Char cloth (tinder)

Char cloth is a crazy effective tinder that is both easy and cheap to make. After just having lit a few fires with this tinder, you will be completely in love with it and not light a single fire without it! In this guide, you’ll learn how to make your own char cloth and how to use it.

Let’s start by talking about what char cloth is. For those who have never seen such a black and dry fabric, it’s almost impossible to figure out what it’s really made of. Char cloth is actually just charred fabric, which is made by using a metal container and heat. The word is self-explaining in English, but the name can be confusing in other languages.

Char cloth is used as a tinder, which is the material you use to get your campfire going by building up the first heat that you later use to ignite kindling. It is highly recommended to use tinder when making a fire with fire steel if you don’t want to waste a whole fire rod for one campfire. If you’re a beginner at using fire steel, we strongly recommend that you watch our tutorial found on our YouTube channel.

Frid, William. 2019.

Tools and materials

You don’t need much at all to make char cloth. Most of the stuff you need can usually be found in your home. All you need is:

  • A tight metal container that you can open and close.
  • Fabric that is 100% cotton.
  • Something to cut the fabric with.
  • A needle (if the container is airtight).
  • A good heat source (I suggest a campfire).

Now that you have gathered the materials and tools you need, it’s time to start preparing everything. You can to your advantage prepare everything at home so that you are ready for the next steps once you are outdoors. Or you can do these steps when you’re outdoors and enjoy the open air. up to you!

  1. Remove any gaskets from the container.
  2. If the container is still airtight, you will need to make a hole in the lid using the needle.
  3. Cut the fabric into pieces that are small enough to be placed directly in the container.
  4. Place the pieces in the container. But not too compact as gases mustn’t get trapped inside the container.
Frid, William. 2019.

The charring

Start by creating a proper fire. When you have a good ember bed, put it in the container along with more fuel on top and around it. This is the method that we recommend, but you can do it in other ways as well. The charring will happen as long as the box is heated enough. Place it so that you can easily see and access the box.

The heat in the box causes the fabrics to char. During the process, you can see gas coming out of the container. If you are lucky, this gas can start to burn and it then serves as a perfect indicator for when the charring is completed. When it stops burning, the process is complete. But if you can’t see the burning gas, I recommend that you wait 10 to 15 minutes.

When the fabric has become char cloth

When the charring is complete, carefully remove the container. Normally, it becomes crooked due to the thin material and high temperature. Therefore, be careful when you remove it from the flames and let it cool down for a few minutes. While cooling down, it might regain its natural shape if you are lucky.

Congratulations, you now know how to make char cloth! You may be thinking: How do I store this? The answer to that is either in the container itself (hence good not to use too large ones) or in a cleaner and smaller container. The containers you store it in can be smaller than the ones you used to create it.

Use char cloth as tinder

But how do you use char cloth? You can for example put it in dry grass, wrapped in twigs, or among dry reeds. When it’s time to light the char cloth, you just cast a few sparks on it using your fire steel. Usually, you do not even have to be close! Then just start blowing. When it catches fire, add more fuel.

If your char cloth starts to burn instead of glowing, you know that the charring never finished. This means that it isn’t as effective as tinder because it doesn’t ignite as easily.

Frid, William. 2019.

Summary

Now that you know how to make char cloth and use it, your life will be much easier when you’re lighting your upcoming fires. Keep in mind that relying on char cloth for every fire isn’t always sustainable. During damp weather, you might need more than you think. So always bring a backup solution (a lighter for instance)!

Please help us spread this knowledge as we want to see more people use fire steel instead of lighters. You can either teach your friends and family this trick during your next outdoor trip in the woods or you can give away boxes of char cloth as “go away gifts”.

Good luck and enjoy your upcoming campfires you lit using char cloth!

Frid, William. 2019.

Further reading

When starting making char cloth most people usually look for an airtight box to make a hole in. Making the whole is more good practice than a requirement. Because boxes that aren’t airtight don’t need the hole, no matter what some sources say. It can however make it easier for you to keep track of the charring progress.

Another thing worth pointing out is that you can make your char cloth using your outdoor stove. The only thing you need the fire for is to heat the container and the cotton inside. It is however to your advantage to have fire around the entire container as this can ignite the gas exiting the container which you can look upon to know when the charring is done.

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Cover by: Frid, William. 2019.
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