There’s nothing more comforting on a dark, chilly night than a warm, bright fire…and there’s nothing more frustrating on a dark, chilly night than trying and failing to light a fire.
Firewood varies widely in size, moisture content, and basic flammability, and it’s essential to have the proper kindling—small sticks or very narrow splits of firewood—to ignite the firewood that you’re planning to burn. Kindling is not always readily available. At outdoor campsites where you might think kindling is all over, much of the burnable kindling has already been scavenged. If you use a wood-burning stove, chiminea or fireplace often, it’s easy to run out of fire-starter materials. That’s why buying prepared kindling that’s easy to light makes sense.
But not all commercial kindling is created equally, either. Here’s a guide to the kind of kindling you need based on your situation:
1. You want to burn wood that does not catch fire easily.
This is a common scenario if you’re camping and have to burn firewood that’s damp or has bark on it, or if the firewood you buy or have on hand for home use is large or isn’t seasoned properly. In those cases, you are best off buying both tinder (rapidly igniting, fast-burning flammable materials) and kindling. The tinder will light the kindling, and the longer-burning kindling will in turn ignite the firewood.
2. You want to burn wood that does catch fire easily.
If the firewood you have on hand is split, dry, and well-seasoned, you can use sap-impregnated, fast-burning fatwood kindling, which typically can be lit directly from a match, without tinder, to get it going. Fatwood is typically pine wood that has been harvested from the base of a tree that has fallen. The root system continues to send sap up to what’s left of the tree, making the wood highly flammable once it’s aged and dry.
3. You have kindling on hand but don’t have tinder, or want to stop burning newspaper as tinder.
Newsprint is commonly used as tinder, but it creates a lot of ash and doesn’t always burn long enough or well enough to get your kindling and firewood going well.