Starting a fire is generally a very easy endeavor, especially in a controlled environment with the proper tools. That doesn’t mean your scenario will always be controlled or conducive to starting a fire, so the following tips and tricks are helpful in guaranteeing you can start a fire or minimize the difficulty involved with starting one in awkward conditions.


The fire triangle is the most important thing to understand well. If you know these principles well, and can keep a clear head, it’s quite easy to start a fire even in adverse conditions provided you are properly prepared.

A fire absolutely must have the following three components to burn: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Absent of any of these things a fire will be extinguished or won’t start at all.

This is important, especially when resources are limited, and conditions are uncertain. If you understand that oxygen is necessary, you will not make the mistake of crowding the base of a fire, allowing proper inflow of oxygen. If you know that you need dry wood to start most fires or maintain them; you may not attempt to start a fire until you have procured the proper fuel sources. Heat can come in many different forms. A piece of shiny metal or your prescription glasses can use solar energy to start a fire as a heat source.

Knowing these things and exercising control and forethought can lead to an easy fire-starting situation.

Beyond this, however, the following tips can be instrumental in starting a fire under a variety of conditions or lacking proper tools. Fundamentally, you will want to plan ahead and be prepared. To illustrate the importance of this concept, let’s look at two platitudes that are espoused by highly trained individuals and survivalists as well.

Firstly: you can live three minutes without air; three days without shelter from a harsh environment (fire can play a crucial role here); three days without water; three weeks without food. All of these things can be associated in some way with fire. You can purify water and cook food with fire; you can warm yourself even in winter with a fire; and yet, if not controlled properly, a fire can rob you of air in a shelter.

Secondly: One is none, two is one. This concept helps to plan out how you pack, and how you prepare. Having multiple ways to start a fire is a good angle to take in any situation where fire can be important.

On the back of those statements, let’s explore some useful tips for starting a fire.

·       Have a reliable source of fire, like a lighter or matches. There is no shame in starting a fire with conveniences. You don’t need to start a fire with a stick and bow in order for that fire to be worthwhile.

·       Splitting a piece of wood can often expose dry surfaces (wood isn’t always sponge-like with water, especially in environments that aren’t constantly wet. You don’t need a hatchet or knife to split wood either—hitting a mid-sized branch hard against a tree, or leveraging it against a rock can do the trick.

·       Having duct tape can be helpful. Shredding the tape provides a fuel source (the shreds) and an accelerant (the glue). Test your preferred brand of tape before your trip to ensure it burns rather than melts.

·       Carrying a tea-light candle is a cheap, small way to ensure a long-lasting flame

·       Start fires under ideal conditions to ensure you have a good method for foolproof ignition and smart utilization. Learn how to start a fire with a single match so you know what to account for and how to do it reliably.

·       Use multiple layers of different sized material. Small shreds or twigs that ignite quickly should be laid at the base of larger diameter twigs or strips of dry bark, etc., which should in turn be positioned to start your intermediate wood alight, and so on. Make sure each layer has adequate access to continued oxygen in-flow.

·       Wool socks (and other natural fibers from clothing) can be used as a source of tinder if needed

·       Just like a pair of glasses or a mirror, a plastic bottle with water in it can also be used to focus sunlight into a focused spotlight of heat onto a dry tinder source to start a fire

·       A lean-to style of fire structure is easy to build and can offer significant benefits in wet environments, provided you can find or create dry wood. Just make sure you offer the tinder a substantial mount of wood and twigs to ignite, between the top larger wood pieces and itself.

·       Deciduous trees (like pine trees) have pitch that is flammable. They are also notorious for having dry parts available nearby (usually at the base of the tree).

·       Learn how to control your breath while starting a fire—blowing lightly on embers can ignite hard-to-start items; while hard breaths can stoke a larger log to ensure your fire remains robust.

·       While many YouTube videos and 10 Best lists will include these items, they are still interesting ideas: corn chips like Doritos, as well as a 9V battery and a piece of fine (0000) steel wool can start a fire. The Doritos need a flame source; the battery can start the steel wool on fire by touching it to both contact points of the battery for a moment.

·       A deconstructed cattail can be used as tinder, despite the cattail being native to swampy, wet environments

·       A cotton ball with a dab of Vaseline can also work well to start a fire, especially in wet weather

The best trick in any condition is to remain calm and think through your process before you implement your plan. Dry run your plan a couple times. With you thinking through the process you can pre-identify weaknesses in your strategy or see intangibles in action (like wind gusts that could take out your match, or wet tinder sources).

Whether for survival or for normal fire starting, these tips and tricks can help you to build a legitimate fire in a variety of conditions. Practice makes perfect and preparation and planning make it easy.