One of the best survival skills a person can have is being able to make a fire without matches. I would bet that most of us would stare blankly at some dry twigs and sticks and try to will them to ignite if we didn’t have our handy matches or lighter with us. Being able to start a fire without matches can prove to be very useful in many situations. Maybe you've arrived at your campsite with your new travel trailer or toy hauler and you can't find dry firewood anywhere. Or your book of matches fell out of your backpack when you took a tumble down a steep mountainside (thankfully you’re ok!). Not having a fire to ward off hypothermia or to boil river water so that it's drinkable can be the difference between life and death. So it pays off big time to learn the skill of fire starting without matches! Become a fire pro by mastering these epic tips on starting a fire without matches and you’ll wow all your camping friends with your awesome life-saving skill!
*For all of these fire-starting methods, you’ll need combustible materials: tinder (dry, fine materials that will easily catch fire, like pine needles, dry grass, dry bark); fuel wood (twigs no bigger around than your wrist); and kindling (larger, harder sticks that burn hotter and longer)
Steel Wool & Battery
9V battery (this type works best, but others will work too)
- Holding the battery in one hand and the steel wool in the other, rub the steel wool on the battery terminals to create friction.
- Blow on the steel wool once you notice that it’s starting to glow.
- Transfer the wool to a nest of tinder and keep blowing on it.
- Once the tinder nest has caught fire, add larger pieces of dry wood to it to build the fire.
*This method can also be done using a 9V battery and a metal paper clip. Rub the paper clip on both battery terminals at the same time to create sparks and then transfer it to your pile of tinder.
Flint & Steel
Flint (hard gray rock that emits sparks)
Steel (pocket knife, steel striker)
Char cloth (easily combustible pieces of charcoal that glow but don’t catch fire)
- Hold the flint rock in your hand.
- Put a piece of char cloth on the flint and strike it with the side of a pocketknife or steel striker.
- Once the char cloth is glowing like an ember, place it in your tinder bundle on the ground.
- Blow on it to create a flame.
- Add more tinder and fuel wood to build the fire.
Magnifying lens (or lens from glasses, binoculars, or telescope)
- Hold your lens so that light from the sun shines through it onto a point on your tinder nest.
- Hold the magnifying glass in place until you see smoke and then a flame.
- Blow gently on it to encourage the flame.
- Once you see a flame, add kindling and fuel wood to build it up.
*This method only works if you have a pretty direct ray of sunlight. And it takes lots of patience!
Bow & Spindle
Curved piece of wood (bow)
Dry, straight piece of wood (spindle)
Piece of nylon or shoestring (bow string)
Piece of dry, soft wood (fire board)
Stone or piece of heavy wood (socket)
- To make your bow, wrap your piece of nylon or shoestring around both ends of the curved bow. Tie it on both ends, making sure that it’s very tight. If possible, make notches on both ends of the bow before tying for the string to rest in.
- On your fireboard, make a small V-shaped notch with a knife. Your spindle will rest securely in here.
- Place your nest of tinder right next to the V-shaped notch so that it’ll be next to the spindle when you’re spinning it.
- Wrap your tight bow string around the middle of your spindle one time.
- Whittle one end of your spindle into a point.
- Place the pointy end of your spindle into the V-shaped notch and hold the socket on top of the spindle, putting a lot of pressure on it.
- Saw the bow back and forth to create heat down in the notch.
- Once you see an ember, transfer it to the tinder.
- Blow on the tinder to grow a flame.
- As a flame grows, add larger pieces of wood to it.
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