How to build a fire without matches

Everyone who enjoys their free time and vacations in nature and the outdoors has noticed a trend over the past couple of years.

More and more people want to get to know the magic of camping. All camping lovers know full well that coffee tastes better with a view of the emerald lake, that the food is sweeter with the smell of pine trees, or that the longest-remembered summer vacation is sleeping under the stars.

In the heart of nature, you are only reliant on yourself, your skills and the things you bring. One law of nature is that a fire is a necessary component of camping. The less fortunate law of nature is this: it’s not easy to light a fire without matches.

So, let’s begin!

Can I light a fire without matches?

The short answer is yes: you can. The key thing to keep in mind, however, is that it’s a lot harder to do. Matches are easy, but they are also easy to forget based off their size.

The other downside with matches is that they are easily damaged. A wet match will not light, no matter what, meaning that a wet match will require you to figure out how to light a fire without them.

Strategies to light a campfire without matches

For this guide, we will assume you are in fairly normal conditions, without heavy rain, several meters of snow and other natural disasters. Of course, scenarios outside of these can happen, but these tips in this guide should help you 99% of the time! We’re also going to assume you don’t have any of the best fire starters in the business.

First, try to light the fire with a glass lens

A glass lens, through which we pass the sun’s rays, can light a fire. You can use binoculars, cameras, flashlights, glasses, magnifiers, and even the bottom of a transparent glass bottle.

To do so, position the lens directly between the sunbeam and the tinder you would light to ignite. You should notice the reflection from the bottom of the glass lens is beginning to make the tinder hot.

Next, look for some tinder.

You will need tinder to get a fire. Tinder is small, easily combustible material. Dry pine needles or leaves are typically the best. It must be easy to burn.

Point the glass lens at the tinder

As soon as you notice the smoke, it means that there has been an ignition. Slowly add more tinder to the pile as the smoke continues. Once you see flames, you are good to go!


If you don’t have a glass lens, then you should try to bow and string method to light a fire

What you will need:


If you just read throughout guide on how to do that, then you know that is extremely difficult! It’s best to remember to bring your matches and your fire starters.

You should not allow your survival in the wild to depend on some primitive method of starting a fire. Starting a fire this way can be quite difficult in realistic, harsh conditions (when it is raining or snowing, when it is cold).

You could also try the “Indian way” to build a fire without matches

You can also light the fire in an “Indian” way with the help of two pieces of wood. You need a hard stick (oak, walnut, ash, beech), soft base (wooden board made of pine, linden, chestnut, willow) and combustible material (dry mushroom residues, moss…).

Rotate the rod manually, but it is even better if you make a small bow for turning. The stick should press against a soft wooden board, place flammable material at the point of contact and rotate the stick. The rotation of the rod causes friction, heat develops, wood will burn as well as combustible material.

In addition to the flammable material mentioned, here’s what else you can use for fire:

Throw a lit rubber band or plastic plate on a stack of stored wood, and you will light a campfire in the wind, in the rain, and in the snow…

You can still use lichens for burning, dry grass, abandoned bird nests, birch bark, resin, woolen thread…For firewood, you can use split wood because it burns better than whole bark forms. Rooting the wood gives it strong heat.

Do not use the branches that are lying under the fallen leaves as they are already rotten and moist. Dry wood and dry branches are of course the best. Highly flammable trees are: maple, birch, oak, hornbeam, red beech, evergreen and white hawthorn. In order to avoid the flames being large and not to burn the fire frequently, it is best to put thick boulders or stumps in it.

If you are going camping, then you need a campfire

And we’re not just biased, even though we are called sit around the campfire!

The need for a fire in nature is clear to everyone, especially if the days are not very warm or if we need cooking. However, fires are also very dangerous, and in many places, it is forbidden to light them!

Therefore, if you are already starting a fire, you should do it carefully and, first, prepare the place where you plan to light it. If you do not want to stay in one place for several days, then it is enough to clear the area of ​​1m2 from the leaves and grass so that you get “bare” soil. You can also aline larger stones (even better if flat) that will prevent the wind from transferring flames or sparks to the environment.

  1. Never move away from the fire and leave it burning unattended.
  2. Never start a fire in the middle of a forest, as a tree or canopy can easily catch fire.
  3. If you are leaving or if you no longer need the fire, you must completely extinguish it: spread the embers, branches, stumps…,pour the place well with water, sprinkle it with sand or cover it.

If you are looking for more detail, we have a guide on how to put out a fire pit.

See you at the campsite!

Article Author
Sean's an avid camper, kayaker, and RVer. He loves spending time finding new trails and campsites to take his family and friends.