Char Cloth

Starting a fire isn’t an easy job sometimes, especially if you aren’t too practiced or the weather is an obstacle. But luckily it’s super easy to get a fire started using a simple DIY material called char cloth. It is a highly effective material to make a fire in nearly any situation.


In this post, we will discuss what a char cloth is, how it is used and why it is important in a survival situation. Lastly, we will teach you how to make DIY char cloth on your own.

What is Char Cloth?

Char cloth, also called char paper, is a small strip of fabric that can be used as tinder for making fires and is usually the main component in a tinderbox. It is made of natural fiber (such as vegetable, linen, cotton, jute, etc.) that has been converted to carbon form through a process called “thermal decomposition” or also known as pyrolysis. Basically, these organic materials are decomposed at high temperatures in the absence of oxygen. This breaks the chemical composition down into a simpler form of carbon which can be more easily ignited than the original material.

How is Char Cloth Used?

Char cloth has been around for centuries. It is still being widely used by many, especially in harsh weather conditions where making a fire becomes more challenging. This black, carbonized strip has a low ignition temperature and is usually paired with flint and steel since all it needs is a little bit of spark to ignite. Once it catches spark, you will notice how it burns slowly. Ideally, you should place it in the center of a tinder nest, composed of dried, thin materials or anything that can easily fuel a small fire. Arrange the kindling materials so they make direct contact with the smoldering char cloth while allowing room for air. Now that everything’s in place, you can blow on the char cloth to intensify the ember. If everything goes right, the ember will work its way to the kindling materials and you will be able to light up your tinder nest in no time.

Why Char Cloth is Important in Survival

When you are in survival mode, fire is undeniably one of the basic fundamentals in order to survive. You can stay warm, cook, and ward off wildlife with a simple fire. It’s conceivable that you will eventually run out of your fire-starting tools, but if you know how to make a fire using traditional and primitive methods, you do not have to worry. 


Now, char cloth here is exceptionally light in weight, compact in size and easy to make. It is an excellent addition to your fire-starting options since it’s incredibly valuable when trying to light a fire in poor weather. Char cloth can easily catch a spark and is highly effective in igniting tinder. Therefore, it’s a wise idea to have plenty of char cloth in your bug out bag.


You also might not be able to find char cloth available for sale, so it’s a very good idea to know how to make your own. 

How to Make a DIY Char Cloth

Making DIY char cloth on your own is easy and economical, you just have to be careful during the entire process. Typically, it only takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete a batch. But the total amount of the processing time may vary depending on the fire source, the metal tin, and the quantity and thickness of the fabrics used.

Here’s how to do it:


  •         Small airtight metal tin
  •         Cotton, linen, or jute fabric
  •         Scissors
  •         Fire source
  •         Gloves
  •         Small nail, electric drill or puncher


  1. First off, cut the fabric into several small square pieces at about 2 to 3 inches per side.

  2. Puncture some small holes on top of the metal tin by either using the nail, electric drill or puncher. You can definitely use anything you are most comfortable with when creating these small holes.

  3. Place the 3 to 5 squared fabrics inside the metal tin.

  4. Place the metal tin over any kind of fire source that only supplies a sufficient amount of low heat.

  5. In about 2 minutes, you will be able to see smoke coming out of the small holes.

  6. Keep the process going until the slow steady stream of smoke is no longer coming out or dramatically reduced.

  7. After about 20 to 30 minutes, the smoke will stop and the char cloth is finished.

Additional Tips

  1. Overloading the metal tin with too many strips of fabric will take extended processing time to complete. You should only place 3 to 5 squares in a small tin at one time to achieve best results.

  2. Do not make large holes on the metal tin- your strips of fabric may catch fire and get ruined. You want these holes just large enough to allow gasses to escape.

  3. You may want to do the thermal decomposition process outside since you do not want to inhale the smell.

  4. For your fire source where you put the metal tin over, it can be either a stove or campfire. If you will be using the stove, you should turn it on the lowest setting. But if you prefer doing this over a fire like campfires, burn down the fire first and only use the remaining hot coals and smoldering wood.
  5. If you leave the metal tin over your fire source for too long after the smoke has finally stopped, your char cloth will catch fire due to the oxygen entering the tin.

After the batch of char cloth is finished, store it in a ziplock bag or any watertight container to keep it away from moisture. Additionally, char cloth is somewhat fragile, so make sure to handle it with care.

Parting Thoughts About Char Cloth

Char cloth is extremely easy to make and is one of the cheapest survival hacks out there. It is one of the best materials for starting a fire, especially in bad weather, and can be packed very easily. Char cloth is worth learning to make, and it deserves a place in your bug out bag or INCH bag.

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Kevin Fitzpatrick

Kevin Fitzpatrick

I'm Kevin, the founder of Prepper Base. Ever since I discovered Prepping, embracing the Prepper Mentality became my full-time job. I started Prepper Base as an information resource for anyone and everyone interested in Prepping, Survivalism, and Off-Grid Living. I have combed the web and realized that there's a lot of garbage out there related to Prepping. So I want to help you save time with no-BS information that can truly help when SHTF. I've combed through a lot of books and websites and dove head-first into the things that interested me. I hope you can find some useful prepping information here. I am always looking for new things in the Prepping world. Please drop me a line through any of my social media accounts if you have a current event, an idea, or new Prepping-oriented product that you think I should write about. Thanks for visiting!

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