What happens when the resource that’s used to actually ignite the fire is not available to use? Yes, that is the question indeed. Without matches at your disposal (or any type of lighter for the purposes of this question), how are you supposed to go about starting a fire?
To be fair, many of you reading this currently may already be aware of a few methods. Or, if nothing else, some of you may have at least an understanding of how you can ignite a flame while using some handy resources out in the wild.
Also, let’s just be real here for a second, how to start a fire without matches is probably going to be relevant if an emergency situation is on your hands. Of course, there may be times when you simply forget to bring matches or a lighter with you while camping or whatever.
No matter the reason, let’s look at five creative methods of starting a fire the old-fashioned way.
Keep This in Mind Beforehand
Okay, so here’s the deal, there are three primary means of starting a fire without the use of matches or lighters. There are many different methods that can then be employed, but most of them will work off of the basis of the following three methods.
And do keep in mind that the average temperature of a campfire is upwards of 900 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, you’ll need a lot of heat to get that fire going.
Sun: If any of you grew up doing boy scouts or girl scouts, you probably already know that the sun can be your best tool when needing to ignite a fire. The key, which will be talked about later, is to concentrate the sun’s energy to generate enough heat to be able to start a fire.
Sparks: If you can use different materials and objects to start sparks, you can then ignite a fire.
Friction: Probably the most common way to start a fire, the act of friction can be enough to get that fire started.
With that now done and out of the way, we can now look at some more specific ways of how to start a fire without matches.
The Hand Drill
We’re not ranking these on difficulty, but the hand drill method may be the most challenging of the five that will be presented here. It’s certainly a classic, though, so we wanted to include it. So, for starters, you’re going to need to pick out wood for the spindle and fireboard.
The spindle is basically the stick that you’ll be spinning to create friction between the fireboard and the spindle itself. As far as the best wood types to use (other than making sure the wood is bone dry), cedar, walnut, cottonwood, aspen, and cypress make excellent spindle and fireboard sets.
Alright, so here’s what you’re going to need to do to pull the hand drill off.
- Make a tinder nest: This is going to be necessary for any method, for the record, as you’ll want a tinder nest to be able to get a fire going. Grab anything that will burn easily such as bark, leaves, and dry grass, and build a nest.
- Make a notch in your fireboard: This part is going to take some actual elbow grease, as you’ll need to cut a V-shaped notch into your fireboard. Additionally, you’ll want to make a small depression adjacent to it.
- Underneath the notch, place some bark in order to catch an ember.
- Start spinning using the spindle: Now, it’s time to really get your hands dirty. Place the spindle into the depression you made earlier on your fireboard. Begin rolling the spindle between your hands and do so quickly down the spindle.
- Do this until you create an ember, and then drop that ember onto the piece of bark that you placed underneath the notch. Then, transfer that to your tinder nest.
Steel Wool and Batteries
So, this one’s much, much easier and also requires a lot less setup and effort. However, you’re going to need to pack the necessary materials with you. Well, in fairness, all you’re going to need is a battery and some steel wool. A 9-volt battery is going to work the best, but you can use any battery.
Before you begin with this method, you’ll want to stretch out the steel wool. Ideally, you want it to be around ½-inch wide and six inches long. With that done, take the battery in one hand and the steel wool in the other hand. With the contacts of the battery against the wool, begin to rub it, and then as soon as you can get the wool to start burning, gently blow on it.
You won’t have a lot of time to waste so ensure you transfer the burning wool into your tinder nest as soon as you can.
Rocks and a Steel Knife or Striker
This method could take some trial and error as you need to find stones that are smooth and ones that have sharp edges. Quartz works very well, but you may not be able to find this type of rock.
Anyway, the trick here is to take a carbon steel knife or striker and strike the sharp edges of the rock at roughly a 30-degree angle.
The attempt is to make sparks, so you’re going to want to hold some tinder on top of the rock to allow the spark to catch the piece of tinder that you’re holding on fire.
We’ve actually written an entire post on how to start a fire with rocks, so if you’re interested in this way of starting a fire, then give it a read!
Using a Traditional Lens
Ah, yes, maybe the coolest method of how to start a fire without matches in the world. The idea here is to use a lens to focus sunlight on a specific spot to create fire. From a magnifying glass to binocular lenses to eyeglasses, virtually any type of lens is going to do.
You might have to play around with this one a little bit but attempt to angle the lens toward the sun to create a small beam in your tinder nest. Of course, this method doesn’t do much good if the sun isn’t out to play.
Using Flint and Steel
Yet another means of using sparks to solve the problem of how to start a fire without matches, this is an oldie but a goodie. You don’t even have to have a steel and flint set with you (though it’s a backpacking essential that you may want to consider).
Using the steel blade of your pocket knife and some quartzite will also work. But you’re also going to need char cloth, though a piece of birch or fungus will do in a pinch. With all this in mind, here’s how this works.
Take the handle of both the char cloth and the rock and ensure the rock is between your forefinger and thumb. You want an edge hanging of about three inches. Then, grasp the char between the rock and your thumb.
Now, you’re ready to strike your steel device against the flint until sparks start to fly. The goal is to get the char cloth to glow and to then transfer it to your tinder nest to start a flame (you may need to blow on it).
Quite honestly, this was just a handful of methods of how to start a fire without matches. There are many more and as we said at the beginning, all you really need is friction, sparks, or the sun.
Sure, bringing matches with you or a lighter is going to be the easier method, but these are nice in a pinch or an emergency. Once you’re done with your campfire, you’ll need to put it out. If you don’t know how to properly do that, here are a few ways that might help.