For those of you self-reliant outdoorsman types, the following information on how to make fire without a lighter is probably akin to telling a fisherman how to tie a knot that won’t slip. There are many people however who do not know how make fire without that Bic or Zippo lighter stashed in the kitchen junk drawer. If you are wondering why I didn’t mention that book of matches in the glove box of your car, well, then you are on your way to understanding why the need exists for different methods of making fire in the first place. Before I get into the different methods you can use to make fire let’s discuss why it is so important.
Fire is one of the most important basic necessities to keep your butt alive when the going gets tough. Whether you are lost in the woods during a hike, break your leg during a cross-country ski trip or your jeep breaks down in the middle of nowhere, fire is your main salvation if rescue is not imminent. So let’s first explore why fire is so important to survival.
Hypothermia – This is a drop in core body temperature below 95 degrees. Hypothermia can begin in even moderate temperatures if your clothing cannot be dried. If you are shivering, then mild hypothermia has started. Having a method of making fire to warm yourself and dry your clothing can be the difference between life and death. How well does your Bic or Zippo lighter or book of matches work when wet?
Dehydration – Staying hydrated is easy in our world of bottled water, water treatment systems and portable water filters. But if you find yourself in a situation where those things are gone, you will need to sterilize almost every water source you find to prevent ingestion of parasites and pathogens that can make you more dehydrated. Think dysentery and that last severe case of stomach flu you had!
Starvation – Okay, you may not be faced with starvation if you find yourself in one of those scenarios where you need fire but being able to cook that lizard or snake you caught will definitely help you keep a positive attitude about the situation you are in. Cooked meat is also more easily digestible and arguably, better tasting!
Light – If you find yourself lost in the woods, you are likely to be spending the night out there. Having a warm roaring fire will keep the darkness and potential animals at bay for the night.
Signaling – Nothing catches the attention of rescuers quite like a large shaft of white smoke wafting up through the trees. Green leafy plants will create that thick white smoke. Fire at night can be seen for miles! Unless you are out there “lost” on purpose, you will want to help your rescuers find you quickly.
So, there are 5 very good reasons for wanting to have a reliable method of making fire. Here are 5 ways to make that fire without a lighter
Waterproof matches – There are many places to find waterproof matches. You can get them in boxes with the striker on the sides. My preferred method is to put them in a waterproof match case. You can buy these at Wal-Mart. The tube has a compass on one end and whistle on the other. Three extremely useful tools if you are lost.
Firesteel – this is my personal preferred method. This is a flint steel that produces very hot sparks when struck. Striking this into a good tinder source will almost always produce fire the first time for me. There are many different types out there but I personally prefer the strikeforce fire starter. It has a small compartment that holds wetfire tinder than can be lit when wet. I also keep one cotton ball in that same compartment to use as tinder in dry conditions. I have attached a nice long piece of 550 paracord and hang the strikeforce from my neck when out in the woods. Yes…fire is that important.
Magnesium flint – This is basically the same as the flintsteel method but the difference is that it is a block of magnesium with the flint imbedded on one end. Magnesium burns very hot and will light even when wet. The idea is to shave off some of the magnesium into a pile surrounded by other types of tinder. A spark from the flint will ignite the magnesium and your other gathered tinder and wood.
Magnifying glass – This is not the most reliable method because it depends on the sun. It may not be sunny when you need to make fire or the sun angle may not be good enough however I keep a small fresnel lens in my hiking bag for other reasons and have made fire this way quite quickly.
Steel wool and battery – Most people are not aware of this unique way of making fire. You can get steel wool at any hardware store and probably Wal-Mart although I have not checked there. All you need to do is touch a 9-volt battery to the steel wool and the electricity will superheat the small steel wires of the wool. It is so hot that it will catch any other dry tinder on fire. Blowing into the glowing wool will produce a lot of heat. This is not the most practical method but it does work extremely well.
Fire is one of the most basic elements to help keep you alive in any one of those ways that you could imagine yourself needing it. Keep it handy!