How to Start a Fire in the Wild: 7 Reliable Techniques

how to start a fire in the wild

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How to Start a Fire in the Wild: 7 Reliable Techniques

In this article, I will show you how to start a fire with 7 of my favorite techniques.

There is a primary connection between humans and fire. Everyone should know how to start a fire. Everyone should also know how to launch one without matches or lighter as well. It’s a critical survival skill.

You never know when you’re going to find yourself in a position where you’re going to need a fire, and you do not have any matches or lighters.

Perhaps your single-engine plane is going down as you’re flying across the Wilderness, like the kid in the book Hatchet. Or maybe you’re out hunting, and you’re going to drop your bag with a bear in a tussle.

It doesn’t have to be as dramatic as these situations—even exceptionally windy or damp weather will make matches practically pointless. And whether or not you really need to call upon these powers, it’s just damn nice to know that you can spark a fire wherever and wherever you are. 

In addition, fire preserves, nourish, and warms us. It is used to help drive wild predators at bay and has been used as a weapon for fighting. It is used to prepare food that cannot be consumed raw. And most of all, it will warm us up on the cold days.

Let’s dig in.

Fire Basics

Fire is a chemical reaction that occurs after certain conditions have been met. Fire is born when heat, tinder, and oxygen are fused. It happens because of combustion.

Where there is oxygen, a fire can be created when the form of fuel is heated to the temperature at which it will ignite. Fire can be used for many things, such as developing food, producing pottery, craft art, and the list goes on.

On the other hand, when it’s out of sight, fire is a ferocious enemy. People have always held fire in gratitude for what it gives and what it might take away. Now, before you start a fire, you need to ready your fire field.

Certain precautions must be taken into account before starting a fire. If you want to start a fire in the woods, on a campground, or in your backyard, various steps must be taken for each case.

If you start a fire in the forests, you must select a place that follows those requirements. The region you select should be free from overhead threats such as tree branches. You could also clean up the field with dry leaves or something else that may quickly catch fire.

You should avoid lighting a fire on a road populated by wild animals. If you happen to pick a place where there is a lot of wildlife like moss, deer, mountain lions, and bears, your fire could draw them, and you could put yourself in serious danger.

After securing the area, you have to determine how to start the fire. You can start a fire around a massive rock or build a ring of fire made of stones. Try not using brittle rocks such as sandstone or limestone for your fire pit, as they can combust or burst.

If you start a fire on campgrounds, make sure you start a fire in the permitted areas. If the campground has fire pits, use these pits to fuel your fire.

If you start a fire in your backyard, you could use a stone ring, a protective blanket, or even a fire pit. These strategies are useful in helping you to suppress the flames. After that, you’ll have to collect things to make a tinder batch.

Tinder is any substance that is extremely flammable and can quickly catch fire from sparks or heat. When you start a fire, tinder is your base. Useful types of tinder can be found in nature, made at home, or commercial tinders can be used. Examples of tinder items include:

  • Pine tree needles
  • River Birch – River Birch contains resin (natural oils), which can light up easily and make the fire burn longer.
  • Cattail – A part of the cattail may be bent such that the fibers are released into a small nest. Cattail catches fire easily, so it’s nice to use anytime you want to start a fire quickly.
  • Dry Thistle – Like a cattail, a thistle can very easily catch onto flames.
  • Cedar bark – Crush the cedar bark into smaller pieces to make it light up.
  • Fatwood – This stuff comes from a pine tree stub. Often known as Maya sticks, you should cut the shavings down from these sticks to use as tinder.
  • Dried leaves, straw, thistle, etc.
  • Dry orange peels, potato chips, corn chips, tree bark
  • Dry grass

Techniques to Start a Fire in the Wild

Now let’s get into the techniques to actually build a fire in the wild. Let’s start with the classic hand drill.

1. Start a Fire With the Hand Drill

If you’re curious about how to start a fire, you have to give the hand drill a try. The hand drill technique is a primitive approach, and it is the simplest to perform. Shaft revolution and descending weight are two of the most important requirements for starting a hand drill burn. This method would involve wood, strong hands, and firm determination.

  1. First, build a nest of tinder. The tinder nest is needed to get the fire moving. A tinder nest may be created from materials that essentially burst into fire, such as dried leaves, straw, and bark as covered above.
  2. Now, make your notch. Cut the corner of your fireboard and create a depression near it.
  3. Place the bark under the V-shaped cut. The bark will be used to clear the ember from the erosion between the axle and the fireboard.
  4. Start spinning the stick- each time more rapidly. Place the shaft in the groove of your firewall. Your shaft should be about two feet to work properly. Hold your weight on the fireboard and start rolling the shaft in your hands straight down the axle. Continue to do this before the spark starts on the fireboard.
  5. Start the fire. When you see an ember, tap the fireboard to put the ember on the bark bit. Move the bark to your tinder nest. Slowly blow on it in order to get yourself a flame.

Now here is a video for visuals:

2. Start a Fire With the Fire Plow

Fire plow is another popular approach that uses limited equipment. What you need is softer wood for the plow board and tougher wood for the plow. Willow and poplar are making good plow board materials.

  1. Set up your fireplace and carve a groove about one inch wide and six to eight inches deep. Pick a piece of hardwood about one foot long and shape it to a point at the top.
  2. Start rubbing back and forth. Take the head of your plow and put it on your firewall. Start rubbing the tip of the plow back and forth in the grove. This is going to make little pits of ashes.
  3. Raise the board. Lift the top of the board and put it on your knee to get the dust to the floor.
  4. Intensify the movement. When a small pile of dust has been gathered at the rim, grind the plow rapidly and vigorously in the groove until the dust has smoldered.
  5. Move the blaze back to the tinder. Once the dust is light, pass it to the tinder and blow it softly to start the fire.

Here is the video for visuals:

3. Start a Fire With the Bow Drill

The bow drill technique is definitely the safest contact-based tool to use because it is less challenging to keep up the pace and weight needed to produce friction that can spark a fire.

However, almost all of the materials are needed. The elements that you will require for this process are:

  • Fireboard – A flat, timber board about a foot long and at the minimum six inches thick.
  • Socket – A medium flat stone with a depression on one side. This is used to place weight mostly on top of the drill when you move it around with your bow.
  • Drill – What do we mean by drill? We’re speaking about a solid hardwood stick between one and two inches in diameter and one foot in length.
  • Bow – Solid and versatile green sticks about two feet long and one inch in diameter.
  • Cordage – If you don’t have a convenient paracord, hiking boot laces make for perfect cordage.

Once you’ve obtained your supplies, follow these guidelines to start a fire.

  1. Make your bow: Your bow should be about three feet long. Bend the bow so that it forms a half-moon and tie it to the cordage.
  2. Set up the fireboard. Split the shallow depression on the middle edge of the firewall. At the bottom of the board, there is a V-shaped cut that meets the depression at the end.
  3. String the drill up. Circle the bowstring around the drill. Position the drill on the fireboard, then add some pressure to the other side of the drill with the socket.
  4. Start rubbing back and forth. Use the bow to pass the drill by making a sawing gesture. The drill can spin easily. Continue to saw until you make the ember.
  5. Start a flame. Place the ember in the nest and blow it gently to get yourself a fire.

Here is the visual tutorial:

4. Start a Fire With Stone and Metal

Here’s how to start a fire with no matches, lighters, or sticks! Using a flint is a common standby and is perhaps one of the most solid and easy ways to ignite an open-air fire.

You may also see people using this to start a fire on a regular campground. It’s usually a good thing to take steel and flint on an overnight trip with you. It is used by numerous military forces all over the world.

  1. Build a nest of tinder. This nest is going to be used to capture the spark you create with the silt and the steel.
  2. Grab the starters. Grip the metal with one hand as you take the striker in the other.
  3. Strike it. Place the steel fire against the foundation to prevent it from moving. Push the striker down the length of the fire steel at that stage in one smooth step.
  4. Start the fire! Position the ember in the nest and blow on it gently to get yourself a fire.
Here is a slightly different tutorial:

5. Start a Fire With Ice

Ice from fire isn’t just a stupid cliché used for high school prom scenes. You can literally make a piece of ice into the fire.

What you need to do is turn the ice into a lens form and then use it like you would when you start a fire on every other lens. This approach can be especially useful for camping in wintertime.

  1. Get pure ice. The ice needs to be more transparent for this to work. If it’s cloudy or has other impurities, it won’t work. The easiest way to get a transparent ice block is to fill a tub, cup, or jar made of foil with clear lake or pond water or melting snow. Let it freeze before the ice is formed. Your block is expected to be around two inches thick for this to work.
  2. Make your lens. Using the knife to make the ice a lens. Note that the form of the lens is wider in the middle and thinner at the corners.
  3. Polish up your lens to clear well. Once you have the rough form of a mirror, finish it by polishing it with your fingertips. The fire from your hands is going to melt the ice enough to give you a comfortable, smooth surface.
  4. Now, start the fire. Angle the ice lens in the direction of the sun, much like every other lens. Focus the light on your tinder batch and observe as you make a fire.
A short tutorial:

6. Start a Fire With Batteries

With this plan, what you need is a few batteries and steel wool or dry tinder.

  1. Stretch out the steel wool or dry tinder. You need it to be about 6 inches long and at least an inch in width.
  2. Rub the battery onto the steel wool or dried tinder. You can use all of the batteries; however, 9-volt batteries are preferred. Rub the steel side of the battery. The wool or tinder should start to catch small embers.
  3. Blow it steadily to become bigger, or if used steel wool, place it into the tinder and then blow it steadily.
This is a tutorial specifically for steel wool, which you should have in your survival kit anyway:

7. Start a Fire With Lenses

All you need to create a fire is some kind of lens to concentrate the sunlight on a particular location. A magnifying glass, eyewear, or binocular lenses all work well. If you apply some water to the lens, the beam can be concentrated to make a fire faster. Angle the lens into the sun to direct the spotlight on as small an area as possible. Place your tinder bundle under this location, and soon you’ll have a burn.

The biggest downside to the lens-based approach is that it only works when you’ve got the light. But whether it’s nighttime or overcast, you’re not going to have much luck.

In addition to the standard lens process, there are also three odd but efficient, lens-based methods for starting a fire.

Here is a tutorial. The same rules should apply to magnifying glasses and binoculars:


Learning how to start a fire in the wild without a lighter or match requires practice. You shouldn’t wait until you’re in an emergency or deadly scenario to practice these fire starting techniques. Keep practicing, and please remember fire safety!

If you liked this article, don’t forget to follow us on social media and share out this article. Have a nice day, and keep learning! Another article you could read that is somewhat related is how to find food in the desert that is safe to eat.

Updated: 1/6/2021

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How to Start a Fire in the Wild: 7 Reliable Techniques

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10 C’s of Survival (What you Need to Know) – Defiel

[…] If you liked this article, you should check out our guide to build a bugout bag, covering everything you need to know about bugout bags. Perhaps you would also like 7 reliable techniques to start a fire. […]

emma g.

Thanks! I loved this article and will try to make fire with ice!

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