How to Make Char Cloth for Your Survival Kit

preparing to make char cloth

When backpacking, hiking or going on long wilderness excursions, having the ability to start a fire in times of emergency is one of the most basic necessities. Char cloth offers a simple and inexpensive backup plan for those rare times when a lighter or matches may be lost, or malfunctioning. It should be an integral part of your survival kit and is easy and fun to make.

Essentially, char cloth is a piece of fabric that has been converted into a slow-burning fuel with a low ignition point through pyrolysis. It takes a spark from a flint stone, empty lighter or a flint steel bar and gives you the ability to start a fire without the need for direct flame.

What You Need:

  1. 100% cotton, linen or jute cut into small squares [2 to 3 inch is perfect] preferrably light in colour.
  2. A tin containter with a resealable lid, like an altoids container.
  3. Fire, whether from a gas powered stove or traditional, hot coals work as well.


  1. Drill or puncture a half inch hole in diameter in the lid of the tin container, this will allow the smoke a place to escape.
  2. Place fabric squares inside the tin containter and seal lid.
  3. Either place the tin can on top of stove, on the small fire or coals.
  4. As the tin heats up and begins to char the cloth, smoke will escape through the opening you have cut.
  5. Once smoke stops coming out, or has died down substantially, remove the tin container from heat source and allow to cool.

What you are left with are noticeably charred bits of fiber cloth that now take a spark easily. Pull out the most suitable bits [they will be ones that are completely charred through] and seal in a water tight ziplock baggie. These can now be used to start fires and should be kept with you on person along with your survival tools/kit when you're out on the trails or canoeing through the wilderness.

In addition, purchasing a flint steel bar [also known as a flint/magnesium fire starter] ensures that you have the ability to produce a spark in all conditions. They are inexpensive and small and along with char cloth will be able to provide you with a way of starting a fire even in the most severe situations.


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