I’m going to tell you about four different ways to start a fire without matches, or even the traditional stick-rubbing method, and then I am going to show you a YouTube video that shows you how to build an upside down fire that is more effective than a traditional teepee or criss-cross fire. In the wilderness or in a disaster situation, the more ways you know to start a fire without matches, the higher your chances that you will have a fire when you need one. If you are interested in learning how to build a fire that continues to burn in rain or mud, go here.
CAUTION: Starting a fire using these or any other methods should never be attempted without having safety precautions in place and help nearby.
1. Use your prescription glasses.
More than one of us has fried ants on a sidewalk in the summer using a magnifying glass. This is the same principle. If the day is hot and sunny, you shouldn’t have a problem. Gather your firewood, making sure you have two or three piles of different sized wood to feed the fire with (or to build the one in the video below.) Choose where you are going to have your fire and pile up a goodly amount of tinder–dried pine needles, finely shredded tissue, dried thistle down, very dry moss, etc. Position the glasses so the sun shines through one lens in a pinpoint of light on the tinder. It helps if you can create a little stand for the glasses to rest on in place, because holding them can be tedious. After a time you start to see smoke, and then a little glow. Blow gently at this point and the tinder will burst into flame. Add your wood, slowly, slowly, until it is burning on its own.
Being caught without a lighter that isn’t working is bad, but it’s not the end of the world. Assemble your wood and tinder pile as before and use the lighter to create spark, holding it down close to the tinder, until it catches. Again, blow very gently until a flame occurs, and start adding kindling.
3. Steel wool and a 9-volt battery, baby.
This, I have to admit, is pretty cool. Pull the steel wool out until you have a piece about 6″ long and maybe 3″ wide, and about 1/2″ thick. Have it right beside the tinder pile that you want to ignite, because it burns very briefly. Rub the contacts of the battery along the steel wool until it begins to catch, glow and burn. Transfer quickly to tinder, and blow gently to ignite.
4. I saved the best for last.
Go here to see a Youtube video about starting a fire with potassium permanganate and glycerine.
If you lay out a piece of tissue and put about a teaspoon of potassium permanganate on it, and then pour about a teaspoon of glycerine over it, and then use the tissue to wrap/slightly mix it, in about 30 seconds it will burst into flame. The cold affects it, apparently, so it might not work in the winter, but in the summer it flames on like the Human Torch (not really a Fantastic Four fan but Johnny Storm did have his moments.)
It might be difficult to come by potassium permanganate in Canada; I understand aquarium centers and Home Depot might carry it, and you can get a small bottle of glycerine at any drug store. Both items are highly recommended for disaster and survival kits because of the number of applications they are good for.
5. One final suggestion from Youtube.
Finally, just before you start that fire, you might want to take a look at this:
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