Learning how to start a fire for beginners has never been easy. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools that can help.
Take a moment to think about it. These days, many people have never lit anything bigger than a candle!
If that sounds like you, then it is time to learn how to start a fire.
Starting A Fire for Beginners
The great thing about creating a fire is that the basics are the same no matter where you are or what tools you’re using.
For example, in every case, you’ll need a fuel source, you’ll need kindling, and you’ll need wood. That hasn’t changed in 100,000 years.
Other things that haven’t changed are the basic considerations of making a fire, such as the setup. This is important, so take notes.
First and foremost, always be safe, especially around fire.
Always use a safe firepit.
Do not let children play with fire under any circumstances.
Don’t burn plastic or rubber in your fire, as these let off toxic chemicals that can harm you.
Most importantly, do not use gasoline to start your fire, and never throw fireworks into a fire. That is a disaster waiting to happen.
Finally, never leave your fire unattended, and always fully extinguish your fire before you leave it.
Prepare your firepit
It’s time to prepare to light a fire. For starters, you need a firepit, which can seem overwhelming at first. The good news is that large rocks will do the job fine.
First you’ll want to set up large, solid rocks in a circle.
Next, dig up any grass that is within that circle so only dirt remains. You don’t want the grass to catch on fire and spread. And now you have your firepit.
Set up Kindling
Next, you need to set up a base layer of kindling.
Kindling consists of small, flammable sticks that will “catch” the fire you create and allow the flames to light up your larger pieces of wood. For this, you’ll need to gather up small sticks and pieces of dry tree bark.
They should be small, no thicker than your pinky finger. The dryer they are, the better.
Break the kindling up into pieces between six and ten inches long and lay them on the bottom of your firepit.
Add a second layer of kindling to the first. Make sure they are spaced apart about a half inch or so, to allow air to flow through the bottom of your fire.
Place the Tinder
Lastly, you’ll need tinder.
Tinder is the fuel that will light the fire. It can be balled up newspaper, or dry leaves and grass.
One of the best forms of kindling is char cloth. Basically, this is an extremely dried-out cotton cloth that you can buy for relatively cheap.
Place the tinder all over your layer of kindling.
Now it’s time to light the fire.
How to Start A Fire with Matches (or a lighter)
If you want to know how to start a fire for beginners, the simplest way is to use matches, lighter or a ferro rod.
You have probably used matches and a lighter before. But if you have never used a ferro rod before, or perhaps don’t even know what it is, his video below will help.
Blow on it
Once the tinder is going, get down low (but don’t put your face in the firepit) and gently blow on the flame to help the kindling light.
Don’t blow too hard. The flame at this point is very delicate, and you don’t want to put it out.
Place larger sticks
Once your kindling catches and your fire is bigger, you can start putting larger sticks on it. Think of thick, dry branches, between one and two inches thick.
Break them into pieces about one or two feet long and put them cross-wise on the fire, so they look like a latticework. Or set them up in a teepee shape.
Once those larger sticks are going, you can start placing logs on the fire.
Voila! You made a fire.
Keep it alive by placing a couple of logs on it whenever it starts to die down.
How to Start A Fire Without Matches or Lighters
If you don’t have matches or lighter around, you can still light a fire. In fact, knowing how to start a fire without matches is a key skill that everyone should have!
You will, however, require some tools.
Let’s take a closer look.
Steel and flint
Did you know that steel and flint is one of the easiest ways to start a fire?
The concept works like this:
You strike the flint with the steel rod numerous times. This creates extremely hot sparks, which light your pile of tinder.
The key is to hold your flint on a 45-degree angle over the tinder, and quickly strike the flint with the steel in a downward motion.
After all, you want those sparks to fly down onto the tinder.
One thing to take note of is that this method works best with a char cloth.
Have you ever watched Survivor on CBS? If so, you’ve probably seen people using the bow drill method to start a fire. It’s a great method if you don’t have any matches or steel and flint.
The basics are the same: start by building up your firepit with rocks, kindling, and tinder.
But first you’ll want some very dry grass to act as fuel. Set that aside.
Next, you’ll need to build a bow drill. What’s a bow drill exactly? Well, it’s basically prehistoric tool that was used to generate friction to start a fire.
For this, you’ll need a stick that isn’t so dry that it snaps. But it should bend when you put pressure on the ends. Think of a bow and arrow.
Just like a bow and arrow, you’ll need to tie some twine or string (or a shoelace) to both ends of the stick to create a bow.
Then you need to find a solid stick to act as a spindle, which is the spinning piece of wood.
Next, find another solid stick or log and create a little notch for the spindle to fit into. This wood should be dry so it can start the tinder on fire.
Once you’ve got a notch, place the spindle in it and place that dried grass all around the spindle.
Then twist the center of the string around the spindle two or three times.
While gently holding the spindle upright with one hand, start slowly moving the bow back and forth. If you wrapped the bow properly, the spindle should twist in the notch.
After a few moments, you should see some smoke start to rise up from under the tinder. Don’t stop.
Instead, move faster, creating more friction with the spindle. When you see a red glow, you know you’ve created a fire!
Pick up the ball of tinder, which should have a glowing ember inside it, and gently blow on it. When flames start to flicker, gently place it on the tinder in your firepit.
What if you have no string or twine?
You’re in luck.
Another way to make a fire without matches is called the fireplow.
In addition to your firepit, you need three pieces of wood:
- One as a base to hold tinder
- One piece of soft wood as a slide
- One piece of hard wood as a slider
Basically, you need to slide the hard wood along the soft wood in a quick, repeating action in order to create friction. This creates heat.
Hold the soft wood at a 45-degree angle, with the tinder at its base, and slide the tip of the hard wood along it. Once enough friction builds up, small pieces of soft wood should ignite and fall off, landing on the pile of tinder.
Again, pick up the “birds nest” of tinder and blow on it until flames form, then add it to your firepit.
How to Start A Fire with Wet Wood
One more consideration you need to keep in mind is that you don’t always get nice, dry wood when out in the wild. Part of being self-sufficient in the outdoors is working with what you got around you.
Luckily, even if most of the wood you have available is wet, you can still get a fire going.
For starters, clear away the top soil of your firepit until you reach the dry dirt underneath. You want a nice, dry platform for your fire.
Second, most larger sticks may be wet on the outside, but their centers remain dry. Use a good survival knife or survival hatchet to cut them in half down the center and expose the dry middle to your fire. As the middle burns, the outside will dry out.
Finally, when it comes to kindling and tinder, you have a couple of options. You can often find dry tree bark on dead trees. Also, look underneath fallen trees and shrubs for dry leaves.
Once you’ve built up enough dry tinder and kindling, you’re ready to start a fire as normal.
Practice Makes Perfect
Want to know the best method to start a fire for beginners? It’s practice.
When you want to know how to start a fire, you need to actually do it. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. Whether it’s using a ferro rod or making a bow drill, being versatile in your skills will only help you.
Anyway, which of the traditional methods have you used to start a fire? Have you used the bow drill or fireplow method? Tell us about it in the comments!