Starting a Fire Without Matches

There is something quite satisfying about being able to survive outdoors without relying on too many modern materials. I don’t know about you, but one of the first things I learned at Boy Scouts was starting a fire without matches.

I still rely on some of these methods today. Not just because I can, but because it’s often more reliable than matches, and it’s a great backup to know how to start a fire if you forget to pack those matches.

In this article I will cover some of the most effective ways you can create a flame with some simple, easy to find materials. Most of which you can pick up off the floor while backpacking. A great way to show off some of those survivalist skills to the rest of the group!

If you need a few campfire cooking tips, take a look at these 6 methods to cook over a fire.

Starting a Fire with Flint, Steel and Char Cloth

Flint is a hard grey rock easily found far and wide across the US. You may want to keep some in your pocket or backpack, you only need a small piece it’s really not going to take up any space.

Steel and cloth are equally as easy to come across. You can buy small travel kits with these three items in, or alternatively you can just as easy make your own kit of these items. In essence you are creating the same spark producing effect of a lighter, just without the gas to ignite the flame. This is where the cloth comes in.

The technique is very simple. Strike the flint against the steel and you will see sparks flying. The metal warms up and creates the energy needed to make the sparks, direct these sparks onto your cloth if you want to have a flame you can position, or just light a stove.  This link gives you an idea of how it’s done.

Starting a Fire with Friction and a Hand Drill

One of the most primitive ways to start a fire is by using friction to create enough heat. This is usually done using something called a ‘hand drill’, which is basically a thin piece of wood being rotated by hand to ‘drill’ into a piece of wood and create heat through the friction.

The immediate drawback to using this technique is that you need dry weather. It’s almost impossible in damp conditions when using items from the floor, unless you carry a kit with you.

The process is fairly simple. Create a small hole in a piece of dry wood, and set up some tinder or bark beneath the hole to catch the flame. Next you need a long spindle, roll it back and forth between your palms.

Start slowly until you get a good rhythm then burst some fast spins. You will see the spindle glowing red as it heats up and the tinder will catch a light. Protect the flame when it’s small, make sure there is plenty of oxygen and extra tinder for the flame to spread.  This video shows you how it’s done.


Useful Tips When Starting a Fire Without Matches

Here are some general tips that are important when making campfires, starting flames, and managing fire;

  1. Think carefully about where you are going to set up a fire. Safety must always be a primary concern, so keep well clear of dry bush, low hanging branches, undergrowth, anything that has even a small chance of catching fire. Fire can spread incredibly fast, it’s never worth the risk.
  2. All your fire lighting equipment must be kept dry. Keep everything in an airtight ziplock bag or a metal box.
  3. Be patient when making manual flames using any of the techniques mentioned above. It can be frustrating trying to get some tinder to light, but if you keep patient and keep trying you will get better at it.
  4. Manage flames in their infancy. Once some tinder has taken light you need to keep a close eye on it for the first few minutes. Make sure there is plenty of oxygen without a breeze being able to blow the flame out.

Conclusion to Starting a Fire Without Matches

Review the two types of fire starting above, without using matches or a lighter.  Follow the tips on starting a fire without matches, then get out and give it a shot.  Try it at home before venturing out into the woods.  Be safe and have fun.



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