How To Start A Campfire Without Matches Or A Lighter

Traditionally, campers and hikers have relied on matches or lighters to get a good blaze going. The downside of using matches and lighters is that they tend to get wet, break or just plain not work. Being able to light a fire without matches or a lighter is an essential survival skill. You never know when you’ll find yourself in a situation where you’ll need a fire. Whether or not you ever need to call upon these skills, it’s just damn cool to know you can start a fire, whenever and wherever you are.

This article will cover a few of the more common methods like the Hand Drill, Fire Plough, Bow Drill, Flint and Steel. When building a fire you must remember that fire must have three elements to work and they are Fuel, Air and Spark. It is always a good idea to carry some fire starting materials along on you camping trip. Sometimes it is difficult to easily locate tinder. Bring your own and save yourself some hassle. Here are a few examples of easily obtained fire starting materials; Dryer Lint, Cotton Balls coated with petroleum jelly, and Wood Shavings soaked in Kerosene. You should store the tender in a clear zipper bag to keep it dry.

The first item you will need is your tender. Tender is the very small and dry item that will catch fire easily. You can use dry grasses, wood shavings, bark, cotton balls or even dryer lint. Pile your tender together about 2 inches high forming a bird’s nest to catch your spark. On top of the tender you will place your kindling. Kindling is about the thickness of your thumb and will burn longer than you’re tender and needs to be a little stronger and thicker. Place the kindling in a teepee formation about 3-6 inches above the tender. The tender will light first by dropping or throwing a spark into the tender nest. Since the fire needs air you should face with the wind to your back. You will need to blow the tender gently encouraging the fire along. After the tender lights the fire it will then will move to the kindling which will give you a longer and stronger burning flame. Sometimes you might need to blow into the kindling to help strengthen the fire. Next you will need to add the fuel. Fuel is your main burning source for your fire. You should use thicker limbs and branches. Place them over the kindling the same way you placed the kindling over the tender in a teepee formation.

The Friction Method

The wood must be bone dry in order to work properly. If you create enough friction between the drill and the fireboard, you can create an ember that can be used to catch your Tender. Cottonwood, Juniper, Aspen, Willow, Cedar, Cypress, and Walnut make the best fire board and spindle sets.

The Hand Drill

The hand drill method is the most primitive, and the most difficult to do. It is not for the faint of heart. Spindle rotation and downward pressure are two of the most important requirements for starting a hand drill fire. All you need is wood, tireless hands, and some gritty determination.

Build a tinder nest. Your tinder nest will be used to create the flame you get from the spark you’re about to create. Make a tinder nest out of anything that catches fire easily, like dry grass, leaves, and bark.

Make your notch. Cut a v-shaped notch into your fire board and make a small depression adjacent to it.

Place bark underneath the notch. The bark will be used to catch an ember from the friction between the spindle and fireboard.

Start spinning. Place the spindle into the depression on your fire board. Your spindle should be about 2 feet long for this to work properly. Maintain pressure on the board and start rolling the spindle between your hands, running them quickly down the spindle. Keep doing this until an ember is formed on the fireboard.

Start a fire! Once you see a glowing ember, tap the fire board to drop you ember onto the piece of bark. Transfer the bark to your nest of tinder. Gently blow on it to start your flame.

Fire Plough

Prepare your fireboard. Cut a groove in the fireboard. This will be your track for the spindle.

Rub! Take the tip of your spindle and place it in the groove of your fireboard. Start rubbing the tip of the spindle up and down the groove.

Start a fire. Have your tinder nest at the end of the fireboard, so that you’ll plow embers into as you’re rubbing. Once you catch one, blow the nest gently and get that fire going.

Bow Drill

The bow drill is probably the most effective friction based method to use because it’s easier to maintain the speed and pressure you need to create enough friction to start a fire. In addition to the spindle and fireboard, you’ll also need a socket and a bow.

Get a socket: The socket is used to put pressure on the other end of the spindle as you’re rotating it with the bow. The socket can be a stone or another piece of wood. If you use another piece of wood, try to find a harder piece than what you’re using for the spindle. Wood with sap and oil are good as it creates a lubricant between the spindle and the socket.

Make your bow: The bow should be about as long as your arm. Use a flexible piece of wood that has a slight curve. The string of the bow can be anything. A shoelace, rope, or strip of rawhide works great. Just find something that won’t break. String up your bow and you’re ready to go.

Prepare the fireboard. Cut a v-shaped notch and create a depression adjacent to it in the fireboard. Underneath the notch, place your tinder.

String up the spindle. Catch the spindle in a loop of the bow string. Place one end of the spindle in the fireboard and apply pressure on the other end with your socket.

Start sawing. Using your bow, start sawing back and forth. You’ve basically created a rudimentary mechanical drill. The spindle should be rotating quickly. Keep sawing until you create an ember.

Start a fire! Drop the ember into the tinder nest and blow on it gently. You got yourself a fire.

Flint and Steel

This is an old standby and is probably one of the most reliable and easy ways to start a camp fire. It’s always a good idea to carry around a good flint and steel set with you on a camping trip. Modern Flint and Steel fire starters can be seen on the popular survival TV show’s like Man vs. Wild and Survivorman. A company from Sweden called Light My Fire Originally developed for the Swedish Department of Defense the Swedish Fire Steel. Its 3,000°C spark makes fire building easy in any weather, at any altitude. Used by a number of armies around the world, Swedish Fire Steel dependability has already made it a favorite of survival experts, hunters, fishermen and campers.

Build a tinder nest. Your tinder nest will be used to create the flame you get from the spark you’re about to create. Make a tinder nest out of anything that catches fire easily, like dry grass, leaves, and bark.

Step 1: Grip Fire Steel in one hand while taking the Striker in the other hand.

Step 2: Position the Fire Steel against your base to keep it from moving. Then push the Striker down the length of the Fire Steel in one fluid motion.

Step 3: Start a fire! Drop the ember into the tinder nest and blow on it gently. You got yourself a fire.

Learning to light a campfire while camping without a lighter or matches takes a lot of practice. You should never wait till you are in an emergency life or death situation to give them a try. We suggest you practice and practice often. We only scratched the surface in this article. In the next article we will discuss other methods like Balloons and Condoms, Fire from Ice, Coke Can and Sand, and Batteries and Steel Wool.