Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you have no matches or a lighter and need to get a fire going. Maybe you got lost on your hike and need to build one for warmth and cooking. Maybe you just forgot all your fire starting tools at home. No matter what the circumstances, it is possible to get a campfire going without these things. It may be a bit harder and time consuming, but knowing some emergency fire starting techniques can help save your life if you ever find yourself in an emergency situation and need fire.
Prepping for your Fire
Before you can start your fire you need to gather up materials that will get your fire going and keep it going once it’s started. There are three different types of materials you need to make a good fire: tinder, kindling, and fuel wood.
First find your tinder. This part is crucial because it burns quick and hot and is necessary to lighting the larger wood. Things that make great tinder include dry grass/leaves, brush, bark, pine needles, and anything else that’s small and dry. When gathering your tinder, look for things that are about as big around as a string.
Kindling is a little bigger than tinder and it doesn’t burn as fast. This gives you a little more time to get the heat on your fuel wood and get that roaring fire going. Kindling includes small twigs, larger pieces of bark, and split pieces of wood. You want this to be no bigger around than a pencil.
Fuel wood is the larger sticks and logs that make the fire what it is when it’s going. You don’t need huge logs or pieces of wood. If they’re too big they can smother your fire. Think in terms of the size of your arm.
To get the fire going, use a fire starting idea below to ignite the tinder. You want to get it smoking and then get a nice burn.
Once you have your tinder going, slowly add the smallest kindling you have. Once it’s burning you can add more. But be careful! If you add it too quickly, you will end up smothering your fire and having to start over.
Now that you have a small fire going, it’s time to add the fuel wood. Add this the same way you did the tinder. Smallest pieces go on first. Add more slowly to allow each layer to get a decent burn going before adding more.
All but one of the following fire starting methods work by reflecting the sun’s rays. You will want to get the fire going before the sun goes down, or you will be stuck with only the final, and hardest, method we discuss here.
What you need:
- Water bottle (needs to be clear plastic with a rounded top)
- Paper or tinder (When using paper, try to make sure it’s dark. Rub dirt on it if white is all you have.)
- The sun
- Remove the label from the bottle.
- Use the rounded part of the bottle to magnify the sun and focus the rays on your paper/tinder.
- If using paper, once it starts to burn, fold it over slightly to keep the heat contained and away from the wind, but not so much as to smother it.
- Once the paper is folded over, wave it back and forth to fan the flames and get it going.
- Add it to your wood and warm your toes!
Aluminum Can & Chocolate
What you need:
- Pop (or beer) can
- Chocolate bar
- Paper towel or cloth
- Paper or tinder
- Rub the chocolate bar on the bottom of the can to coat it.
- Rub the chocolate off with the paper towel, polishing as you go.
- Repeat steps 1 & 2 until the bottom of the can is as shiny as possible.
You have now created a great surface for reflecting the sun. Using the bottom of the can, reflect the sun onto the paper or tinder to get a flame started.
Plastic Wrap & Water
What you need:
- Bowl or cup
- Plastic wrap
- Line the bowl with plastic wrap with a decent amount overlapping the sides.
- Pour water into the bowl.
- Gather the ends of the plastic wrap and bring together and twist. You have now created a little pouch of water.
To use, simply use the pouch like a magnifying glass to focus the sun. Shine it on paper or tinder and very quickly it should begin smoking. You can use other things to magnify the sun such as a pair of glasses or even a water bottle to get your fire going.
Rubbing Sticks Together
Believe it or not, it is actually possible to get a fire started by rubbing sticks together. It’s not as easy as they make it look on TV and there are some specific rules to follow in order to be successful.
What you need:
- Dry wood
- Needs to be the same kind of wood, preferably from the same branch.
- Gather one large branch, about the size of your arm.
- If there are other branches shooting off this one, break off a smaller one, probably double the size of a pencil. If not, try to find a smaller stick from the same tree.
- Rub out a flat side on the large piece of wood. You can use a rock to do this, but if you have a pocketknife, this would work much better.
- Using a rough rock or your knife, slightly sharpen one end of the smaller stick.
- Using either your knife or the sharpened stick, carve a bit of a groove into the middle of the flat area you created on the large piece of wood.
- Take your smaller piece of wood and hold it at an angle, using one hand for control and one to create pressure.
Do you have a great fire starting technique you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!