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This article on firestarters was archived by, and saved 13 times between
August 20, 2013 and March 19, 2015. Do NOT copy. (Linking is okay.)
Discover the many methods to light a fire

Firestarting is an essential skill in emergency preparedness. It's
important to know several fire building methods as you might
not have resources available and you may need to improvise.
Become an expert fire starter and impress your friends camping
by learning a few weird methods. It isn't so difficult. In fact, it's

  • Need some quick tinder? Bring a pencil sharpener to
    shave twigs into tinder! A pencil sharpener certainly is an
    unusual survival tool, but one you should not be without.
    Bear Grylls improved on this classic survival idea, with his
    sharpener tinderbox, pictured left.

Before we get started on the many methods for lighting a fire
without a match), watch the video below from
Sensible Prepper,
who highlights some cool fire starting tricks!

Sensible Prepper. above shows you how to make long burning
matches, how to use a pencil sharpener for tinder and hand
sanitizer to help you light up the night like a prepper!

15+ Ways to Start A Fire Without Matches
Take a look around for cooking oil, suntan oil, lip balm or any
kind of fat or grease to start your fire, below are some ways to
get you started thinking about ways to make a fire without

Firestarter Method #1. BIC Lighter.
Sure, this one's a given, but did you know you can refuel a Bic
lighter with your cooking fuel? This may be useful information in
a pinch. Stock up, they will be highly prized trade item.
According to Mykel Hawke, Captain, U.S Army Special Forces,
star of
Man, Woman, Wild on the Discovery Channel, and author
Hawke's Speical Forces Survival Handbook (the Portable
Guide to Getting out Alive),
"Always carry a lighter" as it's the
easiest way to start a fire.

  • From an anonymous survivor of the Bosnia Civil War. "A
    generator is good, but 1000 Bic lighters are better. A
    generator will attract attention if there's any trouble, but
    1000 lighters are compact, cheap and can always be

Firestarter Method #2: Mirror, magnifying lens or reflective
A signaling mirror has the dual purpose of helping rescuers
locate you and help you make a fire. If you don't have a mirror,
you can improvise with a plastic bottle, a reading glass, or even
a condom if you're a clever prepper.

With a mirror, the incoming parallel rays of the sun are reflected
to a very precise point. A magnifying lens will hold the same
source energy precision. Creativity holds no bounds! Here are
some illuminating ideas on the matter.

  • Aluminum Can + Chocolate bar (improvised mirror).
    Make a mirror on the bottom of your soda or beer can by
    rubbing chocolate with cloth. The chocolate acts as a sort
    of polish. Once you have created a mirror, aim it so the sun
    heats up the tinder and wait. Learn how to start a fire with
    a can and chocolate and totally amaze your friends.

  • Pee + Saran wrap (improvised lens). Improvise Saran
    wrap into a reflective firestarter! Using Saran wrap and
    urine you can make a magnifying glass to catch and direct
    the sunlight. In addition to your urine, you'll need a dark
    piece of paper and saran wrap. Here's how to light a fire
    with your pee. Of course, if you have water and a condom
    that will also work. See the next entry.

    Bonus uses of condoms in your survival kit:

Firestarter Method #3: Magnesium + Flint striker.
A magnesium bar works in any climate. Pictured immediate left
is a magnesium and flint striker, which is a tried and true
method for starting fires even in damp conditions. In a sense,
it's the easiest way to ensure you always have waterproof
matches (and it's a natural choice)!

To use, you strike the flint to send sparks into the magnesium
bar shavings which ignites your tinder. Pictured right is a U.S.
Government issues magnesium fire starter, available from

Firestarter Method #4: Ferrocerium Rod striker.
Ferrocerium, also sometimes called a firesteel, is a man-made
metallic material. Pictured in orange, many preppers confuse a
ferrocerium rod with magnesium and flint.

What's the difference between a ferrocerium rod and a flint?
The two are different. A ferrocerium rod is a totally man-made
metal that gives of sparks when scraped against a rough
surface, while magnesium and flint are both natural materials. A
ferrocerium rod can be made froma  mixture of metals such as
iron, magnesium and mostly of an alloy of rare earth metals
called mischmetal. A mischmetal composition could include
approximately 50% cerium and 25% lanthanum, with small
amounts of neodymium and praseodymium.

Firestarter Method #5: Making Sparks from a Battery.
There are many ways you can start a fire using sparks you can
get from a battery:

  • Steel wool + a 9-volt battery. Crazy cool, you can tap a 9-
    volt battery with steel wool and it ignites. Instant fire.
    This video is from a "Doomsday Prepper" you'll recognize
    (Engineer775). Subscribe to his YouTube Channel and visit
    his Web site at!

Above, Scott Hunt of Practical Preppers, previously consultant
to National Geographic's Doomsday Preppers, shows how to
ignite with steel wool and a battery.

  • Batteries + a gum wrapper. Another way to improvise
    and catch a spark from a battery is with the help of a
    chewing gum wrapper! It is an incredible idea. Watch this
    quick video to see how a gum wrapper and a battery can
    help you light a fire. It's just another strange way to start
    a fire.

Above, Grant Thompson, from TheKingofRandom, succinctly
shows you how to use the sparks from a battery using a gum
wrapper as the conductor.

Firestarter Method #7: Rubbing sticks:
Back to basics, perhaps the least popular of firestarting
methods is by rubbing sticks together. This bushcrafting
essential should not be overlooked. Certainly it's the classic
survivalist way to start a fire without matches.

  • Fire Plow Method. Rubbing sticks together is hard work,
    which is why among the least popular fire starting methods
    is the fire plow method. It;s least preferable method
    because it requires much skill in making strokes long and
    fast and using strong pressure. The inexperienced will also
    find the proper selection of wood a problem. As an example
    of the difficulty and skill level, Mykel Hawke loathes this
    method and brings a lighter with him at all times,
    specifically to avoid the rubbing sticks method!

    To use the fire plow method, you'll need both hard wood
    and soft wood. The method, pictured left, produces its own
    tinder. First you must cut a groove into the softwood. Now
    the work begins, because you must work up and down this
    groove. Not an easy task.

  • Bow Drill and Spindle Method. To make a bow drill (also
    called a hand drill), you'll need cordage, sticks and a fire
    board to create enough friction to spark an ember. It's a
    difficult method that works best in dry climates.

  • Two-Man Friction Drill Method. A variation fo the bow
    drill, two men (or women) can work in tandem to get the
    friction to spark embers.

Firestarting Method #8: Flashlamp reflector.
Did you know a lash light could help you in a survival situation
to start a fire? By placing tinder in the flashlight's center cone
where you'll find the bulb. Cigarette makes excellent tinder for
this method.

Seven ideas for Fuel and Tinder and Fuel

Looking for natural tinder?
Did you know... A bird's nest is a great source of tinder and
kindling for fire building in the wild Tinder is the fluffy, furry and
fuzzy-light material you'll find to burn; while kindling is slightly
larger, such as small branches and twigs.

Here are some other great natural tinder sources:

  1. Cattail seed down
  2. Goldenrod fluff
  3. Milkweed down
  4. Pinecones

Here are more ideas for tinder and fuel...

Tinder idea#1: Vaseline and cotton balls.
A classic tinder made at home is to soak cotton balls in
Vaseline / petroleum jelly. Here's an interesting way to
cotton balls compressed in a straw for your bugout bag, along
with several other survival ideas on how to use a straw. A straw
can store matches for instance, and the bonus is that the straw
itself offers combustible material!
  • Don't want to make this yourself? Buy TinderQuick,
  • Remember that lipbalm contains petroleum jelly
    (Vaseline) and can be a good source of fuel with your

Tinder idea#2: Cotton + wax.
One grade up from the petroleum jelly idea. Melt parowax and
dip flat cotton pads into the wax. Allow to dry and you have a
compact firestarter.

Tinder idea #3 Pinecones + wax.
As mentioned above, pinecones are an excellent source of
natural tinder. Pine sap also will help you get a flame once you
have a spark. A wonderful prepper project is to dip pinecones in
wax. Not only will they look nice by your mantel, but you'll have
an excellent smelling source of tinder with you.

Tinder idea #4: Tampons.
A tampon has several survival uses, including helping you light
a fire. Contained in plastic shell is a combustible material.
Fluffed up, an unused tampon is a good emergency tinder.
Extract the compressed contents and use just a small portion
and save the rest for later. Come on baby, light my fire! The
tube itself has other values to preppers.

Tinder idea #5: Lint in a Toilet Paper Tube.
Frugal preppers have made an art of collecting lint and filling
empty toilet paper tubes with the fluffy tinder. (The artful
portion comes with some brown craft paper and twine to wrap
them like candies.) To use, unwrap and build a tinder nest with
the lint on top of the paper. Light the fire and use the
cardboard paper tube as kindling for your fuel.

Tinder idea #6: Buffalo dung and dried frass
Buffalo dung (and cow dung) is an excellent fuel. Pioneers along
the Oregon Trail lit their fire pits with dried buffalo dung (this
combustible biomass comes thanks to the prairie grass buffalo
consumed). If it's within reach, consider starting a fire with
dried cow dung. As cows are vegetarian, you won't find dung
foul smelling at all. (Its' the meat eaters who produce the

  • Fun fact: Pioneer kids were responsible for collecting
    "Buffalo Chip" (dung) along the Oregon Trail. To help pass
    the time, kids found pleasure in tossing them around like
    Frisbees. The kids in your group can help collect dung for
    your fuel. You'll need to provide them with work gloves and
    garbage bags for collection. Instruct them to scavenge for
    the dried dung or you'll need to add the extra step of
    drying them. Dried dung will crumble when you crack it
    open. Also have kids collect equal parts of dried grass,
    which will act as kindling. To build your fuel source, you'll
    layer the patties with the dried grass in a fire pit. To make
    it easier to light, try smearing a bit of ghee or kerosine on
    the dried grass before lighting.

How to make charcoal and char cloth

How to make waterproof matches
Preppers who want to learn how to make their own waterproof
matches, can do so in two ways:

    1. Magnesium flint "matches": The easiest method to
    make your own waterproof matches is to strike magnesium
    with flint. Of course this method requires that you find
    both magnesium and flint, but you can save yourself the
    hunt, and simply buy a set, pictured above. As a reminder,
    a ferrocerium rod striker or firesteel (pictured in orange at
    the top of the page), is a commercially-made metal and
    can also act as a waterproof match.

    2. Nail Polish Waterproof Matches: Clear nail polish
    effectively will transform ordinary matches into waterproof

    3. Turpentine soaked wood matches: Turpentine will
    transform ordinary matches into waterproof ones. Did you
    know turpentine comes from pine?

  • Here is how to make waterproof matches at home.
    Want a good place to store your home made
    waterproof matches? Store them in a mason jar with a
    sandpaper circle atop the canning lid. This will keep
    your matches water tight and ready when you need

Happy endings...
Learning about
how to build a fire and knowing various
firestarter methods is essential in survival and will ensure a
happily ever after. The happiest preppers have at least two
methods for firestarting as part of their everyday carry.

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