The Difference Between Tinder and Kindling, and What To Use For Each

Maybe you're out camping and want to toast some marshmallows, or perhaps you're planning on snuggling in front of a cosy fireplace at home. Either way, you'll need to make sure you build your fire properly if you want it to get going easily.

Most people think they can build and light a fire instinctively, but they're often surprised and frustrated when they actually try to do it. Part of the trick to it is placing the red gum firewood correctly, but at the beginning, it's all down to tinder and kindling.

You've probably heard both of these words at some point, but you may not know what they really mean or what the difference is between the two. And there's a good chance you don't know what should be used for either one. Once you learn, your fire-starting ability will see a big increase.


This type of material is the first thing you light, and ideally, it should be something that catches fire very easily but burns long enough and hot enough to get the kindling going. If you're out and about, you need to also make sure it's completely dry or you'll have trouble lighting it.

What to use

Good tinder you'll find around the home includes cotton wool, newspaper, toilet paper, and even lint from your clothes dryer. If you're using toilet paper or newspaper, screw it up into loose balls or twist it into sticks to make it burn a bit longer and concentrate the heat.

Out in the wild, dry grass or moss, thin bark shavings, dead leaves and pine needles work well, and you should be able to find at least one of them in most places.


Kindling doesn't need to light as easily as tinder, but it should be able to catch fire fairly easily and burn for a little while. It needs to get quite hot so it can start your main fire fuel burning well, otherwise, you'll have to start all over again. Arrange your kindling in a crisscross fashion over the top of your tinder so it catches soon after lighting.

What to use

Indoors or out, thin twigs are a good choice as long as they're well dried. You might find it useful to have two or three kindling sizes, ranging from the slimmest twigs to small, thin branches. If you can't find sticks of the right size, you can split larger branches or even pieces of your main firewood using a camping knife or small axe, or use thick shavings of bark.