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Camping hacks: Is Vaseline the secret to an incredible campfire?

Want a great campfire? Pack vaseline

A campfire.

Vaseline, also known as petroleum jelly, is a versatile product widely used for everything from skin care to squeaky hinges. But did you know that it can also be a great fire starter? Getting that fire started is a crucial skill for camping enthusiasts for warmth, cooking, and campsite ambiance. This fire starting hack is one that seasoned campers swear by. Is this common household item the ticket to an incredible campfire? Here’s everything you need to know.

How to use Vaseline to start your campfire

a group of happy young friends relaxing and enjoying summer evening around campfire on the river bank
shock / Adobe Stock

At its core, Vaseline is a blend of mineral oils and waxes, which creates a semi-solid jelly-like substance. Its primary use is as a skin protectant, but its highly flammable properties make it an excellent accelerant for fire starting. When applied to a suitable medium that can hold and slowly release the jelly (like cotton balls), it burns more steadily and for a longer duration, making it just the trick to get your campfires going.

Why use Vaseline in comparison to other methods like hand sanitizer? Here are the benefits:

  • Extended Burn Time: Vaseline causes the fire starter to burn significantly longer than dry kindling. This extended burn time is important for igniting larger pieces of wood, especially when they are damp.
  • Economical and Efficient: Vaseline is inexpensive and widely available. A small jar can prepare dozens of cotton ball fire starters.
  • Water-Resistant Properties: Petroleum jelly is hydrophobic, meaning it repels water. This quality ensures that your fire starters remain effective even in wet conditions, a common challenge while camping.
  • Safe and Easy to Transport: Unlike liquid accelerants such as lighter fluid, Vaseline is safe to transport without risk of spillage or vapor-related hazards.

Creating a Vaseline-infused cotton ball fire starter is simple:

  1. Preparation: Take a cotton ball and generously coat it with Vaseline. Ensure the jelly penetrates into the fibers of the cotton to maximize its efficacy. If this is difficult, you can also melt the Vaseline in the microwave and dip the cotton balls, but it may not have the same effect.
  2. Storage: Store your Vaseline-coated cotton balls in a small, airtight container or a zip-lock bag. This keeps them dry and ready for use whenever needed.
  3. Usage: When you’re ready to start your fire, fluff out one end of the cotton ball to expose some fibers. Place it under your kindling or pile of small twigs.
  4. Ignition: Light the fluffed-up end with a match or a lighter. The cotton ball should catch fire easily and continue to burn long enough to ignite the kindling.

While using Vaseline-coated cotton balls is a great hack, safety should never be compromised. Always build your campfire in a safe, controlled environment and follow local regulations. Make sure that you have water or a fire extinguisher nearby to manage unexpected flare-ups or to extinguish the fire when you’re done, and ensure all fire remnants are cold before disposal.

So, is Vaseline the secret to an incredible campfire? Absolutely. Whether you’re a novice camper or a seasoned wilderness explorer, incorporating Vaseline into your camping toolkit could elevate your fire-making game. With these tips, your next campfire could be your most successful yet.

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Sarah Joseph
Sarah is a lover of all things outdoors. With a bright sense of adventure and a heart for the mountains, she is always…
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