11 Ways to Start a Fire

February 25, 2015 by | 3 Comments

A fire can mean the difference between facing hypothermia or enjoying a warm night of sleep.

It’s easy to start a fire with matches or a lighter, but since they won’t always be available, it’s wise to become skilled at other methods.

Don’t become dependent on any one technique or tool though—spend time learning and practicing several methods in various environments for the greatest chance of survival.

Here are eleven ways to start a fire.

Ferrocerium Rod

My favorite way to start a fire is with a ferrocerium rod because they last damn near forever and will work even when wet. Simply scrape the metal striker or a knife down the rod to spray a shower of hot sparks onto your tinder.

Strikeforce Fire Starter

Flint and Steel

This method has been used since the beginning of recorded history, and like the ferro rod, is a reliable way to start a fire. It’s a little more difficult though, because the sparks produced aren’t anywhere near as hot or plentiful.

Flint and steel

Magnifying Glass

Remember frying ants with a magnifying glass as a kid? Focus that heat on a bundle of tinder and you’ll have a fire in no time. The upside is that you can find these lenses in common equipment like binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras—even your eye glasses. The downside is that you can only use this method during the daytime.

Magnifying glass

Bow Drill

The bow drill is a great primitive fire starting method because all you need is a couple of sticks and a piece of cord. Tie your cord to both ends of the bow and loop it around the drill twice, then a sawing motion will cause it to rotate rapidly between the base and hand piece and create a small, hot ember that you can drop in your tinder.

Battery and Foil

It should be pretty easy to find at least a single AA battery, whether in your own gear or in an abandoned building, and along with a piece of aluminum foil (or a foil-backed gum wrapper) you can quickly and easily start a fire. This method uses the resistance of electrons traveling through the foil to produce heat, which in turn, ignites your tinder.

Water Bottle

This method is similar to starting a fire with a magnifying glass, in fact, the curves focus light in exactly the same way as it passes through the bottle. Just like with women, bigger curves are better. You can use a colored bottle, but you’ll get better results with a clear bottle.

Brake Fluid and Chlorine

Only use this method in a wide open space because the flame produced will vary depending on the concentration of the chemicals. Brake fluid (polyethylene glycol) can be found in your vehicle or garage, while chlorine (pool shock, also known as calcium hypochlorite) can be found with pool supplies. Mix them together and in about 2 minutes, you’ll have a powerful flame.

Chlorine and break fluid

Soda Can

The unfortunate fact that soda and beer cans litter our wilderness could save your life in a survival situation. First you’ll need to polish the concave bottom. You can use chocolate, toothpaste, or even clay as a polishing compound, and then aim the bottom at the sun, focusing the concentrated rays onto a piece of char cloth or other tinder.

Fire plow

This fire starting technique uses friction, but it’s probably one of the more difficult way to start a fire. You form a groove or notch in your base piece and plow another piece of wood back and forth in that groove until you produce an ember.

Battery and Steel Wool

The resistance of electrons moving through the fine fibers of steel wool causes them to heat to the point of ignition. All you need to do is stretch a bundle of steel wool to bridge the positive and negative poles of a battery. It needs to be stretched thin enough to provide enough resistance but thick enough to produce enough heat to ignite your tinder.

Steel wool

Do you have a favorite fire-starting technique that’s not listed here? Let us know in the comments below!

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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3 Comments

  • Matthew Kos says:

    You forgot one. BIC lighter. They are cheap, you carry one your pocket one your back pack. If they get wet you blow on it tell dry or keep in a water tight bag or zip lock bag. All the tricks you show are cool and good to know them but you shave a lot of hassle and just buy five pack of Bic’s.

  • GDP says:

    will any chlorine work with the brake fluid

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