The first step to ensuring you have a successful fire starts with your tinder. Unless you have dry tinder to start with, starting a fire will be nearly impossible. You’re first guarantee to have dry tinder is to bring it with you. Things like toilet paper, dryer lint, and cotton balls are all very cheap and effective forms of tinder.
Just make sure that you waterproof them, by keeping them in waterproof containers or Zip lock bags.
You can also dip the dryer lint and cotton balls in liquid paraffin wax or petroleum jelly to both waterproof it and create a fire extender. This simple trick can improve your chances of getting a flame and drastically extend the amount of time in which the tinder will burn. This will also allow you to use less tinder to get your kindling going.
Unfortunately, Murphy’s Law is usually in full effect when you need a fire most. Even if you bring tinder with you that is still no guarantee that it will be dry…
You can counter this by carrying “waterproof” man made tinder. Products like WetFire, FastFire, and Tinder quick are all highly flammable forms of man made tinder that burn at high temperatures with only a few sparks. (one cube of FastFire will burn for around 10 minutes and can even be used as a fire source to boil a cup of water.) They are cheap and reliable, but you still need to be able to find naturally occurring tinder in the wild. I can’t stress how important this skill is.
In the pouring rain, this may seem impossible, but if you know where to look you should be able to find some.
In the fall and winter months, when the tree’s have shed their leaves you should be able to find some birds nests hanging around. These nests are ready made tinder bundles, if they are dry.
Also be sure to check in the Y o f a tree branch that is close to the trunk and around the base o f the trunk . Dead leaves, pine needles, small twigs, and other burn – able items often fall into these or pile up at the base and make a good place to find dry tinder.
Look under overhanging rocks and fallen trees, these can also provide an abundance of dry tinder.
If after all of this, you still have not been successful in finding dry tinder, you dry out slightly damp tinder by placing it in your pockets as you keep searching for more. It will take time, but your body heat will help to dry out the tinder bundle and if you don’t have a fire, the best thing you can do is keep moving to keep your core body temperature up.
Once you have found a good supply of tinder, it is time to move on to kindling.