Other names for tinder nests are tinder bundles or bird’s nests. Your tinder nest will be used to coax a spark or ember into flame. It maximizes your chances of success in building a fire. Once the nest is burning it is used to start a larger fire.
To construct a tinder nest, select dry and flammable materials. A variety of items can be used from clothes dryer lint, fuzz from socks and sweaters, to foraged materials. Many outdoor enthusiasts carry waterproof containers filled with cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly for this purpose. Found tinder can include dry grass, cattail fluff, cottonwood down, leaves, thin layers of tree bark, moss, wood shavings, brown leaf litter, dropped pine needles and more. A found bird’s nest will work well also.
Dry tinder will break easily when bent or crushed. If the exterior feels dry, but it gives rather than snaps when bent, the material isn’t truly dry. If the ground is damp, search out materials that are found resting on top of bushes or limbs. These items will be drier than ground litter because they have been exposed to the sun and air.
Place damp tinder inside your jacket, but not next to your skin. By the time you are ready to start a fire later in the day, the tinder will have been dried somewhat by your body heat.
Shredding the tinder creates additional surface area that will more easily catch flame. Materials that are fuzzy are ideal for feeding a spark. Gather the tinder on a bandanna or other cloth. Grab a length of tinder in both hands and move your fists in a bicycle pedaling motion. Work over the entire length of the tinder. The tinder will soften and become pliable. Bits and fine dust will fall down from your hands and be caught on the bandana.
Take some of the coarse pieces of prepared tinder and create a loose over hand knot with a diameter of about four inches.
Stuff the remaining tinder into the knot’s loop. Keep stuffing the nest until it is dense. It must be able to prevent the coal from falling through the fibers and out of the nest and it must provide enough fodder to keep the spark from fizzling out before a flame starts.
Collect the dust that has fallen into your bandanna and place it in the center of the nest. It will help if you first make a small hollow or depression in the center of the nest to contain the dust. As you pick up the dust you will notice that the finest particles fall back down onto the bandanna. This will mean that you'll be packing finer and finer dust into the nest’s depression until the finest dust will be on the top, just where you'll place the spark or ember.
Once your nest is assembled, keep it in a protected area where it won’t be bumped or blown around by the wind. Then assemble the fuel for your fire and prepare to strike a spark.