11 Things to light your fire

What’s inside my fire lighting kit?

I have a memory of standing before my 5th grade teacher, Mr Thomason, sobbing uncontrollably, as he let loose to Miriam Eaton and myself about how stupid we were to nearly set fire to the classroom.

My kit includes a range of different options

Steady on Mr T. The dropping of a lit match into the empty rubbish bin is a long way from arson and wearing prison greens. The act (and by the way, it was Miriam, not me) was one of absolute curiosity and wonder at fire and the colours within flames that we had spent the previous day’s social studies class drawing.

I still love fire and continue to marvel at the alchemy of heat, fuel and oxygen that cooks our food and warms our feet.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, this article isn’t about the rules and differing opinions on fire making; if that is your bag, then perhaps checkout my article on minimal impact campfires.

When I first started multi-day bushwalking and hiking, I had no experience in lighting fires – unless you can count that primary school classroom. Back then (and for a good few years to begin with) I thought that matches were the way to go. 

I had no idea that there was a whole world of other options available, most of which were more reliable and worked in a greater variety of weather and fuel conditions.  

Here’s a look inside my firefighting kit, which I keep dry inside a repurposed ziploc bag (yep, those frozen berries sure do get around!). You’ll notice it’s a combination of heat and tinder (not for dating) options.


Fire Steel

This is my favourite method and one I really enjoy using. I think there’s something about the SBS Alone/simplicity that I like about it. I use the Swedish Light My Fire which has a really nice ergonomic feel to it, with a perfect thumb depression. There’s other options like the Gerber Fire Steel or Zippo Mag Strike

This method works super well when paired with a fluffed-up cotton ball (see image below) with no vasoline required. One strike and zap! Up it goes. The flint is also a great way of lighting stoves that don’t have a piezo.

Come on baby… fluff it up!

Cigarette Lighter

This was the smallest, lightest one I could find, which cunningly slides inside the hard plastic cover of an old MSR pocket rocket.

The smallest lighter I’ve been able to find

Waterproof matches

Geez I collect some shit over the years from random places. This lil brown container may look familiar to anyone who has eaten military ration packs. Not sure if they’re still in the newer ones, but definitely a welcome addition to the old school ones.

If you know, you know

Gas stove

OK, so I know it sounds a little bit chicken-and-egg, but if you’ve got a piezo lighter on your gas stove, you can use the stove to light a fire. Just be super careful that the building and placement of the fuel doesn’t lead to the canister heating up and that you can move it out quickly… otherwise you could be having an explosive time of it all!

Traditional Fire sticks

OK, so these don’t fit into my pack or frozen berry bag, but sit on the mantle piece at home. It just seemed wrong to do a post on creating heat without using a friction method! Super old-school, that takes time, patience and skill. Not realistic tbh.


Cottonwool balls

You’ll often hear people bang on about the benefits of dipping cotton balls in vasoline, but to be honest, I’ve never loved this method. It’s a bit messy and well, vaso. I’ve found the chicken-plucking method of pulling apart a cottonball, getting maximum surface area and oxygen into it, really effective. It’s not hard to get flame with one strike from a firesteel if the ball is super fluffed up… try it and see how ‘big’ you can make the cotton ball.


Raid your recycling bin and tear up bits of packaging – the rougher the edges the better.

Tea light Candle

Used in a similar way to putting a lit fuel stove under tinder or kindling, but with the benefit that a tea light can be left in the fire, this is great if you’ve only got one match as it extends your burn time.

Bicycle inner tube

A trusty, crusty old-school bushwalking club method; the spooky green, stinky flame, (which works even when the rubber is wet) burns slow and can help dry tinder to catch alight.

Surprisingly effective… pretty and stinky.


Definitely in the category of white fella magic, these lil Lucifers go up like the Sydney rental market. They’re a bit of a last resort for me, that I use mostly in the wet, but can make the difference between a bad day and a better one.

A cheeky little devil


Hand Sanitiser

I keep this in my poo kit, not my fire kit, but given the high alcohol content in it, a squirt on a pile of troubled tinder can really help… why waste perfectly good Cointreau or Rum?

Writer, producer and content creator by trade, search and rescue volunteer by passion, Caro Ryan started LotsaFreshAir.com to inspire, teach and encourage people to get into hiking and the outdoors safely.

It’s all about connecting people to wild places in meaningful ways, so they can look after themselves, their mates and these precious places we visit.

She teaches wilderness navigation, authored the book, ‘How to Navigate’ and hosts, ‘Rescued - an Outdoor Podcast for Hikers and Adventurers.

In the bottom of her pack you'll find coffee grounds, instant noodles past their used by date and an insatiable curiosity.

Bushwalking & Hiking Tips from an Unexpected Outdoors Chick

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