June 29, 2017

8 Easy Ways to Start a Fire

This article was written by Dan Sullivan from Survival Sullivan. Check out Dan’s blog, I think you’ll enjoy it.
8 Easy Ways to Start a Fire

How many ways of starting a fire do you know? No matter how many you answered, I’m sure you can learn a few more after reading this article. You never know when you’re out in the wild, desperately needing a fire and you realize your primary and secondary means of starting a one aren’t working.

Accidents will happen… your bug out bag could fall into a body of water, possibly compromising some of your stuff and, as you’re desperately trying to start a fire using your soaking wet matches, you begin to realize the severity of the situation.

Before we discuss all the different ways to start a fire, it’s worth mentioning you need have tinder readily available to quickly catch those sparks. Bark, dry glass, small sticks, cotton balls and even paper will do the trick. So, without further ado, let’s see all the various ways to start a fire.
Using an Obvious Fire-Starting Device

I’m not going to spend too much time talking about Bic lighters and waterproof matches. You probably have them in your bug-out bag (BOB) or your get home bag (GHB) already. Bic lighters are great but at some point, they will fail you, so be sure to check that they’re working from time to time. You can do this, for instance, right when you’re rotating your food stockpile, for instance.
Using the Bow Drill Method

When I think about starting a fire without matches, the thing that always comes to mind is the bow drill method. The reason it’s so popular is that it’s very effective. Not as good as striking a match, obviously, but works really well when all else fails. Under normal circumstances, it shouldn’t take you more than 5 minutes to get it going.

The most important thing is to have the right wood. You need dry wood and, ideally, you’ll want to make the spindle and the floorboard from the same tree, even from the same log for best results. Here’s a quick list of types of wood that work well with this method: white cedar, willow, alder, and maple. Willow will work best, particularly if you’re new at this.
Using the Hand Drill Method

If you don’t have the time or the right items to use the bow drill method, how about just using your bare hands to rotate the stick? It’s hard work but, with the right wood, tinder and your tireless hands, you will eventually get that spark.
Using a Pocket Knife, a Piece of Flint and Char Cloth

Char cloth ignites with the smallest spark and you can help starting it with your pocket knife and flint.
Using a Lens

There are a wide variety of lens available to help you start a fire. For example, a Fresnel lens is small, cheap, lightweight and fits just about anywhere in your bug-out bag or get home bag. Of course, if you don’t have one, you can use a magnifying glass, binoculars and even your eyeglasses to achieve the same result.

And if you’re really feeling lucky, you can use unconventional items such as a condom filled with water or even an ice cube. These can both focus the sun rays into a single point, raising the temperature and causing whatever tinder you have there to ignite.
Using Batteries

Batteries alone can’t do the job but, with the help of some fine grade steel wool or gum paper, it’s totally possible. You’re gonna need a 9V battery and the really good news is, this will work on all weather conditions… and it is fast. The moment the battery makes contact with the wool, sparks start showing up so make sure you have that tinder ready.
Starting a Fire with Water

First of all, I should say that the water needs to be contained in either a plastic bottle or a lightbulb. You will use them as makeshift magnifying glasses to focus the sun rays on one (or multiple) pieces of paper. If you have paper written in black ink, that’s even better, it’s going to ignite faster.
Mixing Chlorine and Break Fluid

When it comes to using chemical reactions to start a fire, one of the most popular ways is to use chlorine and break fluid. The reaction doesn’t happen instantly, it takes about 20 to 30 seconds and the flame doesn’t last for more than a few seconds. Use small quantities of each and, whatever you do, do NOT get too close during those first 30 seconds when nothing seems to be happening. Also, wearing a face shield mask is even better to decrease your chances of getting injured.
What’s next?

Practicing all the ways to start a fire is very important as you don’t want your first attempt to be during an SHTF situation, when your life is on the line. Make sure you have everything you need and keep trying if it doesn’t work the first time.

Now that you’ve got that fire going… how about learning how to cook? I’ve put together a comprehensive list of outdoor cooking methods, you can check it out right here and… I have a feeling you might like it!

Stay safe,
Dan F. Sullivan
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  1. schieftain says:

    Another one worth mentioning is a magnesium fire-starter block. I found some on ebay, that came with a short piece of hacksaw blade attached on a chain (for scraping off magnesium into a little pile). The block has a steel rod embedded into one edge which you scrape with the saw blade and sends a shower of sparks onto the magnesium pile. The magnesium pile ignites fast, but burns up quickly, so you have to have your small kindling close at hand. I think the mag blocks were 3 for $10 or something like that. I believe the seller was “The Friendly Swede”.

    I have several types of fire-starters on hand, including flint and steel. If you’ve never tried flint and steel, it’s something you really need to practice, and I can’t believe it would be all that practical in an emergency situation unless it was all you had. (You can’t light a candle with flint and steel.) You can go through a lot of char-cloth (which is very fragile), learning how to get a fire going with this method. It also helps to have good English flint (harder, lasts longer)– available on ebay. Save dryer lint in ziplock bags for good initial material to catch fire after you get an ember going on char-cloth. There are some good videos on YouTube on how to do all this, and how to make your own char-cloth from an old sheet.

    Waterproof matches can be made by dipping wood matches in melted wax. We learned to do this in Scouts. Everyone should have a bunch of these on hand. We also learned to take newspaper, cut it into long strips, roll those up and tie them with string, then dip the whole thing in wax to make waterproof fire-starters.

    If you don’t know how to build a basic campfire, you MUST learn this before worrying about what kinds of fire-starters you’re going to keep. Starting a fire in damp or wet conditions can be nearly impossible, so having a dry supply of tinder/kindling/firewood is essential. Learn about different kinds of woods– what burns hot, what burns long, what pops and shoots sparks…

  2. Rev. Dr. Michael E. Harris says:


    Thanks for the information.

  3. How about “brake” fluid?

  4. Jim Moore says:

    A good Fire-piston can come in handy too.
    The most important thing in my opinion is practice ALL of these more than once and become proficient at a few for differing weather condition. Practice, practice, practice!

  5. Carl Rooker says:

    Good basic ideas.

    All if these ideas depend upon dependalbe dry tinder. A lot of people will carry around “jute” string to provide this. In a survival situation one should be looking for and collecting dry tinder. If completely dry tinder can not be found, you can sometimes dry it in a pocket by body heat (provided your cloths are dry).

    Tinder can also be a candle, a candle wick (I carry this in my paracord bracelet, inside of a cord I have taken the guts out of), or cotton/tissue soaked with petroleum jelly (also in said bracelet).

    I always carry a bic lighter (even though I do not smoke), a “nano tech” striker (fero-cerium rod), plus one on that bracelet.

    A magnesum block with a fero-cerium rod attached is one of the easiest and most dependable ways to start a fire.

    The friction methods will start tinder burning, but if you are going to rely on such, practice it at home first.

  6. Carl Rooker says:

    One really easy way to start a fire is to take steel wool, and touch it to both leads from a battery. Ignites quickly, burns differently, but well enough to start tinder.

    • Really? Never knew that. Thanks for the tip.

    • Jim Moore says:

      If you use a 9 volt, make sure you keep the contacts covered (electrical tape) and away from any metal contact. I pack the 9 volt and steel wool in separate bags to be safe. Also, have tender and small kindling ready, steel wool can burn up pretty quick.

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