You Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Matches!
By Adelia Ladson
One day, you could be in a situation where you need to start a fire but don’t have the conventional means to do it like matches or a Zippo. And it could be for any reason, from the most mundane (You’re barbecuing and realize you ran out of matches and forgot to get more.) to the most extraordinary (You’re out in the wilderness and have no matches on you.) Here are five other ways to start a fire in a pinch.
A flint fire starter like the Bushmaster Firestarter is just a great back-up plan when you go camping or hiking. You may bring matches or a lighter but there is always the possibility that they just don’t work. It’s very small so it can be easily carried, and the concept is fairly simple. Just strike the flint rod with your knife to produce the spark you need to start your tinder nest. It’s durable and reliable so it will last for years and years. It’s not a bad idea to have one of these in your kitchen drawer or vehicle either, for just in case. They are pretty inexpensive.
Another option that you can look at getting for the “just in case” scenario is the Micro SparkWheel Fire Starter. Now, it takes about the same amount of work as striking the flint rod because you are flicking the wheel to get a spark. But, when you think about the wood friction method of starting a fire where you have to keep rubbing those two pieces of wood together until you think your arms are going to fall off….. these are definitely more attractive options. Like the flint firestarter, the Micro SparkWheel is also compact for ease of carry and storage.
Now, if you did not purchase either of the above items ahead of time, then there are methods that you can use. To me the good old stand-by is using a piece of glass to focus the sun’s rays to heat your tinder nest up to combustion temperature. Even if you are in the direst of situations, ten to one you’re going to have something that has a piece of glass in it. You can use eyeglasses or a watch face cover or another clear piece of glass that you might find. Also, by the same method, you can use water in a plastic baggie or clear piece of plastic to focus the sun’s rays. Use the water and plastic to create a “globe shape” and direct the light onto a piece of paper. As you are hunched over for minute after minute, it may seem like it’s never going to work but it has been proven to work. It’s even better if you have a water bottle. Glass is just always going to be the better option than the plastic and water. But in a pinch, and the only thing you have is a water bottle and paper, definitely give it a try.
Another option of using something to focus the sun is a soda can and a bar of chocolate. If you happen to find yourself in situation where you can lay your hands on these two items, you can create fire. The idea is to use the chocolate bar and a piece of paper or cloth to polish the bottom of the can to a mirror sheen. Rub the chocolate on the metal and then use the cloth to polish. This may take some time to make sure that it is shiny enough to direct a beam of light onto your tinder nest or paper. Of course, the obvious drawback of the aforementioned methods is that you need the sun to do them.
My favorite method that will work night or day, using two items that most homes have, is making a spark with a piece of steel wool and a battery. Really, it’s not a bad idea to include a piece of steel wool in your camping gear because it has many handy uses. Then, just use the batteries out of your flashlight or any battery-operated item you may have with you. The concept is to use the steel wool to complete an electrical circuit, causing a spark that will light the wool. If using D cell batteries (in most flashlights), stack the two batteries on top of each other (just how they are positioned in your flashlight) with one end of the steel wool underneath. Hold the other end to the connector of the top battery and the steel wool will ignite. A word of caution: It ignites and burns very quickly, so, be careful not to burn yourself in the process. The filaments of steel will melt and fall away burning anything in their path. You can also use AA batteries. The best battery to use, however, is the 9-volt because both connectors are on top of the battery. (Remember your smoke detector will have one.) Just stroke the 9-volt on the steel wool and it will ignite rather quickly. The beauty of the steel wool is that it will ignite even if it’s soaked. The super fine steel wool works the best.
You never know what’s going to happen, so, go with the Boy Scout motto, “Be Prepared.” To me, this means knowing what you need to do and, if possible, having useful items ahead of time.