You typically need three things when building a fire: tinder, kindling, and fuel. Of course, fuel is the material being burned to produce the fire, which is usually timber in varying sizes. So, what is tinder and kindling?
Tinder is the smallest of the three aforementioned materials, and it’s used to initially start the fire. Good tinder should light easy, create a strong but short-lived flame, and be thinner than your finger (fat tinder is hard to burn). Examples include birch bark, fatwood, dry pine needles and grass. However, cotton balls are another excellent source of tinder, as they engulf into a large flame once lit.
The key thing to remember when choosing tinder is that it should be easy to light. This is the material that you’ll attempt to light directly when starting your fire. If the tinder is too big, moist, or simply not burnable, you’ll have a hard time getting your fire going. When lighting tinder, you should gently blow on the flame so it spreads more easily. Blowing on the lit tinder provides it with oxygen while also distributing the embers throughout the fire.
Kindling is similar to tinder but differs in several ways. While tinder is the smallest of the three materials, kindling is slightly larger. It refers to any ignitable material that’s larger than tinder but smaller than firewood. Most people use small sticks for kindling, which ignite more quickly than the firewood and burn for longer than the tinder.
There are dozens of ways to build a campfire, including the tipi style, lean-to, log cabin, log cabin, etc. Regardless of which method you choose, though, it’s usually a good idea to build your fire by placing the tinder in the center and kindling stacked over it. When you light the tinder, the heat will rise up to the kindling, igniting it while subsequently creating enough heat to ignite the main firewood.
Hopefully, this gives you a better understanding of the difference between tinder and kindling. Tinder is small, loose material that burns fast and easily, whereas kindling is small sticks that burns more slowly. There’s no rule stating that you must use them all when building a fire, but doing so will certainly make the process easier. Refer to this blog post the next time you build a fire for tinder and kindling tips.
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