Paraffin Candle & Standard Road Flare for Fire Starter Kit

Excerpts from a comment by ‘Mountainmanrick’:

I am a very practical outdoors man with 50 years experience.
I have lived outside everywhere from the deserts of Baja Mexico to the High Sierras to the soaking tundra of Alaska.

I chime in here because of this:

Emergency fire starting does not take place under ideal conditions!

When you are so cold and wet your fingers don’t work anymore and your own thoughts betray you, you don’t need gimmicks.

You need a way to get a roaring fire burning when everything in your environment has been dampened by rain and fog for weeks on end.

When the best tinder you can find is damp, you must sustain a flame for several minutes to ignite it. Sparks or a flash from magnesium chips won’t get it done.

A paraffin candle on its side, dripping into your tinder has been successfully used since the days of the mountain men. I still carry one in my kit…

…but I have found the standard road flare is the best bet now. If weight is a concern, break it off, down to 5 minutes worth. Keep the end with the striker and cap of course. If it gets wet, light the striker end with your trusty Bic lighter or waterproof matches and you are still in business. The 3800 degree blasting flame will ignite the most stubborn tinder and in fact, you really don’t need tinder.

Take it from me; all of the imaginary scenarios under which “survival experts” build their fires pale in comparison to the misery of hypothermia setting in because you slipped crossing a creek, fell through the ice or simply because you have been rain soaked for days and are starting to wear out.

Keep it simple!

[Ken adds:] How many of you have had fingers so cold that it becomes very difficult to do almost anything? I have! It doesn’t take long for exposed fingers to cold weather or soaking wet cold to start getting numb. When I read this comment from ‘Mountainmanrick’ I felt compelled to post it separately. Great point regarding a road flare!

Orion Safety Products 3-15 Minute Road Flares (1 Pack of 3 Flares)

Related: A Fire Starter Kit List
Related: Fire Starter Kit (kept within your overall Survival Kit)


  1. I never gave road flares a second thought, now I’ll have to pick some up. I have always carried a candle of some sort in my GHB. but I do like the thought of getting a fire started fast, especially since DH is forever cold.

  2. Excellent advice Mountainmanrick; AND they are cheap.

    Keeping it simple seems the “non-norm” these days of having the Cel-Phone starting that fire for ya :-)
    Or better yet how about just playing a video of a nice warm fire????

    And yes, Ken, hands have been that cold, even at 75 degrees it seems these days …….

  3. Mountainmanrick
    Excellent post, read it this weekend. 😎👍🏻

    You dont even need to be in the frigid north to get hypothermia, it can happen here in the tropics.

    Went packing into Haleakala crater in the 90s and it rained so hard that we got soaked, everything, had rained for days, and even though i had waxed heavy duty matches there was nothing dry enough to light to make a fire.

    We got lucky, we were supposed to be outside and would have been screwed, i just happened to know the people who had gotten the cabin that weekend so it all worked out, it could have ended very different.

    In the 80s we swamped our boat trying to get ashore at a remote valley on the Big island, wave caught us, some stuff went overboard and disappeared and what was left was soaked, a lot of good a cooler of beer and ice did us when we were in pouring rain with nothing dry at the mouth of a valley that runs up into rainforest, only thing that saved us was dumping some gasoline from the boat motor on a couple coconut husks we found under a ledge and lighting it with a lighter, the husks were wet but the gasoline got it going enough to start burning, the boat was dead as it had sucked water into the little outboard when we got pounded by the wave so it was a 7 hour hike out to get somebody to come with another boat and drag our whaler back over to Hawi. Fun stuff, and could have all ended very badly.
    We got lucky

      1. I was going to mention that also but have not had access since 1970. It did boil a canteen cup of water in about 2 seconds.

        1. Is that where the idea for Starbucks Coffee came from? A cup of field expedient coffee by the light of a “starburst” round.😂

        2. Not sure, I don’t frequent the place. At 5 bucks for a small cup of of coffee? Better things to spend my money on. I do admit to having had coffee from them when one of the docs was buying for the ER. It was GOOD! To others, spend it if you like them, life is too short to not be enjoyed.

        3. I’ve had one cup at a Starbucks, years ago when they were just becoming a name. Five bucks like you said, served in a wax paper cup, same as a vending machine. Got weird looks when I asked for black coffee, and several offers of sex from other men. Never entered the doors of another.

    1. They are in my GHB and cheap on eBay. Have not checked Amazon but might be there also.

    2. Yep, I do. Sportsmans Guide used to sell that stuff stupid inexpensive, like 10 boxes of bars for $5 plus shipping. At three bars per box, you received 30 heavy foil covered bars. These bars are scored in middle, but I break mine into thirds and get about four minutes of low heat that burns very well – great for starting fires. Do have the kindling and fuel ready to go and your fire is guaranteed.

      I probably have over 50 boxes of that stuff squirrelled around the house. Trioxane is mainly for emegencies – no need to waste it burning trash.

  4. I get flares for free, my brother is on the fire department and gets me as many as I want. My dad was also a fireman (for 41-years) so I have always had access to them for free.

    When I was young (way too many years ago…) and in The Boy Scouts we used them to start fires, we called them “Boy Scout Matches.” Guaranteed to start a fire every time.

    I have several in my van, pu-truck, travel trailer (on a lot o Lake Erie), and my motor home.

    PS: another thing you can use for starting a fire and it’s inexpensive and can be found at any dollar store is hand sanitizer. Just squirt some on any material you want to light on fire and it slowly starts burning. But nothing (legal) beats a flare.

    1. Chuck Findlay;
      “But nothing (legal) beats a flare.:
      Geeezzzeeee, I hate it when ya-all jut qualifiers on a subject…. HAHAHAHA

  5. Love this idea, will have to get some for our packs. We use a lot of sterno have a small can in each pack. I do know there have been a few times in the mountains you just couldn’t get a fire built soon enough.
    Years ago when the girls were still pretty little we went on an all-day horse ride in the mountains it started raining and was getting cold. We stopped and DH and my stepson had to go do something with the horses ( it was one of those trips that if it could go wrong it did) and left me my stepdaughter and my 2 DD’s, to start a fire well a million matches later and no fire they come back opened a can of Sterno and we had a fire in seconds and asked why we hadn’t used that. I had no idea haha have to admit I have come a long way in the last several years.

    1. Ranchers wife another use for a flare is defense. You have to be careful but a lit flare will make anyone back off. But it does drip sticky flame so it’s easy to get burnt.

      I had a friend that carried them on his motorcycle when he and his wife traveled. He used one once to get 2 guys to back down from bothering his wife.

      1. Chuck Findlay,
        Thanks for the idea, I will have to get some for my DD’s as well and tell them about this.

      2. This is why I carry a flare gun as I used one to send a bear on his way once in Alaska. Have the 12ga. boating model and my favorite SF pen model I picked up in Panama. Small things get lost in training sometimes, don’t you know.

  6. Another product that works well is “Fire Starter Squares-quick light and non-toxic”. They are made out of sawdust, wax and recycled newspaper. They are waterproof, light easy and burn for about 12-14 minutes. Amazon has them…(surprised?) 144 of them for about $28.00… :-)

  7. The adage about the Boy Scouts reminds me of the old trick: that good old Frito’s will also catch fire and burn surprisingly easily and hot. Works like a charm. Just apply a flame briefly! Makes you wonder what’s in them as you munch on them: cant be that healthy :)

    1. Though I haven’t tried it, I understand that hot flavored Cheetos work also.

  8. I make my own fire starters from cardboard and strike any where matches. Peel on side of paper off of the corrugated card board so it will roll up easy. Stick 2 or 3 matches in the end then soak the hole thing in hot wax. It’s like a really big match that burns long and hot enough to light wet kindling. I keep several of these in each of our bags and each vehicle. They have come in handy more than once.

    1. car guy where do you find strike anywhere matches anymore? What brand as the ones I’ve gotten recently would almost strike on the Provided Striker

  9. We call road flares 30 minute matches. Carry them in Jeep, on the sno-go & 4-wheeler. Also handy are those “torch head things” (the ones you just press a button to start) screwed onto a 16 oz. propane bottle. These are standard equipment on the sno-go & when going ice fishing.

  10. Thank God, someone with practical sense. Put away those “firesteel thingys with your buggy whip. There is way too many easier ways to start a fire than with those stupid things and they don’t take up any more space in your pack. Have been using flares to start fires for years, super easy, no kindling or paper needed. Works on wet wood too. Only problem is try to find them anymore, auto parts stores just don’t carry them. Have to buy them by the case online or know some cops or firemen….

    1. Guess I am a Buggy Whip person :-) as I often use Fat Wood (easy to find) my mora knife with fire steel and can easily start a fire even in the wind and rain, that is what a poncho is for :-). But then again I have spent many weekends at Mountain Man meets. Great people BTW

      Fire steel is easier than flint and steel and maybe someday you will not have road flares (or maybe Do Not WANT that big a Thermal Signature when your using a Dakota Fire hole.

      I will use a Bic, I am not a purist but I love options.

  11. In the 1970’s when I still flew in Alaska in my survival bag there were 4 road flares among other things.

  12. Again, my 2 cents, for what it’s worth:
    In each of my kits I carry a small (plastic) jar of Vaseline cotton balls with a Bic lighter rubber-banded to it.
    – Vaseline catches fire almost instantly and will burn for several minutes.
    – A quick flame from the Bic is all that’s needed; no need for a long, fuel-depleting flame.
    – You don’t need to use an entire cotton ball either – just a shred off one will ignite dry tinder. If conditions are damp, use more.
    – Once the cotton balls are depleted you can scrape leftover Vaseline out of the jar and smear it directly on your tinder/kindling.
    – This fuel source will not go bad.
    I use this when hiking/camping. Firestarting has never been an issue.

  13. Sorry for Off-Topic post, but I thought you all would be interested in this.
    Beware-crappy 9v batteries from Malaysia!!
    We have used Shure ULX series wireless microphones for years with great results, and never really gave a moment’s thought to the batteries, just change them after about 5 hours of use.
    THAT CHANGED this weekend, when we experienced numerous battery failures after only about 2 hours!
    Further investigation revealed that both current Duracell and Energizer batteries are now made in Malaysia, and both look the same inside. This transition to Malaysian manufactured cells is very recent in our area, just in the last few weeks. I purchase from Home Depot in 6 or 8 packs to get the best pricing. These were new cells with 2022 expiration date. Both Duracells and Energizer had premature failures and all the failed cells were made in Malaysia.
    They are very different from the old construction with 6 small cylindrical cells inside. The new battery has a stack of flat cells inside a plastic sleeve.
    The USA manufactured batteries had smooth cardboard top and bottom covers, and the Malaysian batteries have knurled texture plastic top and bottom covers.
    Even Rayovac says their 9v are now made in Malaysia.
    Ken, can you recommend a 9v rechargeable that is at least 8.4v fully charged? These mics do not like the 7.2v batteries.
    What really stinks is that 9v are what smoke alarms run on, along with the loss of USA jobs for jobs in Malaysia. Battery companies probably are making 3 cents more profit per cell…

  14. Guess I’m going to have to get myself into the 21st century. I still carry a gallon zip lock bag with the old hemp rope that has been unbranded and frayed. Also carry a smaller bag of charred cotton. I did upgrade the flint and steel to a magnesium fire starter. Just make a birds nest with the frayed rope, place a few pieces of charred cotton on it to catch the spark and just a few swipes with the fire starter I have a fire.

  15. Dennis mentioned Trioxane tablets. Some one else mentioned they were having difficulty buying road flares in small quantities from auto parts stores.

    I did a quick informal survey around my town and city and I found: It was easier to find the Trioxane tabs than it was to find individual road flares for sale at various retail outlets. Any place that sells the inexpensive camping gear under the Coughlan brand name. Often the flares were sold as part of a kit where the kit came with 3 flares.

    I also make some of my own fire starter using cotton string and candle wax or strips of cardboard dipped in candle wax. My wife likes burning candles so we have wax around the house. My wife cannot believe I save even bits of old paraffin. Nice to have a good supply of this stuff on hand ( wax coated tinder ) when you are in a good soaking.

    My magnesium sparker is in a bag with fine steel wool to get a hot flame going butt most of the time, I just use a Bic lighter myself.

  16. I found years ago flairs for backpacking.
    These are 5 1/2 inches long with that plastic cap but still standard flairs.

    I don’t remember where I bought them.
    I do remember the cost was kind of high like in the 10$ range for the two pack.
    It’s the last ditch fire starter I have in the emergency bag.
    Along with a ferocerrium rod/uco storm proof matches and two bic lighters.
    Plus the esbit 20 4g Solid Fuel Cubes, it’s pretty small.

    1. probably get lost in comments.

      Orion Signal Flare/Fire Starter
      on amzn these are 5.5 inches long.
      Perfect for an emergency or last shot fire starter.

      at my local farm store the price is ($6.39)for 2, the amzn price $34 for 12.

  17. A good place to buy flares, look at any good truckstop. Truck drivers are required to keep flares in their trucks and if we use what we got, that’s where we buy more.

  18. Here in Poland my survival kit includes two (for „one is none”:) ORION 5 Minute Red Flares. These are shorter than regular „road” flares – have just 13 cm / 5,1 in. Thus are lighter (just 85 gr / 3 oz) and easier fitting in survival bag. 5 minute’s action seems enough to prove successful firestarter.
    At the moment of real necessity it seems wise to have such “nuclear option” at hand to set a bonfire regardless the worse elements and of current personal fitness . However, since over 10 years passed I have had never experienced such necessity yet. But I do not give up and do test and replace my flares regularly on new years eve which shows additional multifuncionality of this survival gear.

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