An old pair of jeans
A small tin
This is great material to take camping and makes starting a fire much easier. I first read about years ago in Jules Verne’s tale of survival, “The Mysterious Island.” The characters were stranded on a deserted island and one of them had a piece of char cloth with them. Unsurprisingly he managed to start a fire with this invaluable piece of highly flammable material so here’s the recipe for making it.
The good news is its easy…
Find some old cotton clothes you are no longer using such as a pair of jeans and tear them into small strips. Take an old tin (I used one that used to contain boiled sweets) and punch a small hole in the top of the lid, you should be able to do this with your knife or a screw driver. Stuff the tin full of the torn cotton strips ensuring you jam in as much as possible so that there aren’t large air pockets.
Roast the tin at gas mark 5 for 10 minutes, seriously just chuck it on your camp fire. After about 5-10 minutes you’ll see a plume of smoke pouring out of the hole in the lid.
As Yoda says in Star Wars “be mindful of your surroundings” and watch this carefully. When the smoke starts to die down and becomes just a whisper prepare to take the tin off the fire with Jedi like reflexes. When the smoke has stopped immediately remove (careful it will be hot) and allow to cool before serving.
Inside the can the cotton should have turned to char. The smoke that poured out prevented oxygen from entering. Without oxygen you can’t have combustion (unless you use Jedi mind tricks) so the cotton shouldn’t have caught light. When the smoke stops the material inside will begin to burn and your cloth will turn to ash which is why it’s important to whip it off the heat quickly!
When the tin can has cooled down sufficiently open her up and inspect your handiwork. What you want to see are blackened pieces of material. If you have used jeans the material should still be identifiable, you should still see the individual threads of the fibres, if not then your material has burned and will not work. If the jeans have brown spots and are not completely blackened it means that you have slightly undercooked your char cloth and you should pop it back in the fire for a bit however it’s important to re-check it regularly as you’re just on the cusp of glory.
The next thing to do is test it. This material will catch the smallest spark from a flint and will work no matter how windy it is. You only need a small bit to get things started so your tin should keep you going for a long time.