4 Easy Ways to Start A Fire Without Matches

March 01, 2022 6 min read

how to start fire without matches

Do you know how to start a fire without matches?

If you ever find yourself in a survival situation, one of the first things you’ll be thinking of is fire.

It provides a means of staying warm, a way of cooking your emergency food supply, or boiling and purifying water.

Fire also provides a bit of comfort in what could be a horrifying situation.

However, you may find that you don’t have matches or a lighter on you, or it may just be so wet that your matches won’t light at all.

What do you do now?

That’s precisely what we are tackling today - building a fire without any matches.


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Fire Without Matches?

vintage matches for firestarting

Before you learn how to start a fire without matches, you should know a little about the history of matches themselves.

Matches were invented by a British pharmacist named John Walker by accident in 1826.

Walker had accidentally scraped a wooden instrument he was using to mix paste made for guns when it caught fire.

After this breakthrough, Walker had begun producing a flammable paste made with autumny sulfide, potassium chlorate, and gum arabic that he dipped cardboard strips coated with sulfur.

Walker named these early matched “friction lights” and sold them to the locals, and they took off quickly.

Because he didn’t patent his invention, it was quickly copied by Samuel Jones of London, who started selling “Lucifers” in 1829.

As time went on, match-making became a common trade across England.

There were hundreds of factories across the country, and matches became an everyday item that everyone had.

Prepare to Build a Fire

prepping for how to start fire without matches

Before beginning your fire-making-endeavors, gather your supplies, and build your “nest” to catch any sparks.

This is the finest, driest, and wispiest material you can find. Look for dead branches close to tree trunks. These can be shaved down into thin sticks and shavings that catch fire well. One of our favorite fire starters are shavings from the dead bottom branches of pine trees. These sticks contain natural resins and oils that burn well and the upper branches generally protect them from rain, leaving them nice and dry.

This fire bed should be able to catch on fire easily so that you can add it to your kindling. When you have to build a fire without matches or a lighter, you need it to start as easily as possible!

Other tools that can help you on your quest to start a fire are char cloth (a piece of cotton fabric that has been pre-burned to help it catch fire easily) or other commercial fire starters. There are variety of products designed to be waterproof and catch fire easily. They all work pretty well, and can be a literal life saver in cold, wet conditions.

These are great for creating your nest and can be also a great way to signal for help.

Starting a Fire with a Ferro Rod and Steel Instead of Matches

starting fire with a ferro rod and steel

This is one of the most popular and reliable methods of fire starting for people who regularly go out into woods without matches is a ferro rod.

This is probably the easiest way to start a fire without matches and can be mastered with a bit of practice.

A ferro rod is a metallic stick made in a bunch of different sizes, from matchstick size up to marker size. These rods are composed of a number of metals and chemicals including cerium, lanthanum and iron, among others. 

To use a ferro rod, you scrap the rod across a metal striker, often a knife. This scraping produces dozens of sparks that burn at up to 3000°F. Simply catch these super hot sparks in your nest and gently blow on it to ignite the fire.

These ferro rods are commonly available, super light, durable and reusable. When combined with a commercial fire starter, they're a reliable way to start a fire without matches that should always be in your pack!

Starting a Fire with a Bow or Hand Drill

You’ve probably seen people rubbing sticks together in the movies to create fire.

Although they make it look easy, actually creating fire with two sticks is a challenging process! While there are certainly people, often indigenous peoples, who can perform this trick reliably using various methods, it's a skill that takes a lot of time to master.

One way to make this more reliable is by using a bow or hand drill. This uses some mechanical advantages to make the stick rubbing work a little better. This method of starting a fire without matches uses friction between a plank of softwood and a spindle of hardwood.

When rubbed together, they will create an ember that can be transferred to your nest.

I’ve watched people try this for hours/days on end and still not be able to make a fire, so practice this one beforehand!

Make sure to start a fire responsibly especially if you are camping or in a forest so that it wont cause any wildfire and it that happens a lot of animals and people living near it will be affected because of the smoke from wildfire. You need to be knowledgeable in terms of wildfire safety.

Starting a Fire with Your Lens

starting a fire with lens

Although this is not really a primitive way of creating a fire, it can be beneficial if you have to start a fire without matches.

If you ever watched the kid down the street burn leaves or toys with a magnifying glass, you’ve seen the start of what could actually be a decent fire.

Using the lens from a magnifying glass, pair of glasses, or even the lens from binoculars, you can concentrate the sunlight going through to create a small beam.

That beam has the potential for starting your nest on fire. Similarly, this can also be done with a baggy filled with water.

Just make sure to twist your water bag as tight as possible, making it as close as possible to a sphere, and use the sun as you would with a lens.

Starting a Fire with Batteries and Steel Wool

battery steel wool

These items are every day, but you don’t necessarily think to use them together unless you’re trying to start a fire without matches.

This method works best with 9-volt batteries, but you can use other batteries as well.

Take a piece of fine steel wool and wisp it out into a 6-inch string. You don’t want to break it apart, making it lose the connection when you use it.

Just gently pull until you’ve got a good length.

Hold one end of the steel wool on your battery’s negative link and gently brush the other along the positive side.

You’ll see sparks and will begin to glow almost immediately.

Transfer to your nest, and voila! Fire!

Take some time now to practice different ways of building a fire.

Not only is it fun, but it could save you during an emergency.

Make it a family activity by getting the kids involved, but remember always to practice safety first.

Have a bucket of water nearby and be smart about where you are building your fire.

Conclusion - How To Start a Fire Without Matches

There you have it, four quick ways on how to start a fire without matches.

  1. Starting a Fire with Flint and Steel instead of Matches 
  2. Starting a Fire with Bow or Hand Drill instead of Matches
  3. Starting a Fire with Lens instead of Matches
  4. Starting a Fire with Batteries and Steel Wool instead of Matches

Any of these methods could help you if you’re ever stuck somewhere trying to start a fire without matches or a lighter.

They also are just fun in general.

Now that you know how to start a fire without matches, it’s time to take your next hike or emergency bug-out to the next level with our Valley Food Storage 72 Hour Emergency Kit.

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  • 2 Breakfast Pouches ( 5 Servings Each)
  • 2 Entree Pouches (5 Servings Each)
  • 1 Pouch of Freeze Dried Fruit

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