Posts Tagged With: campfires

Campfires From Scratch: No Boy Scout Juice Required

by Todd WalkerCampfires From Scratch- No Boy Scout Juice Required -

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

I discover at a young age that pouring Boy Scout Juice on sticks for a “quick” campfire was not real smart. Boy Scout Juice is a vague term which includes all sorts of liquid accelerants. We had gasoline at the cabin that day. I can’t remember who to blame for this grand idea, Henry or Craig, but I vividly remember the low whoosh sound that transformed a flickering kitchen match into a flaming mushroom cloud billowing up my legs. Screaming and wild dancing, reminiscent of cartoon characters, commenced in a desperate attempt to extinguish my now flaming trousers.

When the scent of singed hair and screaming finally settled, a silver dollar size blister on my calf taught us all a lesson that day.

Accelerants are dangerous and unnecessary in traditional fire craft. Cheating, some might call it. I’ve often said that there is no such thing as cheating when you really need a fire. Use a road flare if you have one. Camping ain’t an emergency. In modern camps, building a sustainable fire, less the fancy accelerant-impregnated fire starters, seems to be a lost art these days. I find the process of preparing a wooden meal to feed my fires pleasurable, even meditative.

Our irresistible fascination with fire was passed down by early humans who, through observation and notions and necessity, came upon the crazy idea of harnessing the flame. They weren’t content to live out their days cold and wet. This simple, powerful tool warmed hearths, made pottery, fashioned other tools, cooked meals, made potions, dispelled darkness, forged bronze, just as we use it today. The only difference for us moderns is that we route fire through insulated wires. But we’ve lost the aroma of wood smoke in our modern processes. Ah, that wonderful smell!

Many moderns never learned how to build a campfire, not from scratch. We hope this whets your appetite. Gather around our fire ring as we burn a few sticks and embrace the warming gift of fire.

Fire from Scratch

To transition from modern to a traditional fire-starter, you need things. Things like wood and air. These two are the easiest to procure. The third thing, which can be the most difficult to come by, is a heat source hot enough to complete the fire triangle, and, as intended, set stuff alight.

The heat source, modern or traditional, won’t produce a sustainable fire without properly prepared wood. I’ve witnessed, on occasion, fire-starting fails by people using a plumber’s blow torch. Lightening is another option… but you must wait patiently near the chosen tree.

For this exercise in fire-starting, our heat will come in the form of sparks from rocks and metal. Those of the traditional camping style call these materials flint and steel (not to be confused with ferrocerium rods). Sharp rocks are used to scrape micro particles from the steel which oxidizes rapidly into sparks. If you’d like to know the Secret of Flint and Steel, our previous article may help.

Campfires From Scratch- No Boy Scout Juice Required -

Flint and steel

Moderns may scoff at flint and steel as a fire maker. Why not use a Bic? It’s your fire. Use whatever ignition method you like. In my experience of teaching and learning fire craft, an open flame offers no distinct advantage until you understand how a fire eats. Practicing traditional methods makes the learner more attentive to the finer details of planning a fire’s menu.

One test for beginner and experienced campers is to start a campfire using a single match. This experiment gives immediate feedback as to how carefully the fire-chef prepared the menu. If the match ignites and consumes your meal, you’ll be ready to practice more traditional methods.

A true primitive Fire from Scratch method requires rubbing sticks together. If you’re interested in twirling up fire, read and practice these articles: Bow drill and hand drill.

Wood Size Matters

The most common failure in feeding a fire is wood size. I’ve used the analogy before of creating a fire meal plan – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s worth repeating… with a bit of a twist.


Don’t cheat on preparing the appetizer for flint and steel ignition. If you’ve ever placed a delicate fire egg (ember) in a tinder bundle (via friction methods), you understand the importance of this starter meal. The same holds true for charred material aglow from flint and steel sparks. A baby ember’s appetite is delicate. If it likes the first offering, it will be stimulated to eat more of your carefully prepared fare.

Campfires From Scratch- No Boy Scout Juice Required -

Top to bottom: fat lighter’d shavings and curls, pencil lead to pencil size twigs, and larger fuel.

In many flint and steel demonstrations viewed on computer screens, char cloth is laid on the rock in such a way as to catch a spark flying from the scraped steel. I’ve found that having a larger landing strip for sparks increases the chance of glowifing the charred material. Try sending your sparks into the target-rich char tin. Once you see points of light in the tinder box, place your appetizer on top of the glowified stuff and blow it to flame. Remember to close the lid of your tinder box to starve the glowified embers of oxygen for your next fire.

Campfires From Scratch- No Boy Scout Juice Required -

Aiming sparks into a char tin

You can also make your own South African tonteldoos (tinder box) for more flint and steel options.

Appetizer aflame, your fire is ready to ravage the kindling salad above it. Surface-area-to-volume ratio (SAV) plays an important role in the combustion of cellulose. This is a fancy way of describing a particles fineness. The more fineness (higher SAV), the more readily wood will burn. Fine twigs/sticks have low ignition times and burn quickly.


Ever watch a cooking show? Chefs know the importance of plating a meal to be visually appealing. Presentation can cause the guest to be attracted or reject the meal based solely on appearance and arrangement. We eat with our eyes.

Here’s a little good news…

Your arrangement of wood (fire lay) doesn’t have to be pretty to be palatable. Fire eats ugly. More information on four down-n-dirty fire lays can be found here.

Campfires From Scratch- No Boy Scout Juice Required -

Appetizer below the salad (twigs) with fuel ready to eat.

When plating your fire’s meal, keep in mind that different arrangements affect how a fire eats.

  • Loose fire lays allow more oxygen to flow through the fuel to burn hotter and quickly dry sticks to the point of combustion. Give your fire plenty of elbow-room to eat.
  • Arrange too tightly and the fire will be choked to death from lack of oxygen. However, once a coal bed is established, a tight arrangement of larger fuel will provide longer burn times.

Boy Scout Juice Substitute

This stuff doesn’t come in liquid form, but it’s the closest thing in my Georgia woods to an accelerant. Fat Lighter’d, fatwood, lighter wood, lighter knot, etc. is the resin-rich heartwood of many dead pine trees.

Fat Lighter’d Facts

  • All natural with no petroleum products
  • Won’t catch your pants on fire at ignition like accelerants
  • Smoke from fat lighter’d makes a great mosquito repellant in a smudge pot
  • The long leaf pine, which was clear-cut to almost extinction, is the best pitch producing pine tree
  • The term ‘fatwood’ came about from the wood in pine stumps being “fat” with resin that was highly flammable
  • There are between 105 and 125 species classified as resinous pine trees around the world

Not every pine is created equal. In my experience, one tree in the pine family, White Pine (Pinus strobus), makes poor fat lighter’d. I discovered its lackluster lighter’d on a winter trip with my buddy Bill Reese. We set up camp on the scenic Raven Cliff Falls Trail near a fallen White Pine. I figured all pines would offer up that beautiful, flammable fat lighter’d for our initial fire needs. Not so. With much labor, I finally nursed life into our traditional fire.

Know the wood in your woods.

Once you develop a taste for traditional fire-making, you’ll realize Boy Scout Juice is not required for a comforting campfire menu.

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +YouTubeInstagram, and Facebook… and over at our Doing the Stuff Network.

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Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Self-reliance, Survival Skills | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

Dragon Fire Tinderbox: The Secret of Pyro Super Heroes

by Todd Walker

Some people make fire craft look easy. Rain, sleet, and snow doesn’t seem to effect their fire super powers. It’s like they’re the Superman or Wonder Woman of campfires.

Dragon Fire Tinderbox: The Secret of Pyro Super Heroes -

There’s always a catch though…

Super heroes usually have a weakness (Superman ⇒ Kryptonite). Wet tinder is the kryptonite of every fire-crafter no matter their skill level. That’s why experienced outdoor guys and gals carry dry tinder material in their fire kit to give them an edge when Mother Nature pitches a hissy fit. I’ve been humbled by her more times than I’d like to admit.

The times when it’s cold and wet out there is the time you need fire the most. It’s also the hardest time to find dry stuff for your fire!

Here’s a solution that provides dry, reliable, natural tinder material that’ll turn you into a pyro super hero on your next outdoor adventure or emergency situation…

Dragon Fire Tinderbox

I first heard of this small family owned Wisconsin company about a year ago. Since then I’ve watched Daryl and Kristina innovate a simple concept to serve outdoor enthusiasts.

The products they design are all-natural (no petroleum-based accelerants) and packed in recycled pouches and boxes. Materials are harvested from dead trees, plants, leaves, fungi, and other natural sources. If you’ve ever collected these resources yourself, you know the amount of work it takes to find the best combustible material.

I ordered the Dragon Fire Tinderbox Extreme Pouch, Dragon Fire Cone, and one of their nifty t-shirts. Daryl also sent me a packet of Chaga Tea. I’m keeping the Dragon Fire Cone and Chaga Tea to use with my grandson for our next bushcraft outing as a fun teaching tool.

About half the contents displayed

About half the contents displayed


The Extreme Pouch is full of fine, medium, and coarse tinder material with several different fuel-size chucks of hardwood. A Dragon Fire Tinderbox match book, sealed in a separate resealable bag, is included as an ignition source. My pouch had a one inch section of birch limb covered with flammable resins and rolled in fine tinder to prevent it from sticking to other material in the pouch. This kind of hand-crafted item is a fire-ball in and of itself.

It even contains shavings and chunks of Osage Orange from a bow Jamie Burleigh built at this year’s Pathfinder Gathering.

Here’s a video review Dirt Road Girl filmed recently at the Dam Cabin:

Benefits of the Extreme Pouch

It’s called Extreme for a reason. This resource contains everything you’d need to start several sustainable fires in all weather conditions – ignition source, tinder, kindling, and fuel. The bag alone is a valuable resource in wilderness self-reliance. Made of thick, resealable food-grade aluminum, one could press this container into service for disinfecting water by stone-boiling (see Larry Roberts video), cooking dehydrated camp meals, or keeping small items dry.

Teaching Tool

You can’t take shortcuts when building a fire with natural materials. One of the challenges of teaching my 8-year-old grandson fire craft is the importance of processing his tinder into fine, medium, and coarse layers. The Extreme Pouch contains each of these, and, as an added bonus, there are tinder materials not found growing on our Georgia landscape… Chaga, flax tow, and white birch to name a few. I plan on using these to teach Max our local alternatives to our northern neighbor’s fire tinders.

Daryl and Kristina also make a product that’s sure to get young children interested in the art of making fire…

The Dragon Fire Cone! Kid’s love ice cream. What kid wouldn’t want to set an “ice cream” cone on fire? Max and I will let y’all know how it burns after our next outing.

Photo courtesy of Dragon Fire Tinderbox

Photo courtesy of Dragon Fire Tinderbox

Emergency Fire Kits

Winter is coming and we’re sure to read stories of stranded motorists on backcountry roads trying to survive ’til help arrives. A bag of Dragon Fire Tinderbox would be a great asset for all emergency vehicle kits. No worries about chemical accelerant leaching and spreading vapors in your car trunk. This stuff is all-natural material!

White Birch bark is loaded with combustible oils

White Birch bark is loaded with combustible oils

Oh, you don’t have to be a master woodsman to start a life-saving fire with this bag of natural tinder. Daryl hand-picks and processes the best material so it’ll ignite with one match (matchbook included in pouch), ferrocerium rod, Bic lighter, magnifying lens or other ignition source.



The convenience of opening a pouch of ready-made tinder is pure gold when I’m groggy and needing my coffee fix on the trail. I’m a much better camping buddy after I’ve had my cup of Joe. Weighing in at just over 9 ounces after this review, the Extreme Pouch won’t take up much room in your pack and stays dry in the heavy-duty resealable bag.

9.02 ounces

9.02 ounces 

Some state parks prohibit the collection of firewood and tinder material from camping areas. You have to bring your own or buy marginal tinder and fuel from the park ranger station. I can tell you they won’t have anything near as effective for lighting their bundles of firewood as you’ll find in a pouch of Dragon Fire. It’ll save you the time (and embarrassment) you’d spend rummaging through your neighbor’s trash looking for paper products to get your fire started.

What’s the secret of Dragon Fire Tinderbox’s pyro super powers?

It’s the people behind the product. What you don’t see when you open a pouch of Dragon Fire is all the prep this family owned company puts into the most important layer of your next fire… tinder.

Both Daryl and Kristina are experienced in the art fire-making. Years of camping in the style of early American fur traders, without modern camping conveniences, taught this couple pioneer skills… and the need to harvest the best tinder material.

By ordering from Dragon Fire Tinderbox, you’ll not only receive some of the best tinder on earth, you’ll be supporting an American owned family business. Click on this link for Dragon Fire Tinderbox products and ordering info.

They’ll make great preparedness gifts for Christmas!

Keep Doing the Stuff of Self-Reliance,


P.S. – You can also keep up with the Stuff we’re Doing on TwitterPinterestGoogle +, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook… and over at the Doing the Stuff Network.

P.P.S – If you find value in our blog, Dirt Road Girl and I would appreciate your vote on Top Prepper Sites! You can vote daily by clicking here or on the image below. Check out all the other value-adding sites while you’re there… 

Thanks for Sharing the Stuff!

Copyright: Content on this site (unless the work of a third-party) may be shared freely in digital form, in part or whole, for non-commercial use with a link back to this site crediting the author. All links in articles must remain intact as originally posted in order to be republished. If you are interested a third-party article, please contact the author directly for republishing information.

Categories: Bushcraft, Camping, Doing the Stuff, Gear, Preparedness, Self-reliance, Survival | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

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