Fire. It has the ability attract humans like light attracts moths. As I strolled through the base area of Solitude, Utah at the Outdoor Retailer winter demo earlier this week, I was immediately drawn to the large drums overflowing with flames ... and not because I was particularly cold - I had just stepped out of the car and it was a pretty mild day by ski resort standards. No, it was fire for fire's sake that immediately caught my interest.

When I succumbed to the draw of the fire, I was immediately disappointed by what awaited on the other end - Insta-fire, another type of tinder. Eye roll. Nearly every company that has anything to do with fire, survival or camping has its own type of tinder. Not to mention that you can use free, everyday household and yard items like old newspapers, dryer lint and birch bark to much the same effect. There just isn't much "wow factor" in tinder.

It turns out, however, that Insta-fire offers a robust list of advantages that set it apart and make it a solid go-to fire source. It is a mix of volcanic rock, wood pellets and paraffin wax designed to light in seconds. It looks a little like cat litter.

A rep told me that Insta-fire burns much hotter than the average wood fire. It delivers flames of up to 16 inches (41 cm) for between 15 and 30 minutes. Combine those two factors and you get two distinct advantages over other firestarters: you don't need kindling to bridge the gap between tinder and fuel - just throw a log right on top of it and let it burn - and, for less intensive fire needs like roasting hot dogs or boiling water, you can even use the Insta-fire alone without adding kindling or fuel.

Thanks to the paraffin wax, Insta-fire is also water-resistant, allowing it to light even in wet conditions. The rep said that it is ideal for lighting fires directly on snow or wet ground. The flames also hold up to wind speeds of up to 30 mph (48 km/h) or so, so even if it's stormy, you'll get a fire going. Interestingly, the flames concentrate on the top of the Insta-fire mixture while the bottom remains cool. Not that you'd ever need to, but you could actually light the Insta-fire in your hand and hold it while it burns, because of how cool the lower portion remains.

Like fire itself, Insta-fire seems like a versatile solution good for everything from emergency survival to carefree camp cooking. It comes in both single-use packets and multi-gallon tubs and has a 30-year shelf life. You'll find more information at

Below is a video that shows Insta-fire in action across a number of potential uses.

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