Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Mountain Bushcraft: Need to Make Charcloth? Mother Nature Provides Everything You Need!

(photo credit: Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft)

Many bushcrafters assume that the only way to make charcloth (also known as "char-tinder") is to carry materials such as linen, cotton or jute -- not true! There are in fact a wide variety of natural materials that can be used to make effective char-tinder.

In my experience, dry-rotted wood (also known as "punkwood"), the dead inner bark of juniper, willow, aspen, cottonwood, poplar, cedar, oak, pine, big sage, maple and basswood trees, thistle or cattail down, pith from mullein stalks, old bees or wasp's nests, or pieces of amadou from a horsehoof fungus (typically found on Birch trees) all make good char-tinder.

BELOW: The inner bark from a Juniper Tree was charred to make an excellent tinder that easily ignited with the spark from a carbon Mora knife and a piece of Chert:

(all photos: © 2015 Jason Schwartz/Rocky Mountain Bushcraft)

More Juniper Char-Tinder:

Juniper char-tinder nested in a tinder bundle of Juniper bark and dry grasses, ready to take a spark:

Dead inner bark of Aspen, great for char-tinder or for tinder bundles:

Dead inner bark of Mountain Willow:

Punkwood is one of the best materials, and can be harvested nearly anywhere in the world from nearly any type of tree. You will know punkwood by the way it feels-- super light and spongy, similar to styrofoam.

Below: A good candidate to find punkwood -- an old rotten log laying on the ground near a mountain stream:

Punkwood found in the dead branch of a Rocky Mountain Gambel Oak. This punkwood made excellent char-tinder:

To turn these natural materials into char-tinder, place the materials inside a closed, vented metal container or old glass bottle (uncapped) and burn them over a fire until they stop smoking. You can also turn them into char-tinder by igniting them and snuffing them out in between a couple of pieces of dead tree bark, burying them under hot coals/ashes until they char, or snuffing them out them inside an Altoids-style container. Due to the delicate nature of these type of charred materials, it is best to use the drop-spark method with your flint & steel to ignite them.



About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

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