Starting a fire is essential to your survival, without a fire you can not keep yourself warm, you can not cook or boil water, and you cant dry out clothes and shoes that are soaked. Having a fire is also a way to boost morale especially after a catastrophic event such as the collapse of civilization. Remember before starting a fire with any of these methods it's important to have all the available materials available. You want your logs, kindling and smaller twigs and paper along the fire so it's easy to grab once your fire starts, you might only have one shot at doing this. You may also need to create something called a "bird's nest", simply put this is a gather of dry grass, leaves, or whatever material you can find that burns very easily and can be bundled together to look like a nest, hence the name .
One way to get a fire going is with a magnifying glass. I recommend using a smaller one as this will take up less space when traveling, and many of the smaller versions come with their own protective cases built in to protect the lens from scratches. To use a magnifying glass to start a fire, first build your bird's nest using dry grass, paper, whatever you can find. Then placing the bird's nest on the ground align your magnifying glass to the sun. The glass will concentrate the sun's rays into a much smaller focal point causing that area to heat up very quickly. Once you see smoke starting gently blow on the bird's nest until you see fire, then start adding you're kindling on top
Steel wool and a battery
One of the easiest ways to start a fire is with a 9 volt battery and steel wooI .''ve used different brands of steel wool such as the SOS pads, but the generic brand I found the best because it does not have the added cleaning agent in it. To do this simply take a piece of steel wool and start opening it up, the goal is to turn it into a bowl like shape. Once this is done fill that bowl with easily burnable material such as dry grass, leaves, paper etc. Now taking the 9 volt battery touch the top end of the battery (The end with the positive and negative ends) to the steel wool. Very quickly the wool will catch on fire, allow a couple seconds for the fire to spread and start to burn the dry kindling before you add more.
Magnesium fire starter
If you're using a magnesium fire starter you do not need to needlessly make a bird's nest, but there are a couple extra things to consider when using one. First find a flat piece of cardboard, bark, or other easily burnable material, this is what you will use to place your filings on, do not just have the filings fall into the dirt because they will get buried in there and become ineffective. Using a saw blade or file not a knife blade (This will quickly dull your knife unless you have no other choice) starts shaving the flat side of the fire starter. Make sure to avoid injury that the saw blade is moving away from your fingers not towards it. Continue this motion until you have a pile of filings a little larger then a quarter (Loonie if you're Canadian), of course you can also go a little bigger if you feel that is not large enough. Remember to keep those filings together, what your essentially doing with them is creating kindling, magnesium burns very hot and fast (About 5000 degrees), and keeping them together will allow them to burn longer.'T strike the flint. The filings will go up very quickly so remember to have your kindling very close by. Once its lit start adding your kindling, do not heap it on top all at once but add a piece at a time allowing the fire to start burning each piece. Throwing everything on all at once is a good way to kill your fire before it has a chance to catch.
Pop Can Or Beer Can
In the post apocalypse world discarded pop or beer cans should be very easy to find. To use this you're going to need a can, something to polish the bottom of the can with, a small piece of flammable material such as paper or cloth, and a roach clip or small object to hold the paper or cloth such as a small twig. First you need to polish the bottom of the can, it's important that it's not scratched as this will act as a mirror to collect the sun's heat. One way to polish it is to use tooth paste and some toilet paper since neither one is abrasive enough to really scratch up the can. After polishing the can for about 45 minutes to an hour you then want to align the can so that the sun's rays are running parallel and will allow it to collect heat. To ensure its parallel you want the shadow of the can to be as small as possible, the smaller the more in line to the suns rays it will be.
Once your can is aligned you want to find the focal point, or where the sun's rays will be most concentrated on the can, you can check this by moving your finger a couple of inches above the can until you find the hottest point. Then take your flammable material (paper, cloth, etc) place it on your twig or small stick and position it at the focal point, remember that you want the twig, roach clip or whatever you decide to use as small as possible to reduce the amount of shadow cast onto the can, obviously the more shadow means the less heat will be collected. If this is done right your flammable object should start to smoke fairly quickly, once it does place it into your bird's nest (which you should have made already) and gently blow until it catches fire.
An important note to remember when using the sun as you're source to start a fire is to always use protective eyewear. The last thing you want to have happen in the post apocalypse is to permanently damage your eyes.
To learn about post apocalypse survival check out my website The Razors Edge a post apocalypse survival guide for additional information and tips to you prepare.