If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then you know that having a fire is essential to surviving any outdoor excursion. Whether you are working with tools or working with nature, these tips will help you start a fire with or without the proper tools.
Wait for it:
Before you sift through ways to start a fire, you need some basic supplies and to figure out how to set the wood up first.
Getting Started: Gathering Supplies and Making Your Fire Ring
If you’re prepared--or fortunate--you already have the supplies you need on hand and have access to a fire ring. In the event you don’t, you’ve got some prep work to do.
Here’s what you need:
For the fire itself, you’ll need to collect firewood, kindling, and tinder. Anything you put into the fire should be dry and dead as wet/living wood contains too much moisture to burn effectively.
Firewood should be broken or cut into smaller pieces so it can be arranged in one of the methods laid out below.
Kindling can be smaller branches, twigs, and pieces of dead wood. For tinder, stick to dried leaves, moss, lint (if you brought any), paper, etc.
Whatever you’re going to burn, make sure it’s free of moisture and chemicals!
About that fire ring…
Your fire ring or “fire pit” is how you’ll contain the fire, and what you’ll build the fire inside of. This prevents the fire from spreading. If you have one already built, then lucky you. If not, here’s what to do.
Create a circle using large rocks. The sides don’t need to be high, but should be at least 4-5 in. tall. In a pinch you can clear the inner area away to just the dirt; or if you’ve had time to prepare, you can use something like sand, gravel, or anything non-flammable to create a safe base for the fire to set on.
One more thing:
It’s advised to clear the space around the fire, about 2-3 ft. should do the trick. This area should also be free of flammable material.
Once you have the fire ring set up and all your wood, you’re ready to get stacking.
Ways to Stack Your Firewood
Knowing how to build a fire properly is essential to survival. The foundation for any good fire is how the firewood gets stacked.
Some methods are ideal for bonfires or fireplaces only, whereas others, like the log cabin, are great for cooking food over.
Log cabin & Pyramid
You’ve got your supplies and your fire stack--now here are 4 clever ways to start a fire without the luxury of matches, lighters, or other fire-starting products.
1. The “Bow Drill” Method
Required Tools: Socket, bow with cord, baseboard, drill
Using a bow drill is one of the best ways to start a friction-based fire.
You can find the parts you need for this primitive tool in many environments. To start, you’ll want to get a rock or flat piece of wood that is harder than your baseboard. That will be your socket.
You will then apply pressure to the socket as you hold the spindle steady. The bow you are going to use should be about 12 in. long. Anything from a rope to a shoelace, or even a tough vine can work as the cord of your bow.
String up your spindle, and using a sawing motion, move your bow back in fourth. The friction of your spindle against the baseboard will ignite your tinder.
2. The “Hand Drill” Method
Required Tools: Tinder, fireboard, and spindle
Every primitive expert who has tried the hand drill will tell you it is one of the most difficult methods to use.
The hand drill method will work in any dry environment.
You will need to start by building a tinder nest using wood shavings or dry leaves.
Next, create a fireboard that has a V-shaped notch. Create a depression next to the notch and place some bark underneath the notch.
Using the palm of your hands, rub your spindle as quickly as you can. Be sure to have someone hold the fireboard steady for you (you can hold it with your feet if no one is around).
The friction will create an ember on your fireboard. To create the ember, you will want to make sure you apply an ample amount of pressure as you roll the spindle between your hands.
3. The “Flint and Steel” Method
Required Tools: Flint and steel
If you are often exploring the outdoors, then getting in the habit of carrying around flint and steel can be helpful if you need to start a fire in a pinch.
This one is pretty straightforward:
When you strike steel against flint, you can easily get a spark going.
If you find yourself without either material, then you can improvise by using quartzite and a steel pocket knife instead.
Strike it against some birchwoods and you will have a fire in no time.
4. The “Magnifying Lens” Method
Required Tools: Magnifying glass or glasses lens
This next method can be super helpful if you wear glasses or happen to be carrying around a magnifying lens.
Yes, magnifying lenses can be used for more than just burning ants.
To create a fire, you will need to create a bundle of tinder that you will concentrate a beam of sunlight on.
Aim the lens so that the sun’s rays create a concentrated beam on your bundle of tinder. If you add water to the lens, you can magnify and intensify the beam of light.
The contraction of the UV light in the beam will be powerful enough to ignite a fire in your tinder.
While this method is really neat, the only drawback is that it only works while the sun is out.
General Tips for Building a Strong Fire Safely
Now that you know how to build a fire from the ground up, you can confidently take charge of it during your next camping trip or bonfire!