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Forgot Your Firestarting Tools? Learn How to Start a Fire Without Them

We all know that firestarting is one of the most basic survival skills. In fact, fire building is one of the first skills we learn as budding survivalists. But did you know that you can start a fire even without a fire starter, match, lighter, or even flint?

This Firestarter Will ALWAYS Be Ready to Start a Fire – Even After Being Soaked in  Water!

It’s true: starting a fire without a spark is easier than you might think, as long as you have the right tools and know how to do it. Alec Deacon over at My Family Survival Plan has some tips for starting a fire without a spark. Check out the article below, and be sure to check out his site for more great survival and preparedness tips.

How to Start a Fire Without a Spark

They say you can’t make a fire without a spark, but any true survivalist knows that when the SHTF you have to forget about folklore sayings and push the boundaries to do everything in your power to survive. And you also know that in critical situations, human beings are capable of extreme adaptability.

Though the title may seem counter-intuitive, science backs you up when you’re in the wild and have no lighter or match about you. I’m not going to go into the importance of fire in our lives – all the more in the wild – 1.9 million years of using fire speak for themselves, so here are a few clever methods to light a fire without a spark, which is very possible – if you know how.

Start a Fire with a Magnifying Glass

You probably saw this in cartoons as a method for killing ants, but that doesn’t mean it’s a myth. The magnifying glass doesn’t only amplify sight, but heat as well, when on clear sky. It’s as easy as focusing the sunlight through the lens upon the object you want ignited, such as a piece of paper or straws. You don’t have to carry a magnifying glass in your bug-out bag specifically for this situation, a pair of glasses will work just as well, or, if you have binoculars, you can use one of the lenses. To enhance the effect you can add water on the lens.

1.1 Turning Condoms and Balloons into Magnifying Glasses

If you don’t have any type of lens with you, a balloon or a condom can help you. Simply fill them with water and put them over the material you want to ignite. The trick is to have them inflated as round as possible, and not too big, otherwise refraction will distort the focal point.

1.2 Start a Fire with Ice


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A piece of ice can also act as a magnifying glass, but you need the ice piece to be in certain conditions. Think of an ice cube as the ideal magnifying glass. The good part is that you can shape the ice however you want, and what you want is to model it into the shape of a lens. If it’s not transparent, melt it and model it in your hands until it becomes so.

Start a Fire with Friction

Kinetic energy translates into heat, and the most primal way to obtain heat from kinetic energy is to create friction between two objects. The easiest way is to use wood, as it has adherent surface, making it easy to have friction from it, and it also ignites easily. Things you need:

  1. Stick – about two inches thick and 2-3 feet long; we will call this the spindle;
  2. A notch – worst case scenario you can have one made in the ground, but it’s preferable to have it made into wood as well, or to find a hew log;
  3. Straw

There are several methods to obtain fire with friction and the above materials.

 2.1 Using a hand drill

The hand drill method is probably known to any boy scout, but it does require patience and a certain amount of force to be successful. It’s among the most primitive ways to make a fire and it requires you to roll the spindle back and forth with your palms. If you spin fast and for enough time, the heat created by the friction between the bottom of the spindle and the straws will eventually light them up. You will first be noticing the smell of burnt wood, then you will see smoke coming out of the straws: this means you are on the right track. Do not stop, or you will have to start over.

2.2 Using a belt drill

Everything is identical to the method above, except instead of spinning the spindle with your palms, you simply use a belt: grab the belt with your hands from the ends, and put the spindle against the middle of the belt, with the spindle on the interior (towards you), like reins on a horse. This way you can pull each end of the belt alternately, with better grip and more force, but you need another person to pres upon the spindle and keep in place. Though the belt is the only extra detail, it can make all the difference in the world, especially for someone who doesn’t have that much force.

2.3 Using a bow drill

Similar to the belt method, this also uses a third object in order to create friction, and this method is the easiest. Even a child could make a fire using a bow drill, and bows are also a child’s play to make: just use any flexible stick and tie a string at each end of it. The bow string can be either rope, shoelace, or even a strip of cloth. Maintaining the speed and force is mostly assured by the bow itself. This method also uses a socket of sorts, to maintain pressure from above upon the spindle (in place of the second person). You only need one hand for the bow, so with the second one you maintain the pressure. Any hollow piece of wood can act as a socket, but anything can work, such as an empty baseball or a baseball glove (baseball bat can make a great spindle too, in case you carry one in your bug-out luggage for self-defense), and virtually any hollow item made of plastic or rubber. Wood sap or oil can be used as a great lubricant for the socket.

3. Start a Fire by Turning Soda Cans Into Concave Mirrors

You can start a fire with a concave mirror by reflecting off the sun rays into the area you want to burn. A very effective concave mirror can be made using the bottom of a soda or beer can, which is always concave. Simply apply toothpaste or chocolate all over the bottom (just take a chocolate bar and simply smear it all over). Let it dry, and you will essentially have a mirror, which can be used to redirect the sun’s rays into your notch.

4. Start a Fire with Potassium Permanganate and Glycerin

Potassium Permanganate can be found at any hardware store, as it’s used for many things, from antiseptic to fungus killer. Not many know, however, that in reaction with glycerin, it simply ignites. All you have to do is wrap some permanganate into a napkin or cloth, add a few glycerin drops over it, wrap it all up quickly, and simply wait. In about 30 seconds it will start fumigating, and eventually it will ignite. The chemical reaction requires heat to start, and it will only work at normal room temperature.

Want more tips? Check out these related articles from our website:

How to Start a Fire With a Water Bottle

How to Start a Fire with a 9V Battery

Make a Campfire Last All Night




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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Shannon Sharp Hobbs

    February 2, 2015 at 10:57 AM

    I have 2 of those bracelets with the fire starter and whistle but it didn’t come with instructions. I’d like to know how to use it. When I first received them I didn’t know what it was. Some help here would be greatly appreciated. Shannon

    • Jim

      February 2, 2015 at 5:01 PM

      I too would like to know how the firekable bracelet is supposed to work.
      What’s the deal?
      Thanks.

    • mark barker

      February 3, 2015 at 2:03 PM

      I’m not sure exactly what you have as far as a bracelet,but most fire starters consist of an iron rod to spark against by striking it against a knife.I use flint myself to strike against a ferrous iron rod.First make a very dry “birds nest”,or find an actual birds nest they work wonderful.If you make one make it like,YOU GUESSED IT,a birds nest.Fill the nest with anything that will ignite with a spark,pocket lint works pretty well.Then strike your Ferro rod against your knife or flint,or vice-versa what ever makes you comfortable, making as large of a spark as you can muster.Make sure to ONLY use very dry materials,and prepare material to stoke the fire.Also,if you have it handy alcohol soaked cotton balls work very well.Atleast until you have 10 or15 fires under your belt.You don’t want to make sparks fly for 15 minutes then hunt material to burn only to start over.Personally I think you are better off with a magnesium fire starter that you can scrape highly ignitable magnesium from and with a small pile and a few strikes later VOILA FIRE!Atleast until you get the basics down.Above all…Practice making fires,because practice makes perfect and you don’t want to find yourself in the woods freezing cold in the dark trying to make fire for the very first time!Carry more than one way to start a fire on your personalAnd it’s okay if one of them is a lighter!As far as I know they still work pretty well.I hope this helps

  2. TrpodXL

    February 4, 2015 at 11:39 PM

    @OP; While a good post, some of the methods, while creative, and the knowledge of them is necessary for proper preparation. However, condoms, ice, “plain glasses”, and soda cans are basically bull shit. Yes, I’ve seen Dave, Les, Hawke and Bear all use some version of them. I would rather spend my practice time using methods that have a high probability to start fire. Do I know these “last ditch” methods, yes…does anyone recommend them….NO. First, regular glasses, if you’re not blind don’t do much for you. I do carry some condoms for prepper uses (but one can hope, but at that point I’m don’t care about a condom). I do carry a large magnifying glass…made out of glass. The larger the better and EASIER TO MAKE FIRE. All the friction methods are valid. The chemical methods are awesome…they will get a fire started in the wet and damp. Enough of them and you will have a fire. Trying to sell the ideas of extreme “alternative methods” is kind of disingenuous when trying to make them seem “mainstream”. As much as I appreciate the post the most acceptable “man controlling fire” time frame is the middle paleolithic (700K to 400K ya). The evidence for the lower paleolithic is tenuous and may simply be evidence of being a “caretaker” of natural fire. If around an active volcano, it could certainly be “shepherded” as a resource, but not MADE AS A REGULAR EVENT. But all in all not a bad post. Be Well.

    • arizona

      June 11, 2018 at 9:30 PM

      sorry, but with optics, bigger is not better. the magnification power of any lens is inversely proportional to the diameter of the lens. in layman’s terms, an increase in lens diameter equals lower magnification strength, while a reduction in lens diameter equals higher magnification strength. it all has to do with the curvature of the lens. so the bigger across it is, the less curvature there is and the weaker the lens is. obviously the reverse applies with smaller diameters. in short, you’re better off carrying a 4x5mm or 8x34mm aspheric lens. either one are used for inspection of electronics and will emit a much hotter light beam than any magnifying glass you can get at the shop.

  3. Joseph

    February 6, 2015 at 9:38 AM

    notice …….can not subscribe if in Canada ….?

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