The Pack Report

How to Build a Fire Without Matches

Having the capability and knowledge of starting and building a fire without matches is instrumental for survival and is a beneficial life skill to obtain. While exploring the open forest and middle of nature, you never know when you might need to establish a flame, only to find yourself without any matches. Whether you require to cook food, purifying water, avoiding animals and insects, needing warmth and heat, or even to feel a sense of comfort, having the competence of creating fire without matches will only be of value to you.

The first thing you will want to ensure to have with you before initiating a spark is a proper tinder nest that will allow the flame to catch easily from the sparks that you are creating in any alternative way while a match is not present. If you do not have a tinder kit readily accessible (would recommend to always carry a tinder kit while exploring the great outdoors), you can construct your own tinder pretty simply by gathering any small, dry, and thin materials that you can acquire, could include; dry grass, cattail fuzz, dandelions, Cedar Bark, Birch Bark, Fatwood, and small pinecones. There are even some personal objects you could find and put to use as well, including; dryer lint, fibers from threads of rope or shoelace, cotton balls, pencil shavings, paper, char cloth, etc. Once you have found any wilted and brittle materials that can be used for proper tinder, bunch all of the elements together into a bird’s nest and then you will have your tinder!

There are a few different methods of creating a spark to initiate a flame without matches or a fire starter that you can implement, including; the use of friction (hand drill or fire plow), sparks (rocks, flint and steel, or batteries and wool), or the sun and concentrating its beams.

Friction (Hand Drill/Fire Plough): The use of friction to create a spark is one of the most famous, yet most strenuous approaches when igniting a fire without matches. This method will take practice, patience, and determination in order to have a successful outcome.

Hand Drill

To start working with the hand drill method, you will need to attain a large, straight piece of dead and withered plant stalk that you have previously abraded away its rough exterior (The larger end of the plant stalk will be used to make contact with the board. The spindle should be about one foot in length and ½ inch in diameter). Your fire board will be a flat surface that will be about ½ inch thick and double the width of the thickest pivot you intend to maneuver. You will then make a v-shaped notch onto the log or wooden board and set the larger end of the pivot into the notch. Then, you will rub the spindle between your hands as rapidly as you can while moving up and down the spindle briskly. After a while, you should start to see the log/fireboard begin to smoke, once you remove the spindle and the log continuously carries the smoke without the force of the pivot, it is time to add your tinder nest to initiate the glow of the spark and flame.

Fire Plow

To begin producing a fire plow as your method for starting a fire without matches, you will need to locate a soft piece of wood for the base of your board that is one to two feet in length and approximately two inches thick (it is noted that willow and poplar trees work the best for creating the base of your fire plow). Next, you will use a knife or a dense rock to cut an inch thick groove into the center of your baseboard that runs six to eight inches along with the piece of softwood. You will then want to find a hardwood stick to create for the plow portion of your design, it should be about one foot long and one of the ends should be whittled to a sharp point. Next, you will need to lay the baseboard flat on the ground and place the plow you created into the groove. Then, you will want to rub the plow back and forth with moderate to hard pressure, creating dustings or shavings. Continue to rub as quickly and efficiently to smolder these dust shavings and blow gently until a flame occurs, add your tinder or kindling to build up and ensure the strength of the flame.

Sparks (Rocks, Flint and Steel, or Batteries and Wool): If you can find the correct elements, producing fire from a spark is a bit easier of a process than creating a flame by friction, however, you would need to be carrying or discover all of the proper materials for his method be successful.


When utilizing rocks to create a fire, it is in your best interest to obtain quartz or similarly hard rock, along with using a steel knife or striker. You will want to ensure that you are using smaller fragments of the quartz (whether you scavenge for small pieces or break down a larger portion), that is small enough to fit in your hand with sharp and jagged edges. You will then want to strike the sharp edge of the rock with your steel knife or striker and at about a thirty-degree angle with hard pressure, as this should create a small spark. Use a small piece of your tinder and hold it near the rock as you strike, so the spark catches the tinder and starts to burn up. Once the flame catches, gently blow near the tinder, adding more kindling to enhance the flame you just generated.

*If you cannot find a quartz rock or anything just as hard, you should be able to be successful using any rock located around you as long as it is smooth and has sharp edges!

Flint and Steel

The Flint and Steel option is known to be the easiest method for lighting a fire without a match, you are going to want to take a char cloth and lay it down against the flint. Then you will strike the flint with your steel quickly with hard pressure, trying to emulate a spark. You should be able to see that sparks as you strike down against the steel at the correct angle, and your goal is to have the char cloth catch the spark, furthering the ignition of the flame. Once the char cloth begins to glow, transfer it onto your tinder nest and blow gently, enhancing the flame. After you have secured the growth of your flame, include dry grass, bark, smaller twigs, and sticks into your fire to ensure a strong flame before adding any larger logs.

Steel Wool and Batteries

The first thing you will want to do is to take your steel wool and stretch it about six inches long and ½ inch wide. Then you will hold the steel wool in one hand, while the batteries are in the other hand and rub the side of the batteries on the steel wool (any battery should do the trick, however, it is noted that 9-volt batteries do work best for this method). After rubbing with force, you should start to see the steel wool glow. Once the steel wool starts to burn, blow gently on the wool and transfer it to your tinder nest (move quickly because the steel wool will burn rapidly). To ensure a strong flame, slowly add kindling before adding larger logs.

Sun and Concentrating its Beams

To start a fire with the sun and the concentration of its beams, you will first need a mirror, glass lens, or magnifying glass, along with a direct view of the sun (it is noted that that best kind of magnifying glass you should use is one that you can rotate and not one with a handle). Then, you will place the tinder on the ground and direct the sun’s rays directly onto the tinder nest until you can start to see smoke emerge. This method will take patience and determination and may take a while to precisely direct the sun onto your tinder nest to catch a flame, but stay confident and move the lens accordingly to get the best angle. Once you see the tinder nest start to smoke, blow gently to catch the flame, and cure your flame with kindling before adding larger logs.

Wood in Wet Weather

If you find yourself in the middle of the forest as the weather appears to be growing darker, make sure to track down any wood and materials to make your tinder nest as soon as you can. However, if it has already started to rain, it will be important to look for any standing dead tree, rather than a dead tree that is laying on the forest floor, because the standing dead tree will have dry wood on the inside. If possible find a Birch or Cedar tree and start peeling back layers (might be a few layers in) and you will find dry wood that you can use for your tinder nest and kindling.

When you are out adventuring the great outdoors, it is important to be well prepared, clever, and ready to tackle any challenge Mother Nature may throw at you. Having the capabilities of starting a fire without matches will become a very beneficial attribute to your survival skills and will allow you to maintain freshwater, a source of heat, the ability to cook, and protection from animals and insects when you might need it most.

For any further questions or inquires please shout at [email protected]! Enjoy your time exploring that great outdoors and this beautiful weather.

Happy adventuring, friends!

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