Fire is an essential component for survival: you can use it to stay warm, cook nourishing food, stave off predators, or signal for help. The easiest way to start a fire is with matches or a lighter, but what if you don’t have any?
There is more than one way to ignite a fire if you have the right tools. The good news is many of these tools are small enough to fit in your camping gear or supply kit, so it’s not a bad idea to order some soon to keep with you. Whether you’re out camping and can’t find your matches or you’re in an emergency, you can prepare yourself for the worst-case scenario.
Read on to learn three ways to start a fire without matches or a lighter.
Fire Staring Using a Magnifying Glass
This method requires a clear, sunny sky with no clouds or objects that obstruct your view. Not everyone carries a magnifying glass in their arsenal, but eyeglasses, binocular lenses, or even a clear bottle of water can work. The point is to make an intense beam of light.
- First, you will need to gather dry tinder, like dark lint, newspaper, cardboard, char cloth, paper towels, and similar materials.
- Also gather natural tinder around you, like leaves, pine needles, or bark. Make sure to shred them so they are small and loose. Please note that wet tinder will only smoke and likely won’t ignite.
- Next, hold the glass over the tinder until the sun shines through it to create the smallest beam you can make. The smaller and more focused it is, the more intense the laser is.
- Hold the concentrated light over the tinder until it starts smoldering, this could take a couple of minutes.
While this method will make a fire, it only works on a cloudless day, never at night or in places without direct sunlight.
Fire Staring Using Batteries and Steel Wool
This method requires a few tools, but they are small and easy to procure and keep on hand. Unlike magnifying glasses, you can kindle a fire wherever and whenever.
- First, gather dry tinder and any material that will easily catch fire. As with the first method, any dry plant material will work.
- The battery should have two battery terminals, which are circular prongs on top of it. Any 9 volt battery should work. Rub the terminals with steel wool. This may take a few minutes, your goal is to create a current through the steel wool that will start heating up.
- As the steel wool heats up, start gently blowing on it. You should see it start to glow.
- Put the brightly glowing steel wool in the tinder and continue blowing on it until a fire starts.
- Keep adding small pieces of wood to the fire until it is large enough for larger pieces.
What’s good about this method is that batteries can be found in any store and steel wool is available in hardware stores. The best materials would be a 9-volt battery and the finest steel wool you can find.
Fire Staring Using Flint and Steel
This method can also be successfully done anywhere and under most conditions. However, you will need several tools already on your person for this to work. Any avid hiker or outdoor enthusiast should carry flint and steel on them. Flint is a type of quartz rock with a sharp edge. Not all rocks will spark, but if you’re out in the wild, you can find a usable rock, especially near river beds. Not all steel alloys will spark, but there are many that will. Your best bet is to purchase a fire starter kit that will fit into your bag or car. Finally, you will need a char cloth or a charred substance that will kindle the spark. Char cloth is a special cloth made from plant fibers with a low ignition temperature which you can even make yourself.
- As with the first two methods, you prep by gathering dry tinder around you.
- Smash your steel against the rock until it starts sparking.
- Once a spark lands on the char cloth, you should start seeing it glow. Fold the cloth into a small square and put it in your tinder nest, adding more tinder on top.
- Blow into the smoke until a fire starts.
This method is especially valuable when it is windy or rainy. The windier, the better!
These are just a few methods to light a fire, but they are fairly easy with a little preparation. It’s never a bad idea to gather the tools mentioned above, they are all fairly cheap and widely available — and you never know when you will need them!