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10 Tips for lighting your campfire - without matches!

Posted by Survival Dan.
First Published Dec 2018; updated Jun 2023.

Ever wanted to try and light a campfire without using matches? Here are 10 ways to light a fire without matches that you can try.

Survival Dan provides us with a roundup of ten different ways you can start a campfire without using matches.

Many families love to gather around a campfire, whether you are on a camping trip or simply gathering around the backyard fire pit. Many families have described some of their fondest family memories around campfires.

There is only one challenge to this – most people have had little-to-no exposure to getting a campfire going in a more survival-oriented environment. So how would you do so?

In this article, we will show you ten fascinating tips we found to help you start a campfire – and note – without the use of lighters or matches. Some of these may prompt a double-take, but after you read the explanations of how they work, you might just have to try them out!

So let us move on with the ten tips.

1 - The Fire Plough

Find your fire board and spindle. The fire board should be about the length of your forearm. Cut a groove in this board for its entire length.

Your spindle will be used to rub back and forth inside the groove to create friction that will produce enough heat to ignite your tinder nest, which you will place at the end of the fire board that you will be “ploughing” towards.

As you continue in this rapid, ploughing motion, watch for any part of your tinder nest to ignite. If it begins to smoulder, start blowing on it, and you have the base for your fire.

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2 - Lens and Sun

Create your tinder nest, and place it under your kindling buildup for your fire.

Take an old eyeglass lens or magnifying glass, and position it so the sun will be directed through it.

Adjust the lens so the sunlight gets concentrated at any part of your tinder nest. When it starts to smoulder, blow on it until it fully ignites.

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3 - Ice Lens

If you are adventurous enough to camp in the wintertime, you can take the clear ice, form it into a lens, and use it just like a regular lens to direct concentrated sunlight to your tinder nest to start your fire.

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4 - Steel wool and Batteries

Before using this method, make your tinder nest, and position yourself close enough to put the ignited steel wool on the nest immediately.

For batteries, any kind will work, but most who use this method prefer 9-volt batteries.

Stretch your steel wool to six inches long and half an inch wide. Hold one end over the positive contact, and the other over the negative contact.

With the remainder of the steel wool in between, begin rubbing the side of the battery while keeping it connected to the contacts. When it begins to glow, gently blow on it to increase the glow and place it on your tinder nest.

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5 - Aluminium can and Chocolate

The chocolate will be used as a polish to shine the bottom of the can. Once wiped away, the can will then be used as a reflective mirror to direct concentrated sunlight to ignite your tinder nest and light your fire.

Toothpaste can also serve as a good polish.

6 - Battery and Gum Wrapper (Foil only)

Make your tinder nest, and get close enough to put the ignited steel wool on the nest immediately.

Place one end of the wrapper on the positive terminal, the other end on the negative terminal. The wrapper should catch flame immediately, and once your tinder nest is lit, your fire will begin building.

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7 - Flint and Steel

You can purchase a flint and steel set at any outdoor store. Once you have your tinder nest set, you strike the flint and steel together near the nest, and it will eventually ignite to start your fire.

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8 - Torch’s Reflective Material

Take out the reflective material behind the bulb of your torch and use it to direct sunlight toward your tinder nest, much like a lens as described in the lens-based methods mentioned earlier.

9 - Clear Bottle Filled with Water

The bottle will act as a magnifying glass, taking sunlight and pointing it toward your tinder nest to ignite the fire.

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10 - Empty Lighter

Even if a lighter is out of fuel, it can still produce sparks with the igniting mechanism inside, enough to get your tinder nest lit.

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You may have been as surprised to find so many creative ways to start a fire as we were in preparing this article. Nonetheless, we hope we have stretched your thinking just a bit so you can be prepared to light a campfire with almost anything.

More importantly, we hope that trying these tips out, will keep you and your kids excited about getting outside more – together.

Remember, always take sensible precautions with fire, and supervise your kids.