5 Ways to Start a Fire Without Matches

5 Ways to Start a Fire Without Matches

Ways to Start a FireFire is crucial in any survival situation. You will need fire to prevent hypothermia, purify drinking water, destroy harmful bacteria in foods, repel predators and insects, and just to keep up morale. Subsequently, if you do not have several ways to start a fire in your repertoire, your chances of survival will be dramatically reduced.

Typically, a person becomes lost while on a day hike, bicycle tour, camping trip, or their vehicle slides off into a ravine out of site of other motorists.

This article will give you five techniques you can use if you become stranded with only a few to none of your survival items. Matches are not mentioned because it is important that you learn ways to start a fire without matches. If matches, including waterproof ones, were reliable and always available, there would be no need to learn alternative methods, but matches are unreliable and hikers, hunters, nature enthusiast and campers that have relied only on matches for fire starting have suffered as a result.

Most of the items needed for the methods below will fit into any pocket on most backpacks. The items do not have expiration dates so they should be acquired and packed away so no matter what situation, environment or climate you find yourself in, you can start a fire.

Magnesium Bar

A magnesium bar can literally fit on a key chain yet is capable of igniting between 100 and 125 fires. Magnesium in mass or bar form cannot be ignited by conventional means. However, once in particle form it is highly flammable and can be ignited with just a spark. To create particles for igniting, scrape the magnesium bar with a knife or with the scraper that is usually sold with the stick. Make sure the stick is scraped so the particles land on the dried tinder. If your tinder is damp, scrape the stick over a cotton ball dipped in petroleum jelly.

To create a spark take the backside of a fixed bladed knife and apply downward pressure on the embed flint bar. As you apply pressure, push the blade toward the tinder/cotton ball. This generates sparks that will ignite the magnesium. Do use the backside of a folding knife blade because it will close on your fingers.

Petroleum Jelly and Cotton Balls

Petroleum jelly will burn on a cotton ball for up to four minutes allowing you to feed it damp tinder a little at a time to ignite.

Magnifying Glass or Pieces of Glass

Sunlight magnified will ignite dry fluffed up tinder. Rub dry grasses and small bits of wood between your palms to create surface for the flame and oxygen. Focus as small a beam as possible onto the tinder. You will see smoke and then a glowing ember. Once you have an ember gently, blow on it to create flame. You can use pieces of broken headlights, eyeglasses or any piece of glass to ignite tinder. These methods do work but may not always work as described due to weak sunlight, and other considerations. These methods work best when the sun is strong and directly overhead.

Steel Wool And Batteries

It is likely that, if you become lost or stranded, you will have some type of electronic device on you. Small batteries from cameras, cell phones, flashlights and virtually any device along with steel wool can be used to create fire. All it takes is for you to place the steel wool on both battery terminals at the same time. The current will ignite the steel. Have dried tinder close or on the steel wool before shorting across the battery terminals. The wool will burn quick so you must be ready with additional materials.


The friction method is one of the best ways to start a fire without matches and been used for centuries. The method can be labor intensive and may not always work as planned. However, with a little attention to detail and a few items that can be found in virtually any setting you will have a fire. The needed items are a small slightly curved stick (bow), well seasoned with the bark removed. You will need a slender straight stick (spindle/drill) with the bark removed as well as a short length of string/rope and a flat piece of board (fireboard/hearth) for the fire. Additionally, you will need a small piece of stone or wood with a slight depression in it to apply downward pressure on the spindle/drill.

Attach the string to the curved bow with enough slack in it to make a complete turn with the string around the spindle. Once attached you can tighten the string to make sure it will spin the drill. Carve out a notch in the fireboard for the tinder and ember to nest. Have more dry tinder close by; because once you have an ember you will move the fireboard to combine the ember and additional tinder. Spinning will create enough heat to ignite the tinder. You may have to add more bits of tinder to help things along as the board heats up.

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