7 Ways to Start Fires without Lighter 

10 minutes read

Picture the following scenario! You’ve just arrived at a remote camping site and have finished pitching the tent. Everything looks great as you slowly settle into what will become your home for the next few weeks.  

You deliberately chose an off-grid camping site in your quest to experience nature’s true magic. The nearest civilization is several miles away, so you’re certain your vacation will go as planned, provided there are no unpleasant surprises.  But just as nightfall beckons and the cold begins to bite, you realize you need to prepare dinner so you can take an early rest in readiness for an eventful day ahead. That’s when it suddenly hits you that you did not pack a lighter.  

If this is your first time camping in the woods, you’re probably wondering if you’ll go without food for the night. Well, you don’t need to fret, as there are numerous ways to start a fire without a lighter or matchbox. This article goes over seven such methods. 

1. Using Household Items 

There are plenty of household items that you can use to start a fire. The good news is that most of these are stuff you’ll naturally bring on an outdoor or camping trip. 

Paper is probably the most common yet usually overlooked household fire-starting item. Pretty much any kind of paper – newspaper, cardboard, toilet paper – can help make a fire. Simply roll the paper into small paper sticks and use them like typical logs. 

You can also make a fire using duct tape. All you need is to crumple the tape into a large ball and then light it up using an open flame. Alternatively, you could create canisters out of duct tape and transport them wherever you go. 

Another popular way on how to make a fire without a lighter is by using chapstick. All it takes is to smear some chapstick onto a burnable material. The idea is to prolong the duration the substance will burn for. 

Other common household fire-starting items include dryer lint, guitar pick, chips, and cotton balls & petroleum jelly. 

2. The Hand Drill Method 

The hand drill method is arguably the most primeval fire-making technique. It was the very method used by early man way before the advent of modern fire-making technologies.  

To make fire using the hand drill method, all you need is wood, your hands, and determination.  


  • Construct a tinder nest using dry grass, leaves, tree bark, or any material known to catch fire easily. 
  • Prepare the fireboard. 
  • Set a bark underneath the notch to trap the ember produced as a result of the friction between the fireboard and spindle. 
  • Select a spindle approximately 2 feet long and set it into the depression. 
  • Maintain considerable pressure on the board and roll the spindle vigorously between your hands in such a way that your hands run quickly down the spindle. 
  • Maintain or increase the pace until embers form on the fireboard. 
  • Once the ember is generated, tap the fireboard to deliver the ember onto a piece of bark and then transfer the bark to the tinder nest.  
  • Blow the glowing ember to start a full-blown fire. 

3. The Flint and Steel Method 

Although not as old as the hand drill method, the flint and steel technique has also been around for centuries.  

This method works best when you remember to pack a good flint and steel set. However, you can still improvise using quartzite and your pocketknife’s steel blade.  


  • Assemble flint, steel, and char cloth. 
  • Grip the flint between your thumb and forefinger and the char cloth between your thumb and flint. 
  • Strike the steel against the rock severally until sparks generated fly off onto the char cloth. 
  • Fold the cloth into a tinder nest and blow it gently into a flame. 

4. The Batteries and Steel Wool Method 

Friction-based methods aren’t the only effective making techniques. We also have other non-friction methods, such as batteries and steel wool.  


  • Stretch out steel wool measuring around 6 inches long and a half inch wide. 
  • Holding the wool in one hand, use the other hand to gently rub the battery against the wool.  
  • Insist on rubbing the side of your batteries with the contacts.  
  • Continue rubbing until the wool starts to glow. 
  • Transfer the glowing wool onto a tinder nest and blow it into a flame. 

Be sure to act fast as ember generated using this method will extinguish quickly. 

5. The Soda Can and Chocolate Bar Method 

What makes this method so effective is that you likely already have the raw materials in your camping site. Besides, it’s an easier and more fun way to make a fire without a lighter.  


  • Open a chocolate bar and use it to rub the bottom of a soda can. You can also substitute chocolate with toothpaste. The idea is to polish the bottom of the can into a smooth shine, creating a parabolic mirror. 
  • Allow direct sunlight to hit and reflect off the polished side of the can and onto a tinder nest. 
  • A fire should start in a few seconds. 

6. The Traditional Lens Method 

This method uses the same concept as the soda can and chocolate bar technique.  


  • Assemble a piece of lens, such as an eyeglass, magnifying glass, or binocular lens. 
  • Add a little water to the lens to intensify the beam. 
  • Point the lens directly towards the sun and focus the reflected beam onto a tinder nest. 
  • A fire should start in Tinder shortly. 

To start a fire quickly, you’ll need to ensure the beam focuses on the smallest area possible.  

Needless to say, this method only works best on sunny days. It’s unideal during the night or on overcast days.  

7. The Ice Method 

Fire from ice? Sounds more like a cliché.  

But unknown to many off-grid campers, ice provides one of the most efficient ways to make fire without a lighter.  


  • Shape ice into a lens using a knife, ensuring the middle section is thicker, and the edges are narrower. 
  • Proceed as you would when making a fire using any of the lens-based methods described above.  

The ice method works best when using clear ice. Avoid cloudy ice or ice that’s laced with impurities, as that prevents it from harnessing the sun’s energy.  

You can make your own clear ice by filling a cup or container made from foil with clear water and allowing it to freeze.  


The above-reviewed methods are all effective at helping create fire without a lighter. Just remember that these techniques still require certain supplies, some of which you’ll need to source ahead of your camping trip. 

Leave a Comment

DISCLOSURE: Some posts may have affiliate links, which means that if you click on the links and make a purchase, we get a commission. Note: That doesn’t affect our recommendations in any way. We are committed to giving you the best.