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Fire Without Matches

Fire is an important commodity when in wilderness areas. It provides warmth, a feeling of safety, with the ability to cook food and boil water. What do you do if your matches are wet or you forgot to pack them? Luckily there are a variety of methods to create fire without a match which include using:

  • Flint and steel
  • Magnesium and flint
  • A magnifying glas
  • Steel wool and a nine volt battery
  • Bullets
  • Friction

With each method it is important to gather a variety of tinder including: dried grass and lichen, shaved birch bark, wood shavings, small twigs and even lint from clothing. Ball this mixture together loosely shaped as a bird’s nest allowing for ample air flow. Remember to have bigger sticks on hand to add-in once the fire starts.

Flint and Steel

Flint and steel is an historic and relatively effective means of fire starting. A spark is created by striking steel across the sharp edge of a flint or quartz rock. The rock effectively shears off tiny flakes of metal. This abrasive action of the flint with the metal tears off flecks of bits of heated metal. Sparks produced by this process are actually globs molten metal. To nurture sparks char cloth has been used for centuries. Char cloth is made from 100% cotton fabric that has been previously charred in the fire and smothered before igniting. After capturing a spark the cloth is transferred to the tinder bundle and blown into a flame.

Today, there are a number of products that mimic the old flint and steel but perform at a higher degree of success- producing a higher concentration of sparks.Look for Strike Force TM Fire Starter or Sparkie TM Fire Starter produced by Ultimate Survival Technologies. Joe’s Sports and Surplus stocks these items.

Magnesium and Flint.

The magnesium and steel kits sold on a key chain are often called "flint & steel", but they are slightly different. The kits comprise of a magnesium block with an embedded steel metal rod for striking sparks. To start, shave off flakes of magnesium from the block. Strike the metal rod and send sparks in to the magnesium. Arrange the flakes into a pile with your tinder, then you strike a steel scraper/ knife across a "flint rod.” Sparks from the metal will ignite the magnesium; magnesium burns very hot and will ignite the tinder. Be careful not to get any burning magnesium on your skin. If tinder is smouldering blow a little air into the mixture.

Magnifying Glass

Using a magnifying glass is quite effective when the Sun is shining. Angle the magnifying glass over the tinder so the shines rays focus on the tinder pile. Once the tinder begins to smoke you can encourage the flame by blowing gently on the tinder from the bottom. Broken glass, bottles, eyeglasses or an ice lens can also work, if their focus point is strong enough.

Steel Wool/Nine Volt Battery

Combining fine steel wool and a 9-volt battery is a quick and easy method of starting a fire. Tear the wool into a loose mass and touch it to both positive and negative poles on the battery by rubbing back and forth in the steel wool. This action will connect the circuit and causes a spark eventually cause the steel wool to glow. Once hot enough, you can place it on the tinder until it catches. Other types of batteries can also be used. Remember that both positive and negative battery poles must be in contact with the steel wool to complete the circuit.


When out hunting bullets can be a handy method of starting a fire. Remove a bullet from its cartridge and pour half the powder on your tinder. Place the half-empty cartridge back in the gun (without the bullet), and fire it at the tinder. Make sure that your tinder ball is at the base of a tree or in an enclosed area because the gunfire will likely blow the tinder away and might put out the same flame it creates.


The old adage of rubbing two stick together can also work to light a fire. This is accomplished by rotating a straight stick (spindle) in groove of a piece of bark or flat wood vigorously. The friction action will eventually cause both piece of wood to get hot, smolders, and create an ember. It is very important to use dry wood that does not contain any sap or liquid. The ember is placed into the nest of tinder to start the fire.

Get all your fire-starting material at Joe’ Sports & Surplus and enjoy.

Strike Force

Strike Force Fire Starter

Sparkie Fire Starter