How to start a fire without matches
Hopefully, you'll never be in the position where you won't have any matches or lighters to start a fire with when you're out camping--asking yourself, "How do I start a fire without matches?" However, no matter how cautious you are about taking fire-making instruments with you, it's good to know more than one way to start a fire when you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors. For example, if you're caught in an unexpected thunderstorm, your matches might get wet, despite your best efforts to keep them in a waterproof container. Since anything can happen, be prepared for anything. Here are six ways you can start a fire without a match.
1. ALWAYS CARRY TINDER WITH YOU, REGARDLESS OF HOW YOU START YOUR FIRE. Starting a fire from scratch is difficult enough even with matches. Without matches, it's even harder. To give yourself a head-start on starting a fire, bring a tinder kit with you. A tinder kit should consist of material that is dry and easy to use in the creation of a fire. You can tease apart rope fiber into soft, thin threads; cotton balls soaked in vaseline work especially well; and you can always buy tinder kits. If you're caught without any tinder material on you, or if what you have has gotten wet, look for cedar trees or birch trees. The bark of these trees can be shredded to create some quick tinder. Cattails also work as natural tinder material.
2. START A FIRE WITHOUT MATCHES USING FLINT AND STEEL. One of the easiest match-free ways to start a fire is to use flint and steel. Flint and steel kits can be purchased relatively inexpensively and are easy to start a fire with if you have a tinder kit, especially if your tinder kit includes charcloth. Making a fire with flint and steel has three essential steps: First, you need to create a spark. Second, you need to catch that spark. Third, you need to turn the spark into a flame. To complete the first two steps, take a small bit of charcloth and lay it flat against the flint. Next, strike the flint with the metal striker. You should see sparks immediately if you strike the flint at the right angle. One of these sparks should eventually land on the charcloth, giving it a tiny orange glow. That tiny glow is enough to start a fire with; you should transfer the charcloth to the tinder nest when the glow appears, gently wrapping the charcloth into the tinder nest and then blowing on it. The tinder nest should smoke and produce a flame almost right away. You can feed the flame with small kindling, such as dried grass, pinestraw, or twigs, and then use the more stable flame to light your logs on fire.
3. START A FIRE WITHOUT MATCHES USING A GLASS LENS. Some of us discovered this method quite on accident as children when we melted toys with a magnifying glass or accidentally caught bugs on fire. Hopefully, you won't be using your magnifying glass to torture bugs when you're on your next hiking trip, but if you have an unobstructed view of the sun, you can easily use the magnifying glass method to start a fire. A magnifying glass that rotates in and out of a vinyl case, as opposed to a magnifying glass with a handle, is ideal for traveling with. This method is very simple. Put your tinder nest on the ground or with your kindling, then aim the beam of the sun at the tinder nest until it begins to smoke. When it starts smoking, gently blow on the tinder nest until you produce a flame. Using a magnifying glass to start a fire is easy, but it depends upon having a decent amount of sunlight. Since you can't always depend on the sun being out, it's good to have more methods on-hand than just the magnifying glass.
4. USE AN ALTERNATIVE TO A GLASS LENS. Besides using a glass lens to capture the rays of the sun and produce a fire, you can also use a water-filled balloon or a mirror to achieve the same effect. When using water inside a balloon, try to make the shape into a sphere. The more spherical the container is, the more effective it will be at focusing the rays of the sun. If you don't have a mirror on hand, you can polish the botton of a soda/beer can with toothpaste or chocolate and turn it into a mirror. By the way, if you use this last method, don't eat the chocolate after you've polished your aluminum can with it; the chocolate may contain toxic residue.
5. USE FRICTION. One of the most famous ways to start a fire without a match is also one of the most difficult: using friction. To use this method, make a v-shaped notch in a board or log, and choose a spindle that will create the friction. Rub the spindle between your hands as fast as you can, moving your hands up and down the spindle rapidly. When the board or log begins to smoke, use your tinder nest to catch the glowing spark you've produced. You can also create a bow drill instead. The bow drill is easier than the primitive method described above, but it requires you to make a proper bow first, which is harder.
6. CREATING A FIRE WITHOUT A MATCH WHEN IT'S WET OUTSIDE. What if you're in a worst-case scenario type of situation? Your matches and your lighter have both gotten wet and won't work. You have a tinder kit, along with some flint and steel, but your tinder kit has gotten wet, too. The downpour has also made the forest around you wet, so there is virtually no dry kindling or logs anywhere to be found. Are you stuck at this point? No. If you're resourceful, you can still start a fire. Start by finding some dry tinder. The aforementioned birch or cedar bark works well in this scenario, but you'll have to peel a few layers of bark off to get to the dry bark. As for finding dry wood, look for a standing dead tree. Unlike a dead tree that's lying on the forest floor, a standing dead tree will usually be dry inside. Peel away the rotted, wet, outer section of the tree to get to the dry wood on the inside. You can use this dry wood as your kindling. Once you have a decent blaze going, you can use even damp limbs and twigs in your fire, because the heat of the fire will be strong enough to catch damp wood at that point.