Let’s be real: no prepper would be caught dead without a decent firestarter, lighter, or even a set of matches. Of all people, we know how important fire is for survival, so it’s imperative to have a fire starting kit with us. Going without one is just a disaster waiting to happen.
Even so, it’s always great to know how to start a fire without a lighter or other conventional firestarters. On the off chance you lose your trusty fire starting kit, you can still have a decent flame to keep you warm and fed throughout the night.
Here are 7 helpful, albeit unusual, ways to make fire:
How to Start a Fire Without a Lighter
Chocolate Bar and Aluminum Soda Can
Chocolate doesn’t only satisfy your sweet tooth or lift your spirits. Combine it with a soda can, some sunshine, and a healthy amount of tinder, and it’s actually one of the ways to start a fire.
In this video, Howcast shows you how to polish the bottom of a soda can with some chocolate. Once polished to a mirror-like finish, you can use the shiny bottom of the can to reflect sunlight onto some tinder. As soon as the tinder catches fire, feed some kindling into it, and you should have a healthy fire going.
Remember, it might be tempting to eat the chocolate but don’t put it in your mouth after it’s been in contact with the can.
Gum Wrapper and AA Battery
This is one of the weirder ways to start a fire, but it works and it’s pretty easy to do. All you need is a gum wrapper and a AA battery. For this trick to work, the wrapper should be shiny and conductive on one side and fibrous on the other. A gum wrapper made entirely from paper won’t be effective.
Cut the gum wrapper into three sections. Take one section, fold it in half, and cut away a portion at the center. You’ll end up with a shape similar to an hourglass. Place one shiny end of the wrapper on the battery’s positive side and the other on the negative side, and voila—the electricity that flows from one end to another should be enough to set the gum wrapper on fire.
The fire you’re going to create with this trick burns hot and fast, so be cautious and make sure to have some tinder standing by.
Pencil and Jumper Cables
Did you know that a pencil can actually conduct electricity? The graphite in your pencil is a form of carbon and can act as a good conductor. In this video, you can see how the pencil is split in the middle to expose the graphite.
Clamping jumper cables onto the pencil and hooking them up to car batteries can is one way how to start a fire without a lighter. For this trick to work, you need the pointy end of your jumper cable to actually touch the graphite. Electricity travels through the graphite, creating heat which causes the wood and graphite to burst into flames.
Bag of Water
Another way how to start a fire without a lighter is to use a ziplock bag. It can refract a beam of sunlight to create a flame, just like you would with a magnifying glass. Simply fill half the bag with water and twist its ends until it’s nice and tight. Make sure not to twist too much, or your baggie could burst.
Once you’ve done that, use your bag to refract some sunlight over some finely ground tree bark. Wait for your ground tree bark to smoke and transfer it to your tinder bundle. Blow on your tinder and wait for it to catch fire.
If you don’t have a baggie, you can also use a clear water bottle to pull this trick off. Either way, you would need lots of sun to refract the light onto your ground bark.
Cotton and Wood
Friction is one of the oldest ways to start a fire. In this video called the “Fire Roll Method,” we see how friction, a piece of cotton, and some wood ash are used to make a fire.
First, take a cotton ball and unroll it. Next, sprinkle some wood ash onto the unraveled piece of cotton. Use the two pieces of wood to slowly roll the cotton into a thin, cylindrical shape…almost like a cigarette. Once the cotton is rolled up nice and tight, increase the pressure and friction on the wood until the cotton starts to smolder. Place it on your waiting tinder bundle to get a nice, big fire going.
Like any friction fire, this method takes a bit of time and practice (and arm strength, too), so be patient. You might wear your cotton down before you get it to smolder. This is one of the more complicated ways to make fire, so practice frequently if you wanna master it.
What do you get when you expose some steel wool to a 9V battery? Fire.
This fire-starting method is practically a no-brainer. All you have to do is touch the points of the 9V battery to some fluffed-up steel wool, and it should burst into flames. No need for friction or any additional ways to start a fire—just make sure to use extra fine steel wool and have a nice tinder bundle waiting nearby. You can also use other flammable materials like dryer lint to light a fire using this technique.
Don’t throw that dead lighter just yet. Just because it has run out of fuel doesn’t mean you can’t use it to start a fire. Your lighter has a small piece of flint that’s used to create a spark. If you’ve got a spark, you can make a fire. All you have to do is gather the right kind of flammable material to get your fire going.
In this video, Survival Lilly used plastic shavings and some flint dust from the lighter. Once she gathered enough, she created the spark from the lighter, which caught on the shavings. Feeding this with some tinder will have a decent fire going in no time.
The methods featured here all use the same basic ingredients to start a fire: heat, oxygen, and fuel.
The key takeaway is that you can create fire as long as you have all three elements. Don’t be afraid to experiment with any of these ways to make fire. After all, resourcefulness is one survival trait that all preppers should possess. On the off chance that you lose your fire starting kit, you should be equipped with the necessary skills needed to make a fire using whatever resources are at hand.
Know other ways to start a fire without a lighter? Let us know in the comments below!