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Friday, June 24, 2011

Badger Paddles' Tip of the Week - Making a Fire with Newspaper

Badger Paddles' Tip of the Week includes information on paddling, camping, portaging, boat transport, and maintenance tips, as well as any other information that we may find to be useful around our sett.

One of the traditions that I remember from my childhood trips to Algonquin's interior was my father bringing that day's newspaper as reading material for his first couple of days in the bush. Of course, it's secondary purpose was to help light the fire at our campsite as well, but only after the paper had been given a good read over by my dad.

I also remember that one of the first skills my father taught me around camp was how to light a fire. And don't kid yourself... it is a skill. It can take a while to figure out the principles of fire-making, but with a few pages of old newspaper and this week's tip, you will be known as THE campfire-starter in no time!

Some people just scrunch up the newspaper into a ball. And that works... some of the time. But more often then not (especially at a windy or damp camp site) your fire needs a bit more sustained heat to get it going and those scrunched up newspaper balls burn really fast and the loose burnt up paper ashes don't hold much warmth (and can even fly away when you blow on them!). Plus it uses a lot of paper.

That is where this week's tip comes in. Instead of scrunching or crumpling the news paper into a ball, rip a few pages of newspaper into 2-3 inch strips and roll each individual strip into loose mini paper logs (See photos below). Tuck the loose end of the rolled paper into centre of the tube to help hold it's structure. Note, you can also use string to tie the roll in place but using extra materials is not really necessary as tucking the end into the roll loosely seems to do the trick just as well.

When finished, these rolled bits of paper will give you a flame AND a coal base to work with for your fire. They burn much slower then a crumpled page of paper. You can even blow on them to increase your flame and air-flow without the same worry that you will blow all the burning paper away. But be careful not to roll these little fire-starter tubes too tight or they will not burn well. Loose is better, for more air flow.

Here is an example (see images below) of a fire lit with ONLY 2 pages of newspaper, ripped into strips and rolled into the fire starter tubes/logs.  These 2 pages of newspaper produced 6 or 7 little rolled fire-starters - just enough to get a good fire going, but you can always add more depending on need. Notice how long the coal base of these little paper log fire-starters last and how hot they keep the fire base until the wood catches.
After making several lil' fire starter logs from only
2 pages of newspaper, this fire is ready to be lit!
These lil' fire-starters really hold the heat!
Of course, you can't beat good ol'birchbark. It works dry or wet and burns hot hot HOT! But this handy natural fire-starter isn't always readily found and should only be harvested from the ground - NEVER take birch bark from a live tree - ALWAYS wait until it falls to the ground (naturally) for collection - or you could cause the tree to die prematurely due to an insect infestation or other disease. And while newspaper doesn't really compare to a birchbark lit fire, at least when you burn your newspaper at camp, you don't have to pack it out.

Well, we hope you enjoy your camp fire... but only after you enjoy reading your newspaper, that is!!!

Do you have any tips to share? Send us your tips and paddling advice - and if your tip is featured here - we will send you a free Badger Paddles sticker!!! All you have to do is email us your suggestions.

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Note: Due to weather issues during the writing of this article, the fire in these example images was lit in an indoor fireplace and although this tip is meant for the outdoors, these little newspaper fire starters can be used in indoor fireplaces and wood stoves as well.


  1. i have a better fire starter for you to consider, i use it for even lighting my wood stove in the winter. when i am cutting wood and get a large log, i will rip in half with my chain saw. this produces long curls of shavings. i pour a very light coating of candle wax over them. when they cool, i will store them in a container for later use.but only using a pinch for my wood stove. when i go camping i will place a handful in tin foil, and wrap it up like a hobo meal.. when i need it, i will open it up and place the kindling and fire wood on top, then burn the whole thing.

  2. That's a really great tip, Joe! Thanks! Our tip is more about NOT having to pack out the paper you brought to camp with you! *wink* We are just trying to show the best way to start a fire with newspaper but there are WAY better ways to light a fire, for sure! Yours being one of them!!!


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