Design & DIY

Find out which dockside snack makes the best kindling

Potato chips

This article was originally published in the Summer 2015 issue of Cottage Life magazine. 

You may have heard of this camping hack: use leftover Doritos—or other tortilla chips—as a quick fire starter in a pinch. (And if you follow wacky crime news, you know that some arsonists use potato chips as incendiary devices.) Why would someone burn junk food instead of eating it? Who are these people with “leftover” Doritos? We don’t know either. But it got us wondering: which cottage snack ignites fastest, burns longest, and sustains a flame the most reliably? Better do a Cottage Life Simulation Test!

Tortilla Chips

Photo by Joe Gough/

Ignition in 8 sec.

Burns for 3 min.

Sustainability: High

Tester notes: Curved design of chips helpfully allows oxygen to circulate

Potato Chips

Photo by Lisovskaya Natalia/

Ignition in 4 sec.

Burns for 21/2 min.

Sustainability: Very high

Tester notes: Look for thin, curved chips (e.g., Pringles); they light up faster and burn longer than thick or flat chips

Cheese Puffs

Photo by Kelvin Wong/

Ignition in 10 sec.

Burns for 11/2 min.

Sustainability: Medium

Tester notes: This stinks; literally, it smells gross

Rice Chips

Photo by science photo/

Ignition in 10 sec.

Burns for 11/2 min. (but varies; see below)

Sustainability: Poor. Prone to extinguishing

Tester notes: Pass—unless your firepit is gluten intolerant

Animal Crackers

Photo by Brent Hofacker/

Ignition in N/A (didn’t ignite)

Burns for N/A

Sustainability N/A

Tester notes: Lighting zoo animals on fire is just wrong