How to light a fire in the wilderness? (various methods)

How to light a fire in the wilderness

Fire has been a crucial part of human survival since the dawn of time. It has been used to keep warm, cook food, ward off predators, and provide light. While we may have modern ways of achieving these things now, knowing how to light a fire is still an essential skill to have, whether for survival or recreation. In this article, we will explore some different methods of lighting a fire.

Matches and Lighters

This is the most common method of lighting a fire. Matches are cheap, easy to carry, and readily available. They come in different sizes and types, such as waterproof and windproof matches. Lighters are also a popular choice, and they are easy to use with one hand, making them convenient for lighting a fire in windy conditions.
I don’t need to write here how to light a fire. 🙂

Firestarter Sticks

Firestarter sticks are specially designed to ignite quickly and easily. They are made from wax and wood chips, making them a reliable and efficient option. They are small and lightweight, making them perfect for backpacking and camping trips.

Gather your materials:
You will need firestarter sticks, dry kindling, and larger logs or branches.

Prepare your fire pit:
Clear an area of any flammable material and build a fire pit or ring using rocks or a metal fire ring. Make sure the area is well-ventilated and away from any flammable objects.

Arrange your kindling:
Place a small amount of dry kindling in the center of the fire pit, leaving enough space for the firestarter sticks to be placed on top.

Light the firestarter stick:
Remove the firestarter stick from its packaging and place it on top of the kindling, positioning it at a slight angle. Light the tip of the stick using a lighter or matches.

Add kindling and logs:
As the firestarter stick begins to burn, add more kindling on top of it, creating a teepee-like structure. Once the kindling is burning well, add larger logs or branches to the fire, gradually increasing the size of the wood.

Monitor the fire:
Keep an eye on the fire to ensure it does not spread beyond the fire pit. Do not leave the fire unattended and make sure it is completely extinguished before leaving.

Using firestarter sticks is an excellent way to start a fire quickly and easily, especially when other materials are damp or wet. They are a reliable and efficient option for starting fires in the wilderness and are a valuable addition to any outdoor gear kit.

Magnifying Glass

Using a magnifying glass to light a fire requires the sun’s rays to focus on a specific spot, causing it to heat up and eventually ignite. This method works best when the sun is directly overhead and the target is dry and combustible. While it may take longer than other methods, it is an excellent option for a survival situation.

To light a fire using a magnifying glass, follow these steps:

Find a sunny spot:
You will need a sunny day with clear skies. Find a spot that is exposed to direct sunlight.

Gather your materials:
Gather dry leaves, twigs, and other flammable materials to use as kindling. Make sure they are as dry as possible.

Position the magnifying glass:
Hold the magnifying glass between the sun and the kindling, so that the sunlight passes through the lens and focuses onto a small spot on the kindling.

Focus the sunlight:
Adjust the angle and position of the magnifying glass until the focused beam of light is as small and concentrated as possible.

Heat up the kindling:
Hold the magnifying glass steady and focused on the kindling. The sunlight will heat up the kindling and eventually ignite it.

Blow on the kindling:
Once the kindling has caught fire, blow on it gently to fan the flames and help it spread to the larger pieces of wood.

It may take some practice to get the right angle and focus with the magnifying glass. Patience is key, as it may take several minutes of concentrated sunlight to ignite the kindling.

Flint and Steel

Flint and steel is an ancient method of starting a fire that involves striking a piece of flint against a piece of steel. The friction produces sparks, which can ignite dry tinder. While this method requires a bit of skill and practice, it is an excellent backup option in case of emergencies.

To use flint and steel to light a fire, follow these steps:

Gather your materials:
Collect dry kindling and tinder, such as small twigs, dry grass, and bark. Make sure they are as dry as possible.

Hold the flint and steel:
Hold the flint in one hand and the steel in the other, with the sharp edge of the steel against the flint.

Strike the steel against the flint:
Hold the steel at a 45-degree angle to the flint and strike it forcefully, scraping it down the flint to create sparks.

Catch the sparks:
Hold the flint and steel over the tinder, and try to catch the sparks on the tinder. You may need to strike the steel several times to get a spark to catch.

Blow on the tinder:
Once you have a spark, blow gently on the tinder to help it catch fire. Add more kindling as needed to keep the fire going.

Build the fire:
Gradually add larger pieces of wood to the fire as it grows stronger.

It may take some practice to get the right technique with flint and steel. Make sure you have a good grip on both the flint and steel, and strike them forcefully to create the sparks. Also, be patient and persistent – it may take several attempts to get the fire started.

Fire Plow

The fire plow method involves rubbing a wooden stick along a wooden board to create friction, which produces an ember that can ignite dry tinder. This method requires a lot of effort and practice, but it is an effective way to start a fire without any tools.

Using a fire plow is a primitive method of starting a fire that requires some physical effort and technique.

Choose the right materials:
You will need a flat board and a stick made of softwood. The board should be dry and free from cracks, and the stick should be straight and about 2 feet long.

Prepare the board:
Carve a groove on the board that is about half an inch wide and a few inches long. Make sure the groove is not too deep, as this will make it harder to create friction.

Prepare the stick:
Sharpen one end of the stick to a point. This will be the part that will create friction on the board.

Position the board:
Place the board on a stable and level surface, with the groove facing upwards. You can use a stone or a log to prop up one end of the board to create an incline.

Position the stick:
Hold the stick vertically with both hands, with the pointed end resting on the groove of the board.

Start plowing:
Begin to move the stick back and forth rapidly along the groove. Apply downward pressure on the stick as you move it. The friction created between the stick and the board will cause tiny wood shavings to accumulate at the end of the groove.

Build up the ember:
Keep plowing the stick until you see smoke rising from the wood shavings. Continue plowing until the wood shavings start to smolder and turn into an ember.

Transfer the ember:
Carefully transfer the ember to a tinder bundle made of dry, flammable materials such as dry grass, leaves, or bark. Blow gently on the tinder bundle to help the ember catch fire.

Build up the fire:
Once the tinder bundle catches fire, add small twigs and sticks gradually to build up the fire. Keep blowing gently on the fire to help it grow.

Using a fire plow requires practice and patience. It may take several attempts before you can create a sustainable ember.

Bow Drill

The bow drill method is similar to the fire plow, but instead of rubbing a stick on a board, it involves using a bow to spin a wooden spindle against a wooden board. The friction creates an ember that can ignite dry tinder. This method requires a lot of practice and patience, but it is an effective way to start a fire without any tools.

Here are the basic steps to follow:

Materials needed:

  • A wooden spindle (straight and dry),
  • A wooden board (dry and flat)
  • A bow (a flexible branch, about the length of your arm and string)
  • A handhold (a small piece of wood that fits comfortably in your hand, with a small depression carved into one end)


  • Create a small depression in the center of the wooden board with a knife or stone. This will hold the tip of the spindle as you spin it.
  • Place the board on a flat surface and hold it steady with your foot or by putting a rock on either side.
  • Place the handhold on top of the spindle and press down, keeping it steady with one hand. Hold the other end of the spindle with your other hand.
  • Start sawing the bow back and forth to rotate the spindle rapidly. The bow should be pressed against the spindle to create friction, but not too tightly as this will slow down the rotation.
  • Keep spinning the spindle until it begins to smoke, then increase the pressure on the handhold to create more friction.
  • Once you see an ember forming, gently blow on it to make it grow into a flame.


  • Make sure the wood is dry, as wet wood will not create enough friction to start a fire.
  • Use a soft wood for the spindle, such as willow, cottonwood or aspen, and a harder wood for the board, such as cedar or oak.
  • Don’t give up too soon! It can take a bit of time and effort to get the ember to form, but once you have it, you’re on your way to starting a fire.

In conclusion, there are many ways to light a fire, and it is essential to know multiple methods in case one fails. Whether you are camping, hiking, or in a survival situation, having the ability to start a fire can be a valuable skill. Remember to always follow proper safety precautions when starting a fire and check local regulations and fire restrictions before lighting a fire.

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