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How To Start A Fire Without Matches – Graphic © myfamilysurvivalplan.com. Background photo: Pexels (PD)
If you are a prepper, it’s unlikely you’ll ever get caught in a survival situation with no matches or a lighter on hand. These are essential items for any survival kit or bug-out bag and I’m sure you didn’t “forget” to add them to yours. But there’s always the “what if?” that ultimately determines you to go that extra mile and develop new skills, right?
Well, this one is for those preppers who want to make sure their families will not suffer from cold or hunger no matter what happens. Even if your matches get wet or your lighter is broken or whatever other fire source you may have is compromised… you’ll know exactly what to do to light a good, solid fire in any environment.
The first thing you need to know is this: you must have patience. It may last longer than you’ve initially considered, but you need to take your time, follow every step carefully and listen to your intuition. And I’ll bet you your intuition won’t tell you to hurry and sabotage all the work you’ve done up to that point.
The second thing you need to consider is practice. Without practicing the following methods first, it’s highly unlikely to start a fire, even if you have the instructions with you. Just give each method a couple of tries, see which one suits you best and make sure you include the materials needed in your survival bags.
However, there is something you should ALWAYS have with you in a bug-out situation: a tinder ball.
Tinder is basically anything that will light easily. Look for birch bark off a paper birch tree, dead pine branches, pine needles, dry grasses… More or less everything that follows the rule of snap vs. twist: if you try to break it, will it twist or will it snap? If it snaps, it’s perfect for the fire.
A tinder ball is, as you’ve probably figured out already, a ball (football size) made of tinder. It should be tight enough to hold the scraps together, but not too tight, so the oxygen is free to circulate and keep the fire lit.
I recommend you have one of these in your bug-out bag. It’s light and it doesn’t take a lot of room, but it will save you a lot of time when you need to start a fire. Just think of how much time you’d waste wandering around looking for tinder when you could focus on lighting the fire and keeping your family warm and protected.
Ok, now that we’ve got this cleared out, let’s see what methods you can use to light a fire without using matches (or a lighter):
#1: A magnifying glass
This method is only good during daytime, but if the sun is up and bright, you’ve got a good chance of lighting a fire really fast. Here’s what you need to do, step by step:
STEP 1: Put together a “teepee” shape with sticks, leaving enough room for you to later place your burning tinder bundle underneath it. If possible, choose your sticks from a place other than the ground. Ideally, you can find a skinny dead tree or dry, dead grass-like sticks that are still standing, allowing you to easily break them and use it for your tee-pee like shape. Perhaps a good example to consider is the way a tripod looks with its frame being supported by three legs. However, if possible, it’s best to use more than three sticks to make this structure.
STEP 2: Take your tinder bundle and your magnifying glass to your desired area. Place your tinder bundle on the ground and then put your magnifying glass towards it, in an attempt to shine a small beam of light from the sun onto it. Play with the magnifying glass, moving it closer and further away, until you’re able to shine the smallest beam of light (a small circle) onto it. Hold it there for a few seconds and you should begin to see it smoking.
STEP 3: Leave the magnifying glass in the same place for a minute or two, so that you can be sure you are creating an ember. The goal is to create a small, coal-like ember that will smoke on its own whenever you take the magnifying glass away. After it starts smoking on its own, gently blow on it and try to make the ember spread to other parts of the tinder bundle. Your tinder bundle should start smoking a lot if you are blowing on it correctly and giving it the oxygen that it needs to create fire. Eventually, it should start smoking and immediate blow into a fire.
STEP 4: Gently place the tinder bundle that’s on fire into your tee-pee structure so that it can start burning the larger sticks. To help the flame get taller and reach the larger sticks you should keep adding small little grass-like sticks to your fire to allow it to get bigger. Eventually, you will have the fire that you want!
*Remember that safety is always first. You should keep water close by to put out the fire if you need to and you should always try to put a wall around your fire area with either sticks or built up soil.
#2: The Coke Can and Chocolate Bar
I read about this on ArtOfManliness and I found it extremely interesting:
All you need is a coke can and a chocolate bar. And these instructions:
STEP 1: Polish the bottom of the soda can with the chocolate.
Open up your bar of chocolate and start rubbing it on the bottom of the soda can. The chocolate acts as a polish and will make the bottom of the can shine like a mirror. If you don’t have chocolate with you, toothpaste also works.
STEP 2: Make your fire.
After polishing the bottom of your can, what you have is essentially a parabolic mirror. Sunlight will reflect off the bottom of the can, forming a single focal point. It’s kind of like how a mirror telescope works.
Point the bottom of the can towards the sun. You’ll have created a highly focused ray of light aimed directly at your tinder. Place the tinder about an inch from the reflecting light’s focal point. In a few seconds, you should have a flame.
While I can’t think of any time that I would be in the middle of nowhere with a can of Coke and chocolate bar, this method is still pretty cool.
#3: The D-cell battery and gum wrapper method
According to OutdoorLifeSurvival, here’s what you need:
• a D-cell battery
• a paper-lined foil gum wrapper
• dry tinder
STEP 1: Torn or cut the wrapper to create a thin bridge of foil in the center of the battery. The easiest way to do this is to fold the wrapper in half lengthwise, and use scissors to snip out a triangle from it. Let the triangle point come within a 1/16th of an inch of snipping the wrapper in two.
If you do manage to accidentally clip it in two, it can still be used by manipulating the two sides of the wrapper to touch. Your tinder should be positioned at the bridge, to catch a spark or a tiny, short-lived flame.
STEP 2: Connect the gum wrapper to the positive and negative terminals of the D cell and, within 30 seconds, you’ll see an orange glow at the thinnest part of the foil bridge and then the flame itself.
#4: Batteries and Steel Wool
Another good one from ArtOfManliness, although you’d have to take some steel wool with you when you bug-out, which is probably not on your survival items list.
STEP 1: Stretch out the Steel Wool. You want it to be about 6 inches long and a ½ inch wide.
STEP 2: Rub the battery on the steel wool. Hold the steel wool in one hand and the battery in the other. Any battery will do, but 9-volt batteries work best. Rub the side of the battery with the “contacts” on the wool. The wool will begin to glow and burn. Gently blow on it.
STEP 3: Transfer the burning wool to your tinder nest. The wool’s flame will extinguish quickly, so don’t waste any time.
Don’t forget to practice these methods first (in complete safety!) and take the necessary items and instructions with you when you bug-out!
If you know any other efficient and interesting methods of lighting a fire without matches, share them with us in the comments section, please. We’ll appreciate it.
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