How to Make a Fire in the Wild [ Step By Step ]

How to make a fire in the wild

When out in the great outdoors, surrounded by wilderness.…one of the necessities you need is a fire!

A fire is not only essential for survival to warm up, retain heat in your tent, cook food and boil water but it’s also a great companion if you’re out camping alone or it can be a great centre piece where everyone can gather around and share stories.

Now, making a fire in the wild is easier said than done!

It’s even harder trying to maintain it so it burns for longer!

How to make a fire in the wild

(What you’ll need)

So, let’s have a look at some household items you can easily obtain that will help with some of the methods discussed further down.

  • Matches or lighter ( if you have them)
  • Lint or fluff from your tumble dryer
  • Toilet paper roll
  • Battery (AA will do)
  • Steel Wool
  • Magnifying Glass
  • A drinks can
  • Chocolate Bar

So I can hazard a guess your probably baffled as to how some of these household items can make a fire.

Well, stay with me and I’ll explain each method in detail!

Setting out your firepit

Firstly we need to set out a designated firepit so that none of your camping gear is caught on fire or worse that it catches onto your tent whilst your asleep.

  • Find a flat ground
  • Clear the area of any sticks, twigs or leaves
  • Dig a small depression of around 1-2 inches deep
  • Look around for big stones or rocks that you can make a circle with around the hole
  • Set the stones out with a diameter of around 40 inches
  • From the area where you dug, if it’s on land – gather the dirt pile or on a beach – gather the sand and set aside so you can throw over the fire when you need to.

How to make a fire in the wild

(Step by Step Methods)

Now, that we have some of the items we’ll need. Let’s have a look at some of the different but very effective methods of making a fire in the wild.

The Hand Drill

Set up a hand drill when you make a fire in the wild

One of the most primitive methods of making a fire and still used to this very day….why?

Because it works!

This friction based method is one of the most difficult and time-consuming ways of making a fire but what it essentially comes down to is the wood that you are using for your spindle and fire board.

The spindle is a long stick, about arms length, that you’ll use to create friction between the tip of the spindle and the surface of the fire board.

This then creates an ember that can then be transferred onto tinder to create the flames.

Try looking out for Juniper, Aspen, Cedar – these are the best for friction based methods due to their strength and can be more easily ignited.

Step 1)

With the chosen stick (drill) that you will be using, sand or scrape away any rough areas that would otherwise cut the hands off you.

Step 2)

On the chosen fire board, carve it down so that it is flat to the ground so that it’s not moving and sliding everywhere.

Step 3)

Create a pilot hole about an 1/8 inch deep and around ½ inch in from the edge of the board.

Step 4)

Kneel on the fire board and spin the drill with your hands with pressure to make a deeper hole.

Step 5)

Cut a 45 degree angle notch in the edge of the board, just next to the hole – this increases airflow

Step 6)

Kneel back on the fire board again and place the drill back in the hole. Start spinning with hands at the top, squeezed tightly and work your way down the drill.

This pressure and friction generates heat at the bottom on the fire board and produces a coal.

Step 7)

Repeat this step of spinning up and down the drill until you start to see smoke – the faster you can start spinning again, the less heat is lost.

Step 8)

Once the smoke is rising out and a coal has formed with a slight glow to it, slowly and carefully remove it from the board and sit inside a nest of tinder.

Step 9)

Blow gently and the tinder should ignite

This method can become very tiring so it does require persistence and focus. Keep at it though and the fire will come.

The Bow Drill

Use the bow drill when making a fire in the wild

One of man’s earliest tools used to create fire!

This is a friction based method where your goal here is to spin the spindle as fast as you can to heat the fire board below which will produce a very small coal that can be used to fold into tinder.

Step 1)

Choose a fire board with a certain hardness to it, preferably willow, aspen or sycamore. You can also find a stick from the same tree to act as the spindle.

Find another stick that is flexible and has a curve to it around the length of your arm – this will be your bow.

Look around for a stone or hardwood that has an indent in it and fits comfortably in your hand. This is going to be your handhold.

Make sure when choosing these items that the wood is all dead and should be extremely dry throughout.

Step 2)

Get a piece of paracord or even a shoelace and tie it with a permanent knot to both ends of the bow, with just enough slack on it so the spindle can fit into.

Step 3)

Cut and shape the spindle at both ends so they form into a dull point.

Step 4)

Grab your fire board and make an indentation about one spindle away from the edge, keeping twisting your knife in to make a hole.

Step 5)

With the handhold, create another indentation into this. This allows the spindle to fit perfectly into the handhold and stops it from slipping out.

Step 6)

Take the spindle and twist it into the cord or rope

Step 7)

Sit the spindle into the hole on the fire board and handhold ontop of the spindle – apply pressure with your hand and place your knee on the fire board to keep it stable.

Step 8)

Start pulling and pushing the bow back and forth to generate the momentum of the spindle, keep at this for a few minutes and you will start to notice wisps of smoke.

Step 9)

Once the small amount of coal has fell into the hole on the fire board, take it and fold it into your tinder. Blow gently and the tinder will smoke and eventually catch fire.

Fire Plough

The fire plough is excellent when making a fire in the wild

Ever seen the film Castaway?

Well this is the technique Tom Hanks uses when attempting to light a fire…which eventually he does!

This is another friction based method that has been used for thousands of years. It does take a bit of time and a lot of elbow grease but once you catch the flame and start your fire…it will be all worth it!

So, for this method you need to a stick around the length of your forearm for the plough, another wider piece of wood for the fire board and a stone to hold it in the place.

When collecting the wood, try obtain a wood with a certain hardness to it such as Cedar or Sycamore.

Step 1)

Set your fire board down and make sure its flat to the ground, if it is uneven, cut it and shave it down.

Step 2)

In the middle of the board, cut a depression around 1/2 inch deep and around 4 inches in length.

Step 3)

Get hold of your fire plough and cut and taper the end of the stick down to a point but with the very end of the stick make sure its cut with a flat end so that when ploughing, it is parallel with the fire board – this causes better friction to produce more heat.

Step 4)

Next, put a rock at the end of the fire board to hold it in place and kneel down on the other end if you can.

Step 5)

Grab your fire plough with one hand at the top and the other half-way down like your holding a brush and start ploughing with a fast motion.

Step 6)

You should start to see the wood turn black and a black dust gathering towards the end. Keep going until you start to see smoke.

Step 7)

Once the smoke starts to rise, plough faster to really build up the heat.

Step 8)

Set the plough down and flip the black dust into your tinder and curl it up

Step 9)

Start to blow gently and more smoke will bellow out, then a flame should catch.

Step 10)

Set into firepit and start to add small twigs and sticks.

Flint and Stone

Probably one of the more easier ways to light a fire without the use of matches or a lighter.

The good thing about this method is that flint lasts a long time and with a good piece of flint, it can be used over 200 times!

So this is pretty easy actually, all you need is a piece of flint, stone and char cloth.

Step 1)

Wherever you have your fire pit, get close to it and have your tinder ready to be ignited.

Step 2)

Place your piece of char cloth on top of the flint firstly and strike the flint at a 30 degree angle with the stone. This aim here is to shave off a strip of metal that will heat up and land onto the char cloth.

Step 3)

Once the char cloth starts to glow red, fold it into itself and blow gently. The greater the wind, the quicker the cloth will ignite.

Step 4)

Fold the char cloth into the tinder and blow gently again. You should start to see embers catching and smoke forming.

Step 5)

Once the tinder catches fire, start placing twigs, pinecones or small sticks to grow the flames.

Lint and Toilet Paper Roll

Use lint and a toilet tube to make a fire in the wild

This is a handy method that will surely get that fire lit in no time at all.

Step 1)

Gather up any spare empty toilet paper rolls. Make sure they’re not damaged in any way as this can reduce the chances of the roll maintaining a good flame.

Step 2)

Check your tumble dryer in the section that holds the lint and gather it up and sit aside in a dry place for future use.

Step 3)

Grab a fistful of lint and a toilet tube, start filling it up with the lint. Sit it up and pack it down until it’s full but don’t overstuff as there needs to be room for oxygen between it to feed the flame.

These steps need to done before you are actually out camping, otherwise the materials may get wet.

Step 4)

Once you have your camp set up and position your fire pit, set the toilet tube down in the area. If you have matches, strike a match and place over the lint. This will catch instantaneously.

If you have no form of fire yet, use one of the above techniques with friction.

Batteries and Steel Wool

Using a battery and steel wool is a great way to make a fire in the wild

Another very useful method for creating that spark that will get a fire ignited.

Batteries and steel wool….who knew?

Step 1)

Simply purchase a battery (a 9 volt is best) and some steel wool. The finer the steel wool, the better it will spark.

Step 2)

Have your fire pit positioned out and tinder at hand whether it is pinecones, hay or even a handmade lint and toilet tube as discussed.

Step 3)

Rub the battery up and down the steel wool and you will see the wool start to change to a red colour and the wool will eventually ignite.

Step 4)

Gently lay it down into the fire pit and add the tinder….and hey presto…fire!

Magnifying Glass

Bring a magnifying glass when planning to make a fire in the wild

So as you can probably guess, this fire method uses the power of the light of the sun so you can only do this one during the day at around midday-afternoon.

Step 1)

Set up a tinder pile inside your firepit or even somewhere where you can get the best sunlight.

Step 2)

Aim your magnifying glass at the tinder with the suns light hitting the back of the magnifying glass.

Step 3)

You will need to focus the suns light into a clear, sharp and focused point so that a very small bright light is hitting the tinder.

Step 4)

Hold it here until you begin to see smoke rising.

Step 5)

Once you see a red ember forming, carefully start blowing the tinder and a flame should rise

Step 6)

Add sticks and twigs to build the fire up.

Drinks Can and Bar of Chocolate

A drinks can and a bar of chocolate is a great way to make a fire in the wild

You may think this is the most unusual way of lighting a fire…and yes that’s exactly what I thought but trust me it works!

Now this technique is completely based on the light from the sun’s reflection so is useless during the night if you’re looking to light a fire then.

Step 1)

Get hold of an empty aluminum drinks can and a bar of chocolate, any kind will do.

Step 2)

Begin to rub the chocolate on the bottom of the can and make sure the full bottom surface is covered.

Step 3)

Wipe the chocolate off with a towel or cloth – this will begin to polish the bottom of the can.

Step 4)

Repeat this step a few times until the bottom of the can shines and you can start to make out your reflection.

Step 5)

Gather your tinder and set it out in the fire pit

Step 6)

Point the bottom of the can towards the sun and focus the reflection onto the tinder – depending on the light of sun, this should take no more than a few minutes at most.

Step 7)

Once the tinder heats up with the focused reflection of the sun on one concentrated spot, the tinder will ignite.

Step 8)

Start put on more tinder, small twigs and sticks…instant fire!

So, when your in the wild, try out some of these methods and you’ll surely be able to create a fire that will provide a good heat throughout the night even in the most coldest of winter nights.

Any questions, you know what to do!

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