5 Ways to Start a Fire in the Wild

Published on January 5th, 2021

5 Ways to Start a Fire in the Wild

One of the best parts of camping is the campfire. Sitting around a warm fire and swapping stories or singing songs is truly the perfect way to end an evening of camping. That said, knowing how to start fire in the wild doesn’t only come in handy when hanging out with friends; it can also be a lifesaver if you find yourself trekking through the wilderness.

For this reason, most campers and hikers carry matches or a lighter when they head out. Unfortunately, these items can get wet or run out of fuel. That’s why we recommend having a couple more fire-lighting skills up your sleeve before going adventuring into the wild (or even just on an innocent camping trip). You never know when these skills may come in handy, and if nothing else, they’re fun to show off as you and your friends gather around the fire pit.

Below are some of our favorite ways to start a fire without matches or a lighter. See which ones you can master before your next camping adventure!

Starting a fire

With Tools

The following options for how to start a fire in the wild do require some man-made items to get the fire going. However, all of these items are easy enough to carry in a backpack, and in one case, you might have the needed item on hand when hiking anyway.

Flint and Steel

The quickest and easiest answer to how to start a fire without a lighter or matches is the traditional flint and steel . Carrying flint and steel in your backpack is easy enough, and this fire starting method won’t run out of fuel or be bothered by a bit of moisture.

To start a fire using flint and steel:

  • Gather tinder into a small nest.
  • Firmly hold the flint in one hand and the steel in another.
  • Strike the flint against the steel in a single smooth movement to create a spark.
  • Place the ember in the tinder pile and blow gently to create a fire.

Lens Fire

Another easy solution for how to make a fire in the wild, creating fire using a lens is so simple even kids can do it. Best of all, this method only requires the lens of a magnifying glass or even a pair of binoculars.

To start a fire using a lens:

  • Gather tinder into a small nest.
  • Hold the lense between the sun and the tinder and tilt the lens so that the bright dot created by the sun is over the tinder and about a quarter of an inch around.
  • Focus that dot in that position for about 60 seconds until the tinder begins smoking.
  • Gently blow tinder to create fire.

Battery and Steel Wool

Want another option for how to start a fire without matches? You could use a 9-volt  battery and steel wool to create a relatively easy to use fire starter.

To start a fire using a battery and steel wool:

  • Gather tinder into a small nest.
  • Stretch the steel wool until it’s around 6 inches long and 1 inch wide.
  • Bub the sides of the battery with the steel wool until it begins to glow and is hot to the touch.
  • Place the hot wool on the tinder and blow gently to create a bigger fire.
Campfire in the woods

Without Tools

The ways to make fire listed below don’t require any man-made tools whatsoever. All you’ll need for these methods are bits of wood you can find in almost any wilderness area, making them the ideal fire making options when stuck in the middle of nowhere with no tools on hand.

Hand Drill

Usually when people ask about how to start a fire with sticks, this is the method they envision. It uses only a small piece of wood to be used as a fireboard, a bit of bark, and a stick. This is one of the most primitive options, and is also one of the most difficult to make work.

To start a fire using the hand drill:

  • Gather tinder into a small nest.
  • Make a small v-shaped notch in the fireboard and create a small depression near the notch.
  • Place a bit of bark in the v-shaped cut.
  • Place a stick in the depression in your fireboard, put your weight onto the fireboard, and spin the stick rapidly between your hands until an ember lights.
  • Knock the ember onto the bit of bark and use the bark to transfer the ember to the tinder.
  • Blow gently to create a bigger fire.

Fire Plow

This is another method that can be difficult to master. That said, because it doesn’t require anything except what can be found in nature, it is a good method to have on hand. All you’ll need are 1) a softer wood board that is at least a foot long, and 2) a piece of harder wood that is about a foot long and carved to a point at the end.

  • Cut a groove in the softer wood board. The groove should be about an inch wide and 6 to 8 inches long.
  • Rub the pointed end of your harder wood piece in the groove until you see dust being created.
  • Raise the softwood board and rest it on your knee, so the dust collects in the bottom of the groove.
  • Rub the hardwood in the groove more quickly and with more force until the dust smolders and lights.
  • Transfer the ember to the tinder and blow gently to create a bigger fire.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to make fire that don’t require matches or a lighter. While you might still want to keep those things handy, it’s not a bad idea to practice these other fire making methods from time to time, so you can be prepared in all situations.

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