Here’s a situation: You went into an unfamiliar part of the woods and realized you have lost your way. The sun is going down and it’s starting to get cold. You reach into your pocket for anything that could help you start a fire but… nada. No lighter. No matches. What can you possibly do?
You may have not been a boy scout but it’s never too late to learn how to start a fire, which is one of the most crucial elements to wilderness survival and in emergency situations. This ability is also useful when starting a campfire during outdoor activities. Here are the top fire-making methods to get you started.
How to Start a Fire with Sticks
Friction-based fire-making is one of the most popular methods, yet it is perhaps the most difficult to pull off. Learning how to start a fire without a lighter is a must-learn technique lest you get stranded in the woods without any survival pack.
Before anything else, it is important to have all your materials ready before you start making a fire—hunting for materials once you have made a spark will just sabotage your efforts. Also, you need to have a pocket knife for most of these methods.
- The first thing to do is to collect the right kind of dry wood. Cottonwood, aspen, willow, juniper, cypress, pine, and cedar are best for this purpose, but if there is none available, any dry wood you can find will do.
- Gather sticks about 12-15 inches long. Get the smoothest you can find so you don’t injure your hands. These sticks will be your spindle. You will also need a flat piece of wood to become your fireboard. If you can’t find a flat one, select a bigger flat-ish stick that you can comfortably and steadily hold between your feet.
- You will also need tinder to keep the fire going. Dried dandelion fluff, cattail fluff, fine dry grass, and cedar/birch bark shavings make the best tinder. Collect a mass of these and make sure they are dry as well.
- Create a small depression in the fire board using a sharp-edged stone or a pocket knife. Place a stick in the hollow and hold it upright between your palms. Start rotating the stick, pressing it downward into the fire board to create more friction.
- The key to generate enough heat to form an ember is to not pause even when it starts to smoke already. Keep up the rotational friction and pressure until the tip starts glowing. Cup your hands to protect the smoke from the wind, and then gently blow on it. Add tinder to build a bigger fire.
How to Start a Fire in the Rain
So you got lost in the woods with no match or lighter. Your network reception is nonexistent, so you can’t call anyone, and what’s worse, the rain just decided to fall down. Learn how to start a fire with wet wood before any situation calls for it.
Here’s how to do it:
Start collecting wood (but not those floating in water), then look for a shelter or a covered spot where the rain is not directly hitting the ground. If you can find a cave, that’s great. It is essential to have a dry fire-base when making a fire, so if the ground is wet, dig until you find drier soil.
Water usually penetrates only the outer layer of dead wood. If you strip the damp layers of the wood or break it in half, you are likely to find the inside to be dry. Gather the dry sticks and make a fireboard. Shave the dry wood to make tinder. Do the same steps as the first method, making sure you protect the fire pit from the rain and wind.
How to Start a Fire with a BatteryYou may have not thought of bringing a match or a lighter when you headed into the woods, but you most likely brought your cellphone with you. While a cellphone’s mobile reception is often weak in the wilderness and thus is practically useless, you can use its battery to start a fire.
Keep in mind though that using your phone’s battery to create a fire will likely damage it. So you will have to choose carefully between the chance at getting a signal or at building a fire.
You will also need a steel wool to execute this. It should be about 6 inches long and half-inch wide. Start the procedure by taking out your phone’s battery, and then rub its side on the steel wool until the wool starts to spark and burn. Once glowing, blow on it gently and transfer to a tinder nest. Any battery work for this method, but 9v batteries work best.
There is another method for making a fire using a battery but this should only be your last resort as it can be quite dangerous. This will require you to puncture the battery with a sharp object, and doing so can release highly flammable and toxic fumes. This can also cause the battery to kindle and explode.
If this is the only choice you have left, cover your mouth and nose and protect your eyes before starting the procedure. Puncture your battery quickly then place the tinder on top. Step away while the battery is releasing all its fumes.
There are many other methods to make a fire, such as a flint and steel fire, but these basic techniques are a good start. Make sure to learn as many methods as you can. You never know when they can come handy.