The Fan Hitch Volume 11, Number 1, December 2008

Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog

In This Issue....

From the Editor: Expeditions

My First Winter Trip in Antarctica

Canadian Animal Assistance Team in Pond Inlet

Sledge Dog Memorial Fund Update

In the News

Book Review:  Dog Days on Ice

Behavior Notebook: Transitions

Product Review: The Tick Key

Tip: Flammable Food

IMHO: The Next Great Thing

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Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
Webmaster: Mark Hamilton
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Tip for the Trail.

Flammable Food

by Mark Hamilton

There are lots of ways to make a fire when you're on the trail, from dry moss to steel wool or feather sticks, to name just three. Each has its advantages as well as its proponents. Today I'm pleased to provide you with a legitimate reason to take a (big?) bag of puffed Cheetos along with you on the trail. While you could eat them, they make excellent fire starters. Do you believe me? No? How about if I have a picture to show you?

Our tests burns were each performed using just ten Cheetos, having an average mass of 1 oz (30 g). Once burning, these "fire starters" were not affected by light breezes, and they burned with a steady flame for approximately three minutes.

What we did was build a chimney-shaped stack of Cheetos that was easily ignited with a wooden match. We judged its three-minute burn time to be sufficient to get a pile of kindling burning. If the kindling is damp, additional Cheetos (as long as no one has eaten the rest of the bag in the mean time) during the burn will lengthen the overall burn time.

In the following picture you can see an oily residue accumulating in the bottom of the pan. If you place a little dry kindling underneath the Cheetos as well as over them, that oil will soak into the kindling and further aid in building a fire. I also  have to say that I find this picture just a bit upsetting, the Cheetos have burned, but they're still there. I don't know what to think about that.

By now you may be asking yourself, "So how hot a fire do you get with ten Cheetos?" I'm glad you asked. We put 8 oz (237 ml) of 75F (24C) water in a small pan. Next we put the pan on two flat-topped rocks with ten Cheetos underneath the pan. Three minutes later the water was 149F (65C), a 74F  (23C) temperature rise.

There are other snack foods that are also flammable. You may want to experiment with your own favorite snack food to insure "dual-use" status on the trail. In general, fried snacks such as potato chips, corn chips and taco chips all burn, but energy density varies with each product. Energy density will effect burn times. We found Fritos not as suitable for use as fire starters, but were unable to determine why. They did not burn vigorously and their fire was susceptible to blowing out in light breezes.

Got a tip you'd like to share? Email it to or snail-mail it to Mark Hamilton, 55 Town Line Road, Harwinton, CT 06791, USA.

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