How To Start A Campfire Without Matches

fire starting methods

If you are hiking or camping off the beaten track and into the wild, learning how to start a fire without matches is an invaluable skill to learn. If there are problems you may need a fire for warmth, protection or to cook food. You might have lost your matches or they could have got lost. Or you might be shipwrecked or plane wrecked and on a deserted island. And even if you don’t have any plans or inclination to stray that far it is fun learning how to do it, and it might come in handy if there is power cut.

There are a number of different ways you can go about starting a fire. Some of them include a car battery and steel wool however, in this article I am going to concentrate on those methods you are likely to be able to do if you are in the wilderness, as it is unlikely you’ll have a car battery with you, if you are backpacking.

Here are 4 of the most common fire starting methods without matches.

They will all take some practice to become proficient in using them. They also all need tinder to get them started – examples are dry grass, leaves, wood shavings or bark. Once you have lighted the tinder you need to build your campfire as described here.

1.    Flint And Steel

This is a good back up to matches and is one of the easiest ways to get a fire started. This method involves striking a piece of steel against a piece of flint. It is a good idea to have one of the modern flint and steel sets with you when you go camping.

Make a nest of your tinder for the spark you create using the method to light. Next hold the flint piece in your hand just above the tinder nest and scrape the steel striker along it to create the spark to land on the tinder. Gently blow on the tinder to get it going and then built out your fire.

If you don’t have a flint and steel set you can do this by scraping a steel knife along a piece of flint. Flint is a hard and durable rock.

2.    Magnifying Glass

Although it is unlikely you will have a magnifying glass with you, you can use this method by using a piece of curved glass like a lens from a pair of glasses, a camera or binoculars. You may already know how this works from your younger days.

You focus the suns light on to one part of your tinder nest, and hold your hand steady and with a bit of patience the tinder will light. Again gently blow until the tinder is properly alight etc.

3.    The Bow Drill

This method involved creating hint and embers by using friction. You are going to need a hand block, a bow, a spindle, a fireboard, and of course tinder.

For the spindle use a straight branch of dry hardwood about 2 feet long. For the bow you need a bent and bendable branch. To this you tie piece of string on both ends – it can be a shoelace or a guy rope or any other piece of rope or string. The hand block is a block of hardwood or rock with an indent carved into it to accommodate the spindle. The fireboard is a dry piece of hardwood with a notch carved into it for the other end of the spindle.

Method – Loop the bow string around the spindle. Place one end into the notch in the fireboard (on the ground) and the other into the hand block. Press gently down on the hand block to hold the spindle steady and slowly move the bow back and forth to spin the spindle. Gradually increase the speed. As you do this at some point an ember will form and you can then transfer this to your tinder nest and by gently blow it into a flame.

4.    The Fire Plough

This method was successfully used by Tom Hanks in Castaway. You need a spindle, a fireboard with a groove cut in it.. You need very dry conditions for this to work. By applying a steady pressure and move the spindle back and forth along the groove to build up the heat, if you go to slow you won’t be able to achieve the heat required. When the particles of wood created in the groove will become an ember you transfer it to the tinder at the end of the board and start the process of building a fire.

Once you have started your fire you can then celebrate with some great campfire cooking.

When you know how to start a fire without matches you have a great survival skill that you can use when needed, and not go through the tribulations that Tom Hanks went through in Castaway. You can also show others and be admired for being a real outdoors person.

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