Brrr… Its cold out here this week! I don’t know about you, but there is something about having a warm fire on any icy day to warm your bones that just feels good! And if you were in a survival situation, it would be critical to have a fire. On these cold days (and wet ones, for that matter) I am sure glad to have some Char Cloth in my kit.
Char cloth is created when a cloth of 100% plant fiber (cotton, linen, jute, hemp, etc) goes through a chemical reaction known as pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is defined as the “thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere such as a vacuum or nitrogen gas. It involves the change of chemical composition and is irreversible. The word is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro "fire" and lysis "separating". This process turns the cloth into a slow-burning fuel with a very low ignition temperature.
Basically it creates a surface that easily ignites with the tiniest spark or concentrated and spreads slowly without bursting into flames! It takes very little effort and in a survival situation (or in everyday life) there are many other things you can spend your energy on! You can grab a spark with a Ferro-cerium Rod, Flint and Steel or alternately catch the sun through a Fresnel lens, magnifying glass or your glasses. If you were using a friction fire kit, it could extend your coal and give you more time to successfully build the fire.
From there you need to have a tinder bundle full of some other dry material such as cedar bark, maple bark, moss, grasses, to catch the coal from your char cloth and flame up so you can light your kindling, then bigger wood.
We had a great time making this with the kids at our Fox Walkers Forest Kindergarten this week and they really enjoyed the whole process. From cutting up the material to using a striker rod, with proper supervision this is a great project to include your children on.
Because this method is so reliable and it is so easy so make your own, (not to mention virtually FREE!!!) why don’t you give it a shot and add some massive value to your fire kit!
A Metal Container with a tight fitting lid.
(Many people use an altoids mints can, I myself prefer xylitol for my teeth and happen to have a few xyla mint cans around the house)
100% Cotton Cloth
(old jeans, t-shirts, and washcloths all work great, any 100% natural fibers would work)
(Outdoors or with a really good exhaust system)
Hammer & Nail
(if needed to punch a hole in the lid)
Let's Do It:
- [If Needed] Punch a hole in the top of your can with a nail and hammer/heavy stick
- (A small hole is necessary to allow gas to escape.)
- Cut the cloth into pieces that will fit flat in your can.
- (This ensures even charring and makes it really easy when it comes time to use it!)
- Build a nice fire and put the can hole side up right in the middle.
- Do something fun while you let the pyrolysis happen.
- Carefully remove the can from the coal and when it is cool, open it up.
- Test your new char cloth and see if it catches a spark
- Use the can as a tinder box and add it to your fire kit/emergency supplies
It's that easy!
I think it took me more time to write this blog then it did to make the char cloth!
Let us know how you did!