I've heard this question often...
"How to start a fire without matches or a lighter when in the wild?" and that's what I'll attempt to answer today.
Picture the scene; you've decided to go camping.
You're smelling the open air, feeling the wind on your face and it's beginning to get dark so it's time to light the fire…
Oh, sh*t! You knew you had forgotten something. You didn’t bring the matches.
Or the lighter...and your family and friends have left you in charge of lighting the fire for the night.
Uh, look like you aren't eating or staying warm tonight.
The last situation you want to be in is where you are stuck in the wild without matches or a lighter. You may be kicking yourself for not bringing any.
But there is no need for that. We can show you how to start a fire in the wild without them!
There are many ways of starting a fire that doesn't even require matches or a lighter.
These techniques are often more useful than using matches. So, we might just up your wilderness game with these methods of making a fire in the wild.
There are some crucial elements that you must consider when trying to start a fire without matches or lighters. These factors are vital in creating some flames.
The most common of the elements is friction. This is the method you have seen in movies where someone rubs two sticks endlessly together to create a spark.
Sparks are another crux of creating fire. You can use rocks, flint or a battery and some wool to get those sparks going and catch alight.
You can also use the sunlight to concentrate light through glass to create a flame and get the ball rolling.
If these seem like something you can do, then the night is saved and we will have that fire started in no time.
We’ve created a guide for you for the easiest ways to start a fire without matches or a lighter...
How To Make A Fire Without Matches or Lighters:
8 Fire Starting Methods To Use In The Wild
If you are lost in the wilderness without any of the essentials like a pack of matches or a lighter, then do not panic, we have you covered!
There are a few ways you can start a few without them.
Here are some of our favorites ways to start a fire without matches or a lighter...
1) Start A Fire With A Magnifying Glass
Ever seen kids burning ants in a movie?
This works the exact same way. If you have a magnifying glass, and it is a sunny, clear day, then this is a super quick method of bursting those flames!
This method works best with some sort of tinder that will catch alight easily.
For this method to work you need something that can burn quickly.
You can use an old newspaper if you have one with you. Grab 2-3 sheets and crumple them into a ball.
If you do not have a newspaper, grab some dry leaves, grass or needles to use as tinder. Make sure it is actually dried all the way through or you will have some trouble lighting.
Next, you can start the fire.
Simply hold the magnifying glass up between your tinder and the sunlight. There should be a small dot on your tinder where the light is concentrated.
Tilt your glass to change the size, but try to keep it as small as possible to create enough heat to start the fire.
Light ‘em up! After about 20-30 seconds you should notice your tinder start to smoke and you have your fire.
This method can also be done with other glass, or any reflective object where you can concentrate the sun’s rays onto your tinder.
2) Create Some Friction & Create A Fire With Sticks
Using friction to start a fire is one of the most common and well-known ways to catch a light without matches. However, it is also one of the most difficult and most time consuming.
To start a fire with friction, you must create a v-shaped notch in a log and choose a spindle.
You have to repeatedly rub the spindle between your hands as fast as possible to cause a spark.
You can do this by moving your hands up and down the spindle as quickly as you can.
If it starts to smoke, then you can use your tinder to catch the sparks and get the fire glowing.
3) Use Flint and Steel To Make Fire In The Wild
If you’ve left your matches at home, you can use flint and steel to start a fire. You can purchase flint and steel kits like this one to take camping with you.
They are inexpensive and can be lifesavers when you are left with nothing else. Using a flint and steel kit will help you make a spark and catch it for your tinder.
You must strike your flint at the correct angle and you will see sparks fly out.
You need those sparks to hit your tinder and start to smoke. Once you see smoke, start to blow on your fire to fan it.
4) Use Tinder To Make Fire
This is such a useful hack for lighting a fire without matches! We recommend that you take tinder on whatever camping trip you are going on.
A good tinder kit should have dry materials and tinder in it that will help you start a fire and a way of lighting it. You simply lay out your tinder and strike your flint to ignite!
5. Using A "Hand Drill" Made Out Of Items You Can Always Find In The Wild
You can use a hand drill, which you have probably seen people use before but were unsure of its name.
This is the process whereby you quickly twist a wooden stick on another piece of wood until the friction causes it to ignite.
The stick is known as a spindle and the other piece is called a fireboard.
This can be a difficult process and can cause blisters so be careful not to be too aggressive. As with all aspects of building a fire, slow and steady is the best option. This is for safety but also effectiveness.
6. How To Start A Fire With Rocks
Ideally you'll need a hard rock like "Quartz" or another from the "flint" family and a carbon steel knife. If you have no quartz or flint rock then look for a rock with smooth surface and sharp edges.
Carefully strike the sharp edges of the knife to produce sparks whilst you hold a small piece of tinder on top of the rock to catch the sparks and set it alight.
7) Start A Fire With A Lemon
Believe it or not you can start a fire with a lemon...
...if you also have copper fasteners and zinc nails!
Yep, sorry that was disappointing because the chances of you having those items in the wild or stumbling across them is slim, I know.
8) Use A Battery To Start A Fire
If you have an AA battery and a foil gum wrapper you can light a fire.
Cut / rip the foil into an hour glass shape and touch the foil to both the positive and negative ends of the battery and it should spark, just be careful not to burn your hands as this will happen if not super careful.
The spark will be over as quick as it started so be ready for it and have another wrapper ready to light with the spark.
Fire Safety Advice
Always make sure that you are starting a fire in the wild in a safe and secluded place.
You should choose a clear area so that you do not catch fire to the forest or any natural environments, and always stay away from homes or built up areas.
A Reminder Of The 8 Different Ways To Make Fire Without Matches Or A Lighter
- Use a magnifying glass and the sun to catch a spark.
- Create fiction with logs and a spindle.
- Use flint and steel.
- Use tinder.
- Using a hand drill.
- How to start a fire with rocks.
- With a lemon.
- With a battery and foil gum wrapper.
These are just a handful of the clever ways you can make a fire without matches or a camping lighter when stuck in the wild.
I am an independent safety and survival expert and consultant. I have over 15+ years of experience working with corporations and individuals to help identify, remediate and prepare for threats and and disasters. I help clients understand risks and blog about my thoughts and techniques at DisasterShelters.net