How to Build the Perfect Bird’s Nest Tinder Bundle

Take your fire-building skills to the next level

tinder nest bundle
Turn your tinder bundle into a nest of flames.Tim MacWelch

When you’re lighting fires with matches or lighters, it’s easy to wad up a fistful of tinder and use it just like that. But a little more care needs to be taken when you’re preparing tinder for the ember from a friction fire or the glowing char cloth from flint and steel. A “bird’s nest” shaped tinder bundle is often the best choice for these ignition methods and it’s easy to make with the fibrous materials you find in nature.

First thing’s first: you might be thinking about saving some work and stealing a real bird nest for your bundle. This may work fine, but keep in mind that birds often incorporate nest materials like hair, fur, feathers, human trash, and other random materials that don’t burn very well. To skip these mystery materials (and avoid all of the nasty the bird droppings), you’re better off making your own fake nest.

To assemble one, use your coarsest fibers first, coiling them into a circle to form the outermost layer of the bundle. Next, add some finer materials to the center, mashing them down so they resemble the cavity in a real bird’s nest. Finish off the tinder nest by adding very fine fibers to the center of the nest, as a place to set your coal or char cloth.

When it’s time to use the bundle, place your ember or char cloth in the center, and carefully fold the bird nest closed. This completely surrounds the ember with tinder. Just make sure you don’t compact the bundle too tight. This may crush and kill the ember. Once folded shut, blow through the tinder with tight lips (as if you were whistling). Find the spot that makes the most smoke, and focus your blowing there. You can hold the bundle in your hand, or place it on the ground if you’re concerned about getting burned. Then be ready to move the flaming tinder into your waiting fire lay, once the fire erupts.

Are you a “bird nest builder”? Please tell us how you do it by leaving a comment.