Rest and Wild

Junk-Food Tinder

January 19, 2019

Testing Fritos, Cheetos, and Sun Chips as fire starting tinder.

Left to right: Fritos, Cheetos, Sun Chips

At first thought, corn chips are the domain of couch potato days, paired perfectly with cherry Pepsis and a Netflix subscription, but their multiple uses in the wilderness might earn them a place in your backpack. In addition to being a high-calorie, shelf-stable food — and any high-calorie food piques my interest — they can also serve as tinder in a survival situation. There's nothing quite as enjoyable as junk-food shopping under the banner of empirical testing cum pyromania, i.e. I decided to try out for myself how various chips would light up.

For this, I got myself a variety pack with Lay's Classic Potato Chips, Doritos Nacho Cheese, Doritos Cool Ranch, Cheetos, Sun Chips Original, and Fritos Original.

Om nom nom nom.

I first tried each type with a firesteel. None would take a spark.

Thinking maybe it was a matter of surface area, I mashed each of the chips into a pile of crumbs and again threw some sparks on them with the firesteel. Nothing.

Slightly discouraged, I went to the butane lighter. The Cheetos, Sun Chips, and Fritos all took a flame. The Doritos and Lays did not light at all.

Type Firesteel Butane Flame
Lay's Classic Potato Chips No No
Doritos Nacho Cheese No No
Doritos Cool Ranch No No
Cheetos No 0:45 min
Sun Chips Original No 1:00 min
Fritos Original No 1:52 min

The winner by far was Fritos, burning hot, bright, and almost twice as long as the runner up, Sun Chips. You could make a torch out of Fritos. When Galadriel said "May it be a light to you in dark places, when all other lights go out," she was thinking about Fritos. Though short-lived, the Cheetos flame was reasonably hot. The Sun Chips flame was very weak, probably unable to heat anything beyond itself.

The key, it seems, is corn oil, as the three winners have plenty of it, though it does call into question what, exactly, are Doritos made out of since, although corn-based, they would not take a flame.