There is an ancient and primal connection between man and fire and everyone should know how to start one. Most people are used to using matches. Others are perfectly happy starting a fire with fire starter rods.
While all of the aforementioned methods are effective, a sudden heavy downpour can render any matches virtually useless. If you are on a camping trip you may need to start a fire to keep warm and make hot coffee after a deluge. With your matches soaked, are your hopes of lighting a fire next to non-existent?
And wet weather is not the only reason when you may need to light a fire. It could come down to something as simple as losing your matches.
The simple answer is that with a little ingenuity and skill, you can start a fire in the wild virtually anywhere without the need for matches.
Let’s take a look at 3 simple steps on how to start a fire without matches.
1. Making fire using friction
The first method of making a fire is by using friction. Here you will take a long stick, otherwise known as a spindle and spin this over a board of dry wood. Note that for the method to work, the pieces of wood need to be bone dry.
This method will certainly require some grit as it can take some time and the faint of heart can easily get frustrated. When the spindle rotates on the wood, it creates amber which can then be used to light a fire.
Using a hand drill
This is the most primitive and energy-consuming method. It is called a hand drill because you will be using your hands to rotate the spindle. It is going to take some time but with a little determination, you can create fire.
The first item you will require when hand drilling is tinder. This will be used to light the fire from the ember created when you rotate the spindle on the piece of wood. A tinder nest can be made from any material that can easily catch fire such as bark, bits of dry grass or even leaves.
Take your dry piece of wood and make a depression in the shape of a V. The tinder nest is going to be placed under this V shape to collect the spark.
Then take your spindle and place on the depression. Use your hands to rapidly rotate this spindle until ember starts to form. Roll-off the ember into the tinder nest and light up a flame. With a gentle blow, ignite the ember and use the now lit tinder nest to light your fire.
Using a fire plough
Another efficient way on how to start a fire in the woods using friction is to create a fire plough. Here you will make a depression along the length of your dry piece of wood. Take your spindle and put one end inside the depression or grove.
Next, run the tip of the spindle along the length of the groove whilst applying pressure. As for where to place your tinder nest, this should be at the far end of your groove to collect the amber that forms from the friction.
Once the ember collects on the tinder nest and you notice some smoke, gently blow on the ember until a fire starts.
The bow drill
Using the bow drill to light a fire is a favorite of many campers and outdoor enthusiasts. This is because it is easier to perform and to maintain pressure on the spindle. However, two extra items you will need are a socket to help you apply pressure on the spindle and a bow to help you rotate the spindle.
The socket can be either a flat stone or a piece of wood that is not too dry.
To make a bow, find a strong stick and cut it to the size of your arm. For the string, you can pretty much use any that is of convenience such as one of your shoelaces for example. You can also use a piece of hiding. Just make sure that the string is strong enough not to break.
Take your piece of dry wood and make a V-shape notch. This is where the spindle is going to enter. Take the spindle and make a single loop around it with the bowstring. Place one end of the spindle on the V shape and use a socket to apply pressure on the other end.
Then with a saw-like motion, start spinning the spindle hard and fast. Within a short amount of time, you will notice smoke rising from the wood. Now you know that the ember is starting to form.
Take the ember and drop it onto the tinder nest. Blow slowly and gently until a fire starts. Just remember to observe campfire safety measures and light a fire away from any vegetation that could catch a spark and cause a forest fire.
Using a flint
While matches can get wet and will not light up after a downpour, it is still possible to get a spark with a flint. The first step is to have your tinder nest ready.
Then by holding the flint close to the tinder, on one hand, use your thumb to hold a char cloth against the flint rock. Don’t worry if you do not have char cloth with you. You can still find tree fungus which works equally well.
Take your camping knife and scratch the top of the char cloth against the flint. Do this until you notice sparks. Scrape as the char cloth catches the sparks. It will begin to glow as it gains heat. Take the char cloth and place it on the tinder nest.
Blow gently until a flame forms. Take larger and larger dry sticks and feed the fire until it is the magnitude that you prefer.
2. Making a fire with a lens
If you are wondering how to start a fire without matches and without having to spin a piece of wood on top of another piece of wood, then having a lens is an energy-efficient method to light a fire. And here’s how
Using the traditional lens
You probably tried this method when you were young. If you didn’t then you missed out on some great fun. If you are out camping and you wear glasses or have binoculars then you are in luck.
Take your tinder nest and place it on the ground above direct sunlight. Take your lens and focus the beam of light through it. Make sure the light forms a sharp pin on the tinder nest. To intensify the beam of light, you can wet your lens.
After a few minutes, you should notice the smoke. Keep focusing your beam of light until a fire starts. Take this burning tinder and place it under dry branches and you have your fire.
The downside of using lenses to make fire is that they will only work when there is sunlight. This, therefore, isn’t the best method for lighting a fire at night.
While it sounds unlikely, it is very possible to create fire from ice. If you are wild camping during the winter months, then this is the perfect way to light your fire without using matches.
Find an ice block and cut a decent sized piece. Shape this piece into a lens. The next step should be easy. Simply focus light through the ice and onto your tinder nest. After some time, the tinder should light up into a fire.
A few tips to make sure your block of ice works.
Note that it should first and foremost be clear. If the ice is cloudy due to impurities then it will not focus the light.
If you fail to find a clear piece of ice then pour some clean water onto a cup and wait for the ice to form. Take this ice and shape it into a lens. It should be thick in the middle and then in the edges to be able to focus the light.
Once you have managed to achieve the lens shape, use your hands to polish it. The warmth will form a clean and clear outer surface that will allow maximum light to pass through.
A chocolate bar and a beer can
You might wonder how these two have anything to do with focusing light on a tinder nest. But you are about to find out.
If you packed chocolate to your camping trip, then you can use a little ingenuity to light a fire. Take your chocolate and apply it to the bottom of the can. Rub and polish the bottom of the can and soon you will notice it will start to shine.
If you don’t have chocolate then don’t worry, as toothpaste will work just fine. With the light from the sun, you can now act as a parabolic mirror. Let the light reflect on the surface and focus it onto a tinder nest. Soon there will be smoke and then fire.
Make sure to hold the bottom of the can close to the tinder at a distance of about one inch.
3. Using batteries to light a fire
Using batteries to light a fire is one of the least common methods used when camping. Many campers don’t know how to start a fire in the woods with some of the camping gear and equipment especially with the help of a flashlight.
If you carry steel wool for cleaning your utensils and have a battery-powered flashlight, then you can enjoy the warm feel of a campfire when it gets chilly. What’s more, you don’t have to wait for the sun to light your fire.
Take your steel wool and stretch it out to about 6 inches long. Don’t thin it out too much. Take your battery on the other hand and rub the terminals on the steel wool. You should notice sparks.
Keep rubbing the steel wool on the battery until the steel wool begins to glow. Blow gently until a fire forms. Quickly move the steel wool to the tinder nest as it can burn out pretty fast.
How to find tinder in the woods
All the methods mentioned above have one thing in common, they require the use of a tinder nest. While it may sound like the simplest part, being able to locate dry and easily combustible materials out in the woods can be tricky, especially during rainy weather.
Tree bark is an excellent choice for making tinder. Different trees have different properties which also means that they burn differently. Cedar has one of the best barks that are easily combustible. You can notice it by its reddish color.
Always ensure that the bark is dry before you harvest as stripping away live bark can damage and sometimes kill the tree. Scrape the bark with a blade and use the shedding for the tinder.
If you are camping in an area where you can easily collect dry leaves then you are in luck. All you need is a handful. Leaves catch fire very easily but the downside is that they also burn pretty fast and produce a lot of smoke. As soon as you get your flame, you should work quickly to add dry twigs and branches and get the fire going.
You can find dry grass almost anywhere you head out for camping. It is one of nature’s most widespread resources. Find completely dry grass and grab a bunch of it. The tinder will catch the ember quickly and after a gentle blow will provide you with a well-burning flame.
Globo Surf Overview
There are many methods that you can use to light a fire while camping in the wild. Losing your matches doesn’t mean the end of enjoying those roasted marshmallows and sausages as you share stories around your campfire.
Whether you are camping in the middle of winter or the summer, the tips above will help you get your fire going.
Don’t forget to always pack a few items to help you get rid of the campfire smell from your clothes. Better yet, you can also learn how to make a smokeless fire pit.