Since ancient times people have revered fire, and for good reason: fire is a source of light, warmth, and heat for cooking. You may not appreciate the importance of knowing alternative ways to start a fire until you are stranded inside of your home or somewhere in the wilderness without a lighter.
Having the right equipment to start a fire and knowing how to start one without it can mean the difference between living and dying of thirst, hypothermia or starvation. You need to stay ahead of the game by keeping fire starters in 4-5 essential places:
- Your home
- Your car
- Your bug-out bag
- Your EDC bag
- Your bunker, cabin, or whatever you bug out spot is
People have been experimenting with fire for a long time now, so there’s no shortage of fire-starting methods or products. If you stock enough, you won’t have to resort to rubbing sticks together. So, what should you get?
- Obviously, you can store a few extra lighters around.
- You can also get weatherproof matches, like these Storm Proof Matches with 3 Strikers.
- Another great option is magnesium fire starters, such as this Magnesium Fire Starter by SE.
I am frequently asked if they work and how, so here’s a brief explanation:
You shave off some magnesium (watch your fingers) and put what’s called a bird’s nest near the magnesium (“bird’s nest” is a pretty common term in fire starting and means a pile of leaves and really small twigs). You then use the striker on your fire starter to transfer a spark to the pile of magnesium shavings and it catches the “bird’s nest” on fire. It may take you a few tries. Once your bird’s nest is burning, throw some more twigs on there to keep it going. Magnesium fire starters do work, but they work best if you have some highly flammable materials with you that can help get the fire going. You can rub petroleum jelly on a few cotton balls and store them in a baggy near your fire starters.
An interesting set of fire starting supplies is a 9 volt battery and fine steel wool. You simply touch the battery to the steel wool and you’ll get a nice spark. Since you likely already have both items in your home, it is a good method to know if you are stranded at your house.
You should also learn how to start a fire using the light from the sun. There are a variety of techniques that can be used to do just that:
- A magnifying glass. You may not necessarily have one, but most compasses do, so you can take it off one of those if you have it. Hold the magnifying glass above your “bird’s nest” and try to find a good angle to focus the energy from the sun.
- Eye glasses. You can try using different angles to direct the energy from the sun.
- 2 liter bottle. Fill a 2 liter bottle with water and place it right in front of your “bird’s nest.” It will essentially serve as a magnifying glass, but will take some time.
If you are caught in rough conditions, such as wind and rain, you need to have a few extras in your bag to get the fire going:
- Petroleum jelly-dipped cotton balls.
- Trioxane fuel bars, like this Military Issue Trioxane Fire Starter Fuel Bar. It works perfectly fine in the rain.
- Fire Steel Strikers, like the Light My Fire Original Swedish FireSteel Army 12,000 Strike Fire Starter.
These are just a few of the fire-starting techniques that I teach my students. There are many other ways to start a fire using the sun and using various chemicals—even an orange—but the most important thing to remember is to have multiple fire starters on hand at all times, so if your primary method fails you’ll have a backup ready to go.
To your survival,