Firestarter Disks

how to make a portable firestarter

These portable fire starters are an easy way to make use of things that would otherwise be discarded.  They are simple to make and can be used in an emergency or as a campfire quickstart that can be tossed in your hiking pack. The two ingredients in them, rendered deer fat and hardwood coals, are by-products of our everyday activities that have found a new life as something useful.  We use coals produced in our wood stove, but you can use coals from any fire as long as it’s from hardwoods. They can also be made from lots of other things, so just use your imagination!

What you’ll need:

  • Rendered fat
  • Hardwood coals
  • Mortar and pestle (or a flat stone and small rock)
  • Small paper cup, like a bathroom “Dixie” cup.
  • Mixing bowl
  • Something to stir with
  • Plastic wrap or something to press with

How to make them:

Using the mortar and pestle or your flat stone, crush some of the fire coals until it’s a fine powder.  Melt an equal amount of the fat and mix the two ingredients together in a bowl.  1/4 cup each of coals and fat will make 3 disks that are about 1/2″ thick.

IMG_4187 IMG_4191

Firestarter - Mixing In Deer Fat  Firestarter Nugget


Press the mixture into the bottom of small paper cup, then trim the top of the cup down to level with the firestarter.

Firestarter - Pressing into cup  Firestarter

The average burn time for one of these is between 14 and 15 minutes and it will go from burning vigorously to completely spent, right at the last minute.  Once it’s done, it extinguishes very quickly.   Below are progression pictures showing 5, 10 and 13 minutes after lighting.  The last picture is of the ashes left when it’s finished.

Firestarter 5 Minutes In

Firestarter 5 Minutes In

Firestarter 10 Minutes In

Firestarter 10 Minutes In



Firestarter 13 Minutes In


Firestarter finished

Firestarter Fully Burned

If you’re packing these to use while out hiking or camping, consider putting the disks in some type of container. It would take a lot of heat to turn the fat back to liquid, but depending on where you are, or if it winds up being accidentally left in direct sun or a hot car, a ziploc bag might be a good safeguard.  They stack well, so you could also put them end to end and roll them up in a sheet of plastic wrap or stack them on top of each other inside a pint size canning jar.

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