snow to cool my char container.


Chillin’ char tin

Test your charred material. Throw hot sparks from your ferro rod into your tin. You should get a several glowing embers.


Embers on charred punk wood

Satisfied with the glow, screw the lid back on to extinguish the embers. This tin rides in my bushcraft kit. No worries about the lid popping open when you screw it!



Your gear and kits should evolve and change as you add skills and knowledge. You may half the stuff in your pack just adds extra weight. But you’ll never know what needs to change until trade theory for action.

Keep Doing the Stuff,


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Categories: Bushcraft, DIY Preparedness Projects, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Self-reliance | Tags: , , | 36 Comments

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36 thoughts on “Blowing The Lid Off Char Containers

  1. TexasScout

    Last weekend I made char cloth the whole day Saturday with the Boy Scouts. Altoid tin, cotton cloth, coals on the fire. Never once did it “pop open”. I think your “punk wood” had a LOT of sap of other resin that would gasify quickly and there was too much oxygen getting inside.



  2. Thanks for the great post. I forgot to try making char cloth this weekend when I had access to an open fire.

    I have been thinking a similar way regarding BOB Bags. Having a “special” bag I never touch except for “that” big emergency seems unrealistic. If the stuff inside the BOB Bag is so great I will want to use the equipment everyday! Also, what I would need, in the very unlikely situation that I have to leave my home, would depend on the time of year. I have finally come up with a solution I can live with, a BOB equipment list posted on my wall! This list will naturally evolve over time as I test and destroy equipment.


    • I’m the same way, Caroline. I poach from my BOB but try and remember to put stuff back. Even if I don’t, my bushcraft kit (bag) is going with me anyway. I don’t touch DRG’s BOB, though. 😉

      Char material is very easy to make and a life saver when making fire.



    Wanted to vote for your site but all I found was the listing, no “Vote Here” link/tab/hint


    >________________________________ > From: Survival Sherpa >To: >Sent: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 6:21 AM >Subject: [New post] Blowing The Lid Off Char Containers > > > > >Survival Sherpa posted: “by Todd Walker If you don’t like something, change it. This isn’t easy to do in some area of life. Especially when applied to stuff beyond our control. I’ll spare you the philosophical mumble floating in my head. You’re welcome! You want practica” >


  4. Donna g

    Cannot wait to try this with the scouts, thank you!


  5. JW M

    cheaper than Altods tins:

    Round screw top tins
    TSC1/2 1/2oz Flat Tin Container w/ screwtop cover .6″ 1.5″ $ .47
    TSC1 1oz Flat Tin Container w/ screwtop cover .7″ 1.9″ $ .49
    TSC2 2oz Flat Tin Container w/ screwtop cover .9″ 2.5″ $ .58

    square slip top tims

    TSQ2 2.5″ high Tea Tin Square w/ Cover 2.5″ 1.8″ $ .85
    TSQ4 3.8″ high Tea Tin Square w/ Cover 3.8″ 2.9″ $1.27

    I have no connection, I’m just a customer.


  6. I’ve never made char coal, cloth or pads (yet) but from what I have read it seems like a valuable resource for my personal kit. Thanks for the instruction. Great site by the way.


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  9. Thomas

    That’s a really great idea Todd, and I some empty tins that I saved already. Thanks!


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  27. I know this is an old post, but that is a great idea. I use an old shoe polish can, and have’nt had any problems. Was wondering if after some use if you had any trouble with the threads sticking?


  28. Ben

    If you take a pellet tin and back the lid off 1/8th of a turn and drill your hole through the side where the threads are, when you finish making your char you can screw the lid completely down and it will close the hole off keeping your char from drawing moistrure or getting wet if you and your gear get dunked. I carry my flint and steel on top of my char like an old tinder box. I carry mine in a leather possibles bag with no plastic liner so taking a dunking while trapping is a concern with an open hole in the can.


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  30. Bill Evelyn

    Hi, Todd

    An alternative to using any tin with punk (doesn’t do well with more brittle charred cloth) is charring punk on a sharpened green stick right in the flames and then burying it in the DRY dirt or sand for 15 minutes. Shake off the dirt and put the charred punk in your tin.


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