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  • Writer's pictureKeith Bailey

How To Easily Start A Fire Without Matches Or A Lighter

Starting a fire isn’t just a skill you need to know when dinner time comes around. It's an essential part of being prepared to go out into the wilderness. There are different ways to start a fire without matches, and each one is good to know just in case. Here are my most useful methods (that hopefully you will never need to use).

There are a lot of skills that you should be familiar with whenever you enter the wilderness, but few are as essential as knowing how to start a fire.

A fire is more than just comfort; it’s something that can be the barrier between life and death. Emergency situations can get serious quickly when you’re far away from assistance, and being able to start a fire will greatly increase your chances.

Of course, a fire doesn’t always need to be so utilitarian. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a bit of warmth or a way to cook some food. Whichever is your goal, here are a few of the best ways to start a fire in the wild.

The Hand Drill

The hand drill is a technique that you are definitely going to want to have in your back pocket. It takes a while to get the hang of (and even longer to master), but it’s incredibly useful. It essentially lets you start a fire with almost no resources.

First, collect your tinder and put it in a pile. Second, take a piece of wood and make a notch in it. This will be your “fireboard.” Third, put a piece of tree bark beneath the notch that you cut into your fireboard, and then take a stick and place it in the notch. Now is when you start using your hands to spin the stick back and forth to create friction.

Eventually, if you do this correctly, you will create a spark. The spark will then transfer to the piece of bark, and you can move the bark to your pile of tinder.

The Fire Plow

This method is similar to the hand drill in many ways, and some people find it a bit easier to execute. You’ll still need a fireboard of some sort, but it can be any flat and long piece of wood.

Instead of using a thin and long stick and twisting it, you will instead create friction against your fireboard using a “plow.”

When looking for a plow, keep your eyes out for another flat piece of wood that you can carve an angle into the top of. Place your plow in a groove in your fireboard and move it back and forth while holding the plow at a 45 degree angle.

A coal will eventually form, and this can be transferred to your tinder pile.

The Flint and Steel Method

This one is a bit simpler than the hand drill, and it doesn’t require quite as much skill. With that said, you do need to have some steel on you, and that definitely makes this method less applicable in certain scenarios

Anyway, the actual execution is quite simple.

Go and find a rock that can act as your flint (quartz or agate will work well). You’ll want the rock to have hard edges to scrape your piece of steel against. Once you’ve got your rock, simply slide the piece of steel along an edge of the rock quickly and forcefully.

Hot bits of steel will fly off and into your tinder pile, and you can then use your breath to give life to the flame and build a fire.

Use a Magnifying Glass

As crazy as it sounds to start a fire using a magnifying glass, it’s totally possible to do.

It should be noted, however, that you’re going to have a pretty hard time doing this if you aren’t in somewhere with incredibly strong sunlight. But this method is particularly cool because of how little work it actually requires from you. It just needs some patience.

Take a magnifying lens, hold it in the air, and direct the light that is magnified through it onto your tinder pile. It can take a minute or so for anything to happen once the light is properly focused, and it may take you a few tries to get a good enough angle that the light is warm enough to spark a fire.

The Batteries and Steel Wool Method

The nice thing about this method is that batteries and steel wool are two items that you might just happen to have in your bag if you’re out hiking or backpacking.

Batteries are used for a ton of outdoor activities, and steel wool is really nice for cleaning out your cooking gear after a nice meal. If you’re lucky enough to have both in your pack, you can start a fire rather easily. Stretch out the wool so that it’s about six inches long, then rub the wool along the side of the battery.

This will cause sparks to appear on the steel wool, and it will light up quickly. Take the fiery wool and place it on a tinder pile that you made beforehand, and use that to build your fire.

Icy Fire

This method might not seem practical, but it may just come in handy the next time that you’re hiking in an icy spot!

The principles behind this are the same as the lens method, but there’s an extra step: you need to form ice into a lens. Find a very clear piece of ice, and use a knife or rock to carve it into the shape of a lens. Once you’ve done this, remember to polish it to make sure that it’s as smooth as can be.

You can just do this with your hands, but make sure not to mess with it long enough that it starts melting too much. When the ice is smooth, you can hold it up in the air and direct light onto your tinder pile, much like you would with a real magnifying lens.

Using Plastic to Magnify Light

Ice isn’t the only thing that you can use in place of a proper magnifying glass to start a fire. Many plastic items also work quite well.

This is a super good method to have practiced, simply because it’s likely you will have some type of plastic with you when out in the wilderness. Your plastic item can be a water bottle, a Ziploc bag, or even a balloon.

Fill the plastic with water and try to form it into a sphere to give it more a lens-like shape. For example, a hair tie or rubber band can make a Ziploc spherical. Hold the item up to the light and concentrate the beam onto your tinder!

Basic Chemical Reactions

Yes, I know that it’s unlikely that you will magically happen to run into the correct chemicals to start a fire when you’re out in the wilderness. Regardless, this is still a useful method to know. It’s pretty simple in terms of execution.

You may have already been taught it in high school! Pour out some potassium permanganate into a pile and make an indentation in it. Pour some glycerin into the indentation and then just wait. A fire will eventually form!

If you do decide to use this method, be very careful when carrying these two chemicals around. Keep them separated from one another until you really need to have a fire for safety.


Yo, happy camper! Heading out? Check out the best ways to avoid ticks in the wild. You'll thank us later.


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