If there’s one thing that’s essential to the atmosphere of camping, it’s a good, sustainable campfire. It keeps you warm, wards off nasty bugs, and cooks your food. If you want to kindle the flames but don’t have a fire-starting kit, don’t fret. Even if you don’t have the conventional lighter or match, there are several ways to have your fire blazing by nightfall without using the dreaded stick-twisting friction method.
1: Start a Fire with Flint
The very beginning of most fires is a good spark. If you find yourself in need of a fire, but don’t have a lighter or a match, flint is a great way to make a consistent spark. Of course, you’ll need some flammable material to ignite with the spark. For this you can use crumpled paper, dried leaves, pine needles, or even ripped sections of clothing if the need is dire.
Flint is so reliable that early flintlock firearms had it incorporated into their firing mechanism. Once the flint was struck against the steel, the resulting spark would ignite the gunpowder. These days, we use a man-made material called ferrocerium that we call flint, but the principle remains the same. Strike your piece of flint against any hard or sharp edge to create that igniting spark. Do that over some kindling, and you’ve got yourself a fire.
2: Start a Fire by Harnessing the Sun
Everyone remembers at least considering roasting small bugs on the sidewalk with a magnifying glass. I’ve zapped a few on my many camping trips and have always been blown away with how powerful this burning method was.
To start a fire with magnified light, you will need an incredibly powerful light source. So if the sun isn’t out, you’ll want to wait or use a different method. The good news is that a lens of some medium-prescription glasses should be enough to start your fire if you don’t have access to a magnifying glass.
Simply place your lens between your flammable material and the sun then angle the focused light beam until it rests on your kindling. If the sun is strong and your angle just right, you should start seeing those leaves or paper wads smoking in no time.
3: Start a Fire with Steel Wool
While the idea of setting steel on fire may seem a little ridiculous, using steel wool to warm your campsite is remarkably reliable. Made of thinly sliced hairs of steel, the wool is coated in an oil that is highly flammable due to the heat-producing process of cutting the hairs.
Because of this, steel wool can be used as kindling; but because it is metal, it can also be used to create a spark. To do this you will want to pass an electrical current through the wool, which can be done by pressing the wool against both ends of a regular battery or the positive and negative ports of a nine volt battery. This can also be done by removing the bulb on a powerful flashlight and connecting both wires to the steel wool, but since that requires the flashlight to be turned on you’re better off just using the batteries themselves.
If all else fails, you can always spin a stick on a hard surface and use the heat created by the friction to ignite your kindling. Remember to practice safe fire handling techniques and roast some marshmallows!