One of the best things that you can do for your kids is to teach them to be more self-reliant and knowledgeable about their own survival at an early age. Make it a part of everything that you do and it won’t seem like such a weird concept. Each week, we tackle one skill, one activity, and one refresher to do during our home school time (hey, might as well take advantage of the credits, huh?) that helps us learn more. In doing that, I am very Pro-Kid-Led activity, so I tasked my kids to come up with a way to use some old leftover pill bottles we had and create something for our bug-out bags. They each did a little research and this is what they decided to share. Thus, here is how you make your own DIY firestarters.
(If I were a really good homeschooling mom, I would’ve had them write this article. Homeschool Mom Fail.)
How to Make Emergency Pill Bottle Firestarters
Here is the instruction on how to make your own emergency bottle firestarters.
Remove the labels from the pill bottles. You never want to confuse an empty, labeled pill bottle with another. In an emergency, you might not pay attention to which bottle you are grabbing. Be safe, do this step. We soaked our bottles in a little soapy water for a few hours, used a scrubby pad to take off as much of the paper & adhesive as possible, then used a little goo-fighting liquid to remove the last of the adhesive.
Collect your ingredients. We used 100% cotton balls, a sandwich bag, empty bottles, petroleum jelly, and chopsticks (we used some hinged chopsticks for kids). If you have chopsticks, use them. You’ll be glad you did. Oh… and not included in the photo, is a spoon!
Tear the cotton balls up into small pieces. This is a good time to teach your kids about tensile strength in cotton balls. We prefer smaller pieces to allow us to maneuver into our rocket stove and use them for small fires, but using the cotton balls full size is just fine.
Scoop out some petroleum jelly from your jar and place it into your sandwich bag. We opted for two spoonfuls. Once the spoon is in the bag, use the bag to help scrape off the excess without ever getting your hands dirty!
Fill the baggie with cotton ball bits, seal off the bag (you should really do that – do as I say, not as I photograph), and then knead the bag for a while, getting the jelly goo all over everything!
Use a pair of chopsticks or bamboo skewers or tweezers or even tongs to transfer the goopy cotton ball bits to the pill bottle. Pack it in as tightly as you can.
You are done with your pill bottle firestarters!
How It Works
You now have some firestarters with a kick! You’ve basically created the beginnings of a candle. Once a flame has been introduced, the wick (cotton ball) is the fire carrier and the wax (petroleum jelly) is the burn agent. And like a candle, as long as there is an agent, the wick doesn’t just burn away. So you have a long-lasting fire starter that starts in an instant with a few sparks from fire steel or a lighter or another spark-generator. And what really makes this a great fire-starting tinder is that it is essentially waterproof. As long as your whole cotton ball is covered in goo, you can start it in the rain! And because it burns so easily, yet slowly, you can even start it in wind. A hurricane-force wind just might cause a problem, but mild breezes that might make starting a fire a problem will not be a problem for this tinder.
This is exceptionally great to use with a Rocket Stove. Place it inside the stove, light it, and begin feeding the stove with sticks. Because it doesn’t burn out quickly, you’ve got time!
Other PREParedness Uses for Empty Pill Bottles
1. Emergency Fishing Kit – includes fishing line, hooks, weights, lures
2. Emergency Fire Starting Kit – include matches and tinder. Glue sandpaper to the bottle’s top or bottom. This isn’t waterproof, but water resistant.
3. Emergency Sewing Kit – fill with a bobbin of thread, some needles, safety pins, straight pins, etc.
4. Emergency Cash Stash – fill with quarters and have emergency money on hand.
5. Emergency Mini-First Aid Kit – sample-sized antibiotics, bandaids, and gauze pads.
6. Emergency Water Filtration System (start at around 1:38)
7. Emergency Ammo storage- you can fit quite a few .22 shells even in the smallest of pill bottles.
8. Spices, powders, and other condiments- use for a bug-out bag or hiking bag. While not waterproof, they are water resistant, so you might find this a great way to tuck in broth for water, tea, spices, etc.
Your Thoughts: What other emergency uses can you think of for reusing pill bottles?
Tom is a Marketing & Communications graduate interested in nature, gardening, agriculture, and traveling. For the last decade, Tom has turned his hobbies into a full-time job, creating useful resources and guides for all our readers. If he is not working on his next article, you will find Tom spending quality time with family or taking care of his own back garden.
Don’t use TOO much Vaseline. Experiment to see which mixture lights easiest. Not which burns longer. May try Vaseline in the bottom of the bottle, separated by aluminum foil, with dry cotton on top. Mix as needed per type of spark.