How To Start A Fire: A detailed guide

how to start a fire

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    Camping is one of the many outdoor activities we enjoy and making fire is an important part of it. Knowing how to start a fire is a fundamental skill to surviving in the wilderness as it serves many functions.

 Some of which include keeping you warm, giving you light and keeping  animals away. It is easier to start a fire with a matches but what if you do not have one? What happens then? Well,we will be covering how to start a fire both with matches/lighter and without.

Starting A Fire

Choose A Location

 When starting a fire,location is of importance. You want to choose a place out in the open with no overhead trees or wires. It has to be away from any bush to avert the risk of setting it ablaze. It is preferable to start a fire on bare ground.  So if there are grasses or plants in your chosen site,dig them up. Use rocks to form a circle around where you want to start the fire to serve as boundaries.

Preparing The Materials

 There are few things that are needed to start a fire and they are; tinder, kindling, wood logs and matches or lighter.

Tinder: It is a lightweight flammable material which is used to catch ember to start a fire. You could bring a homemade tinder like  wood shavings or cotton ball immersed in petroleum jelly. Deciding to gather them outdoors means you get to use dried leaves, barks of trees, cattail etc..

Kindling: These are items that light easily under a burning tinder. Such items include twigs,small sticks etc..

Wood logs: It will keep the fire burning and make sure to fetch them before starting a fire. Different kind of woods burn at different rates so keep that in mind while getting them. Make sure the woods are well dried else it would be difficult getting them to catch fire.

Starting The Fire

 Starting a fire can be done a few different ways based on the wood stacking design.

  • The teepee fire: In this case,teepee means cone-like. Start out by making a ball of tinder and putting it in the centre of the fire pit. Then arrange the kindling in the shape of a cone around it.

 Make sure to leave some space where you can light the tinder from. Now stack the woods as a tent or in a cone-like manner over the kindling. Position a lit match under the tinder and let the flame burn upwards. This is a common and easy fire building technique though it burns out fast and crumbles so it requires more attention.

how to start a fire
  • The lean-on fire: This is good for a windy weather where it will be difficult to start a fire. First off,you put a large wood log against the direction of the wind(a big Stone or rock will do if you don’t have a large wood) , this would serve as a windbreak. Place your tinder on the downside of the log and put kindling around it

Usually the kindling is leaned against the log at an angle over the tinder pile. Layer this with larger pieces of kindling and woods for longer lasting fire. To light,reach under the tender pile with a matches or lighter.

how to start a fire
  • The log cabin fire: It is a long lasting fire making it suitable for cold nights. First,place your tinder in the centre of the fire pit. Then surround it with kindling to form a teepee(cone-shaped).

Next,place woods on opposite side of the teepee parallel to each other. Then find smaller wood and lay them over the larger woods in the opposite direction,so as to form a square but with the smaller woods on top the larger ones.

 Continue doing this  process until you form a cabin or pyramid big enough,then you light the tinder.

how to start a fire

Starting A Fire Without Matches

    Things usually do not go as planned. It might happen that you are in the wilderness with no matches or lighter. What happens then? Well,as a survivalist knowing how to make a fire without matches is a very essential skill. These techniques are broken down into four primary ways;

  • Friction
  • Sparks
  • Sun
  • Chemical


This is the most common and difficult way to light a fire without matches. It basically involves rubbing two surfaces together to create ember. Some examples include the hand drill and bow drill method.

Hand drill method: You would need a log or board and a spindle. You start by making a V-shqped notch on the log then make a small groove near it.

 Position a bark under the notch to catch the ember when it’s ready. Put the spindle in the groove and start rolling it between your hands in a quick upwards and downwards motion.

Remember to apply pressure to the board while doing so. Once ember is formed,tap the board to make the ember enter the bark and move it to the tinder pile. Keep blowing till the fire catches on.

how to start a fire

The bow drill method is easier but challenging because you would have to make a proper bow first.


Flint and Steel: This is one of the easiest way to start a fire. Knowing how to use a flint and steel is necessary to a survivalist. Always carry one with you to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

It works by striking the flint against the steel at an angle which leads to scraping off small pieces of the steel. This scraped pieces react with oxygen and produce sparks. You can either do this directly into the tinder pile or make use of a char cloth.

 Once the spark catches on the tinder, start blowing till fire emerges. Always carry a quality flint and steel as part of your survival kit.

how to start a fire

Rocks: It is best to use smooth and hard rocks such as quartz. Use a small one or break a large one into smaller pieces because it needs to fit into your hands and have sharp edges as well.

 You also need to have a knife or striker. A good carbon knife should always be in your kit. Hold some tinder on top the rock and strike it with the knife at an angle towards the tinder.

 Once the tinder catches the spark and begins to smoke, blow till fire comes forth. If you cannot find quartz rock,you can use other similar hard rocks with sharp edges.


This way is all about focusing the rays of the sun towards one point on the tinder. It’s obvious that this can only be used on sunny days. Examples include;

Glass lens: This is a very easy method to use. Though it becomes useless in the dark or where the sun is blocked.

 Simply place your magnifying lens over the tender pile. Wait till it begins to smoke, then you blow it till fire emerges. It is better to use a magnifying glass that can rotate and not the classic one with handle.

how to start a fire

Alternative to glass lens: Some examples are water-filled balloons and mirror.

Ice: It is indeed possible to start a fire with ice. Athough it has to be clean with no impurities and lens-shaped. Fill a cup or bowl with clean water and freeze it. Then use a knife to carve out a lens-shaped ice from it.

 Rub it in between your hands to polish it as the heat in your hands will melt it and give it a smooth surface. Now place the ice lens towards the sun like other lenses and focus it on the tinder pile. This method especially helpful during the winter.

Precautions And Safety Measures

    If you are not careful and monitor the fire, it might end up causing a fire outbreak. Majority of the wildfires are caused by careless conduct towards fire. Some of the precautions to be taken when starting a fire are;

  • Choose a site far from any overhanging tree.
  • Limit your fire pit with rocks or stones.
  • Keep a shovel and bucket of water close.
  • Fire should never be left unattended to.
  • When putting the fire out,use a lot of water them it with your shovel and pour more water. Make sure the fire pit is cold before you leave.


    After all these, I’m sure you now have a good idea how to start a fire even without a matches. Even though it is necessary for you to have a matches or lighter in your survival kit, knowing how to start a fire without matches is also of importance to a survivalist. And never be careless with fire.

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