This Easy Vaseline Hack Is A Game-Changer For Starting Campfires

There are plenty of mistakes to avoid when building a campfire , which can make it a time-consuming process that is difficult to get right. And the most frustrating part? Sometimes, you can do everything correctly, but wet wood or inclement weather will prevent you from getting your fire going. This can be a big problem because, while camping out in the wilderness, successfully starting a fire can make the difference between being able to cook a meal and going hungry. Even worse, in cold and rainy weather, having a fire can make the difference between staying warm and getting hypothermia. Luckily, there's one DIY fire starter that is both easy to make and reliable in inclement weather — cotton balls dipped in Vaseline (or any petroleum jelly).

The biggest advantage of this fire starter is that it works even in heavy rain and high winds which can help you out in difficult situations. In fact, according to one Redditor on the lifehacks forum of the website, the Vaseline and cotton balls method allowed them to get a fire going with damp wood and is "hands down the best thing [they've] used."

Why this method works so well

The reason the cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly method works so well is because petroleum jelly isn't flammable but, instead, acts like the wax in a candle, providing fuel for the wick (or, in this case, the cotton) to keep the fire burning. This extra fuel can give you more time to light your wood stack in rough conditions. In fact, one cotton ball can burn for around five minutes, according to another Redditor who posted about their experience with cotton balls and Vaseline on the survival forum of the website. 

However, when lighting a fire in the rain, it's important to know that while Vaseline is water resistant you will still want to keep the cotton balls as dry as possible so that the wet cotton doesn't lower the burn time of your tinder. So, to keep your little fire starters safe, you can also store them in a Ziploc bag, empty pill container, or wrapped in aluminum foil. Then, all you need to start your campfire is to pull the cotton ball apart so a dry patch is exposed and then send a spark (from a flint or metal match) into the cotton and place it under your woodpile. The cotton ball will go up in flames quickly, so it is important to place it on a metal plate or something moveable and fireproof before lighting.

How to make Vaseline soaked cotton balls

Making your petroleum-jelly-dipped cotton balls is relatively simple, but there are two basic methods. The first and most traditional method starts with pulling the cotton ball apart (without tearing it) to create a flat disk that has more surface area for the Vaseline. Then, take a dab of petroleum jelly on your finger and place it into the center of the flattened cotton ball. Next, start working the jelly into the cotton with your hands until there are no dry parts left. This method covers most of the cotton in Vaseline, likely making your fire starters more waterproof. However, the downside is that it is quite messy.

The second method makes less of a mess but coats less of the cotton in jelly — meaning that it will be less likely to work during a rainstorm. For this method, simply add a few scoops of Vaseline into a bowl and heat it in the microwave until the petroleum jelly is liquid. Then, one at a time, dip each cotton ball in the liquid petroleum jelly (leaving the top half dry) and set aside. Next, allow the cotton balls to dry and then store them in a waterproof container for later use.