11 Proven Ways to Start a Fire Without Matches or a Lighter

Even though you should have as many fire starting products in your survival kit as possible, such as lighters, matches, and magnesium flint strikers, the simple reality is that you may find yourself in a survival situation where you don’t have any fire starting materials available.

Let’s take a look at some of the most effective methods to start a fire without matches and lighter. We will use most of the things available to us in the wilderness and also use items which may not first come to your mind when you want to start a fire but can be very useful methods.

Bow Drill Method

The Bow Drill Method is one of the most well known methods for starting a fire without a lighter or matches.  But on the flip side of things, it also arguably requires the most skill and energy.

To complete the bow drill method, you will need a traditional bow, a fireboard with a V-shaped notch cut into it and a spindle that fits into the notch.  You will also need a tinder nest on standby that you will use to catch the spark and turn into a flame.

With your materials gathered, follow these steps:

  1. Begin by wrapping the cord of the bow around the spindle. Fit the spindle into the end of the notch and then apply pressure to the other end of the spindle with a rock.
  1. One hand should now be holding the bow while the other hand applies pressure on the spindle with the rock.
  1. Run the bow in a fast back and forth motion with the spindle rotating very quickly and pressure being exerted onto the fireboard.
  1. Smoke should start to appear on the notch. Gently blow on the smoke and bring it close to your tinder nest for a flame to appear.  Gradually add more fuel and you have a fire.

Hand Drill Method

The hand drill method is similar in concept to the bow drill method, but instead of using a bow to create friction between the spindle and the fireboard, you run the spindle between your hands.

As with the fire drill method, construct a fireboard with a V-shaped notch and a tinder nest for catching the embers.  You will also need a spindle, but it will need to be thinner and longer than the one for the bow drill.

Once you have accumulated your resources, follow these steps:

  1. Set the spindle into the depression in the fireboard next to the notch.
  1. Rotate the spindle quickly between your hands while maintaining pressure on the board.
  1. Repeat this process multiple time until smoke and embers start to appear. Blow on the embers close to kindling to create a flame and get a fire going.

Batteries and Steel Wool Method

If you have any batteries in your flashlight and access to steel wool, now is the time to put them together.  With just these two items, you can get a fire going.

  1. Start by stretching out your steel wool until it’s half a foot long.
  1. Rub the battery terminal across the steel wool.
  1. Soon, the wool will begin to glow and smolder. It will burn up quickly, so transfer it to your kindling as soon as possible and gently blow on it to start a fire.

Batteries and Gum Wrapper Method

With batteries (from your flashlight) and a gum wrapper, specifically a wrapper with an aluminum side; you can start a fire in a similar manner as the previous method.

  1. Take a gum wrapper with an aluminum side and cut it in a hourglass shape so that it is widest at edges and thinnest (approx 50 mm) at the center
  2. Apply an aluminum side of each wrapper onto the positive and negative sides of the battery simultaneously.
  3. Hold the wrappers here for a few minutes, applying moderate pressure to the ends of the batteries.
  4. Smoke will begin to appear on the gum wrappers. Blow on the wrappers to create a small flame and then transfer that flame over to some kindling.

Eye Glasses Method

The glasses you wear every day, or any lenses you have for that matter, can be used to get a fire going as long as you have enough sunlight.

  1. Hold your lens towards the direction of the sun.
  1. Set your tinder pile under the lens, and focus the sunlight onto the tinder.
  1. Hold the lens steadily and patiently under the sun.
  1. Smoke and embers should start to appear on the kindling.
  1. Blow on the smoke and you will have a fire going soon.

Keep in mind that this method only works on bright and sunny days, so it’s not an option at night or in cloudy conditions.

Ice Method

Yes, you really can make fire from ice.  As long as the ice is clear and in the basic shape of a lens, and with enough sunlight, it’s a valuable way to get a fire going in the thick of winter.

For this method to work the ice needs to be as clear as possible.  One of the best ways to ensure that the ice is clear is to grab a container of lake water and then freeze it until ice has formed.

Once you have done so, follow these steps:

  1. Take a knife and carve the ice into the basic shape of a lens; this lens must have a width of less than two inches.
  1. Be sure that you are always holding the ice on the edges, or else it will melt and become useless.
  1. As you would with the eye glasses method, position the ice lens between the sun and the kindling, using the lens to direct the sunlight onto the kindling.
  1. Smoke should start to appear on the kindling that you can blow on to create a fire.

Chocolate and Soda Can Method

If you have an old soda can in your survival kit, never throw it away.  And if you have a chocolate bar as well, think twice about eating it.  These items together can create a fire assuming that you have enough sunlight.

  1. Take your soda can and rub the bottom of it with chocolate until it’s fully polished. Use as much of the chocolate as possible to increase the effectiveness of this method.
  1. Get down on the ground and place your kindling less than an inch away from the end of the can.
  1. Angle the soda can in a way so that the sunlight is reflected onto the kindling.
  1. Wait patiently and with enough sunlight, the tinder should begin to smolder with small embers visible.
  1. Blow onto the embers to create a flame, and then add more fuel to create a full fire.

Chlorine and Brake Fluid Method

If you have chlorine in the form of tablets or a powder, did you know that just by merging that with brake fluid you will be able to get a fire going?

Pool chlorine tends to work better than laundry chlorine for this method.  Be warned that a surprisingly large fire can be created rather quickly with this method, so you would be wise to begin with a small pile of tinder and to be prepared to stand back.

Creating a fire with chlorine and brake fluid is very simple:

  1. Take a container of chlorine and brake fluid each.
  1. Pour a small amount of brake fluid in an open bowl or container.
  1. Drop a little bit of chlorine over the brake fluid.
  1. Wait for a few seconds for the chemical reaction to take place, but a midsized fire should suddenly appear for a few seconds.
  1. After a few seconds, the fire should start to calm down. Proceed to add some tinder and fuel as you see fit in order to maintain the fire at your desired levels.

Air Pressure Method

Practically every type of gas will heat when it is compressed.  The more forceful the compression, the hotter the gas will be to the point that it can even ignite flammable materials

This is actually how many explosive materials work.  But when it comes to starting a fire, the best way to use compressed air to start a fire is to use a fire piston, which can either be bought from a store or built yourself.

A fire piston is comprised of a hollow cylinder around five inches long and a quarter inch in diameter, and a circular rod (the piston) that fits into the cylinder.

The rod will need to have a notch on one end in which to fit kindling, and a handle on the other end to hold it while pressing it into the cylinder.

  1. Prepare a tinder nest and keep it on standby. Also place a little bit of tinder onto the end of the rod.
  1. Insert the rod into the cylinder, and hold onto the cylinder firmly with one of your hands.
  1. Hold onto the handle of the rod, and then rapidly slam it into the cylinder.
  1. Quickly remove the rod from the cylinder, and check to see if there is an ember. If so, gently drop it into the tinder nest and blow on it to create a fire.
  1. If there is no ember, repeat the process until there is.

The explosive reaction of the fire piston will actually have more power than gunpowder does because it is able to compress gas at a harder and faster rate.  If you don’t have any gas with which to compress, it will be impossible to heat up the surrounding areas.

Flashlight Reflector Method

This method is incredibly similar to the eye glasses and ice fire starting methods.  The only difference is that you will be using the reflector that you remove from your flashlight.

This method also works incredibly well with charred cloth.

  1. Position the reflector next to the cloth but also high enough so that it can capture some sunlight and reflect it back to the charred cloth.
  1. In time, smoke and small flames should start to appear.
  1. Once the flames begins to appear on the charred cloth, gently blow onto it and then wrap the non burned cloth around it.
  1. The entire cloth should now catch fire, and you can then transfer it to your fuel.

Spontaneous Chemical Combustion Method

As long as you have glycerin and potassium permanganate crystals on standby, you can use them to get a fire going.  You should ideally already have potassium permanganate in your survival kit because it’s used to disinfect water.

Glycerin is also easy to find and is an ingredient in many syrup medicines.  You should easily be able to find it at most grocery stores.

  1. Set a paper with a small pinch of potassium permanganate crystals on it. Have your tinder pile nearby, but not directly over the permanganate yet.
  1. Next, tip two or three drops of glycerin over the potassium permanganate and stand back. In about two minutes, the permanganate crystals will catch flame.
  1. Immediately transfer your kindling over to the flames and blow on it to create a bigger fire. Keep all other glycerin and permanganate crystals away, or else they can cause an explosion when brought in contact together over the fire.

Remember that you do not have to follow each of these steps rigidly as we set them.  You can use any kind of lens rather than just your glasses for the eyeglass method, for example, and you can also be creative what you choose to use for tinder and kindling.

Any one of these eleven fire starting methods that we will have discussed will enable you to start a fire without the aid of matches or lighter, but only if you do them correctly.  This means you will have to remember the steps and also have some practice under your belt before you apply them in a wilderness survival situation.