Some urban or wilderness survival items, if quality is not compromised, should be cheap. This allows you to have multiple pieces of good, effective equipment, stashed in strategic locations, so you’ll never run short.
by Leon Pantenburg
One of the best survival firemaking tools is a combination of cotton balls and petroleum jelly, and you can make these firestarter kits for pennies.
Basically, you infuse (or gob) the cotton balls with Vaseline or some petroleum jelly derivative (such as Chapstick, Purell handcleaner, etc). When you need to make a fire, fluff up the cotton (as much as you can), and light it with a shower of sparks from a magnesium stick, match, or butane lighter.
The combination is very reliable, and effective and is my firestarter of choice. I also frequently carry jute twine as a cordage backup. Jute fiber, slathered with Vaseline, is an even more effective first ignition source. An infused cotton ball can burn for several minutes, making it a great tool for ignition and firestarter to start damp tinder.
The combination is also cheap. Cotton balls cost less than a penny each, and the petroleum jelly is also inexpensive. Buy a large jar of Vaseline at the local Dollar Store and 100 cotton balls, and you have the potential to make many survival firemaking kits.
And, when you are hiking, if a hot spot starts to develop on your foot from the boot, rub the hot spot with one of the infused cotton balls. In a pinch, you can improvise a band-aid for your foot with the cotton ball and a piece of duct tape!
Now, somebody is bound to ask about using dryer lint instead of cotton. Isn’t dryer lint more flammable than cotton balls?
The short answer: NO! (Click on dryer lint as a firestarter to read the comparison between cotton balls and dryer lint.)
Actually, the big expense in this cotton ball/petroleum jelly system is the containers to carry them in. Here are some free or really cheap containers that work well to hold the infused cotton ball firestarters. You decide which size is best and most effective for your needs:
- Plastic pill bags: These small, resealable bags will hold several infused cotton balls. An advantage is that the filled bags are waterproof and can be flattened to fit in small spaces in your survival kit.
- Prescription bottles: It seems like everybody has a prescription for something, and an ongoing supply of the plastic bottles. Many, if not all, have a snap-and bayonet twist-off lid. This makes it easy to access the materials if your hands are cold! There are also a variety of sizes, so they can be adapted to any size survival kit.
- Diabetic Test Strip Containers: These are some of my favorites because they hold three infused cotton balls, and have a pop-off lid that can be opened with one hand. For smaller kits, these are perfect.
- Red Bull Energy Shot Drink Bottles: These work well because they hold seven infused cotton balls, have a large mouth opening and a screw top. The cotton balls are easy to dig out with a key, the end of a magnesium stick or a pocket knife blade.
- 35MM Film Containers: These may be a vanishing resource, but I can still get all I need from the local Costco. The disadvantage is that the tops pop off easily, so they could self-open in your pack. Murphy says this will happen at the worst possible time, so be aware!
- Plastic Match Containers: These will set you back a buck or so at Walmart or Target, but the advantage is that they are very sturdy and have a screw top. If need be, you can hold the top in your teeth and twist open the container with one hand.
The point is: This is one instance where you can take the cheap route to prepping, urban survival and/or wilderness survival. If you look around and give it some thought, you may find other inexpensive ways to stock up on other survival or preparedness tools.
Then, there will be more money in the prepping budget to spend on tools you can’t compromise on, such as boots, a survival knife, sleeping bag, or rain gear.
And some of the most important survival tools are free – such as the information from SurvivalCommonSense.com! Make sure you take advantage of it!
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