Survival Fire Starting Info

Fire Starters

Being able to start a fire in an emergency is a top skill to master. There are several ways to start a fire and I always try to have more than one way available to me whenever I am out in the woods.


Matches are the old standby.

Strike anywhere matches are getting harder to find but they are worth the trouble of tracking down. They will light on most any rough surface. Back in the day I carried them in the old woodsman way of putting them in an old 20Ga. Shotshell slid into a 12 Ga. Shell. This was water resistant and compact.

A few years ago I found one of my old carriers full on matches and decided to see if they still worked. These matches had been in the case for at least 20 years. I could not get them to light on a rough surface they would only ignite with the flame from a lighter held to the head. So make sure and keep fresh matches in your kit.

Book matches are okay as long as they are dry and stored well. Damp book matches are a waste of time.

Waterproof and lifeboat matches provide a strong flame in most all conditions.

Disposable lighter

This is what is in my pocket daily. I quit smoking over 20 years ago but still carry a butane lighter on a daily basis.

These are cheap and easy to find.

I prefer the clear plastic one so you can see how much fluid is left. I always make sure I have a mostly full lighter if I am headed out into the sticks.

Zippo type lighter

If you like classic equipment this is your lighter. The Zippo has an advantage over a butane lighter in that once you light it you can set it down and it will continue to burn hands free.

Of course there is maintenance required with this type of lighter. You will need to keep a supply of fluid and flints available. Both are very inexpensive and easy to find.

A Zippo is a nice addition to your survival supplies.

Flint and Steel

Using a flint and steel is a skill that it would be worth your time to learn. It requires practice in the beginning but once you have mastered the technique it can be as fast as any other way of starting a fire.

As long as you keep your tinder dry the flint and steel are weatherproof and will give you a spark in most conditions.

Ferro Rod

A Ferro rod is similar to flint and steel but requires less practice. That doesn’t mean you can get a fire started every time without much practice.

When I first started learning my wilderness skills I had all sorts of trouble getting a fire started without a flame. Sometimes even with a good flame.

A Ferro rod will spark from the back of your knife and will do so when wet.


I will admit I still struggle with friction fires.

There are several ways to make a friction fire including and hand drill, bow and drill, fire plow, and a fire thong. Most people choose to learn the hand drill or bow and drill methods.

I have found the most important thing is to keep up the friction after you think you have an ember because I always stop too soon before there is a good ember.


Dry tinder is very important to getting your fire going. You might be able to coax a fire from damp tinder but it will be much harder.

Learn where to look for dry tinder in all kinds of weather. Do research into what natives in your area used hundreds of years ago, and then go out and practice.

Road Flares

I saved the best for last.

If you have room put a couple road flares in your pack. These things will light soaking wet wood; I know I have done it.

You should practice the more difficult ways of starting fires whenever possible. Fire building even with a flame starter is a skill that needs practice.

Always remember in an emergency use the most reliable and easiest way to start your fire. Don’t get sucked into the coolness of being able to use a hand drill if your life is on the line and you have a lighter in your pocket. Use the energy you save on something else.

These are not the only ways to get a fire going figure out what works well for you and practice, practice and then practice some more.

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