4 Ways to Make a Fire in the Wild

Whether it be for survival or camping, you must know how to make a fire. It’s one of the most basic survival skills you can learn. Why is it so important? For one, it allows you to cook food. Some foods that you catch and kill in the wild may not be suitable for human consumption until cooked. Edible bugs are a perfect example. If you don’t cook a bug before eating it, there’s a chance you could become infected by a parasite. Fires also provide warmth and protection from predators. But enough talking about its importance. Let’s learn how to make a fire.

How to Make a Fire – The Fire Tetrahedron

How to Make a Fire

We’ll begin with the absolute basics: the fire tetrahedron. This guideline tells us that there are four ingredients to making a fire. These include:

  • Fuel: Any substance that can undergo combustion.
  • Oxygen: Needed to sustain combustion.
  • Heat: Needed to raise the material to ignition temperature.
  • Chain Reaction: The chemical reaction that happens under the right conditions.

In theory, it’s relatively simple. But when you’re in the field, learning how to make a fire can be a lot harder. Keep in mind that you need all four of these to successfully build a fire. For example, without sufficient heat, the fire will never begin. Also, a fire cannot continue without heat. Without fuel, a fire will die. Finally, without sufficient oxygen, a fire cannot begin nor sustain itself. Keep this in mind as we proceed through the rest of this article.

Hand-Drill Method

How to Make a FireI’ll begin with arguably the simplest way to make a fire: the hand drill method. While it is labor-intensive, it’s guaranteed to work if done properly. You won’t need any special objects or chemicals to get your fire going. First, you’ll need your “Fireboard”.

This is basically a sturdy piece of wood that you’ll make a notch in using a knife (if you don’t have a knife, use a pointed rock). Then, find a two-foot-long stick that will fit into the notch. Begin spinning the stick as quickly as you can between your palms. This will generate heat through friction. When I first learned how to make a fire, this was the method I followed- and I still use it today. Take a look at how it’s done:

Bow Drill Method

How to Make a FireThe bow drill method is a slightly different variation of the hand drill method. The key difference is that by using a bow, you’ll be able to drill longer and harder without getting tired. With this type of fire-making method, the spindle will stabilize on the notch in your fireboard using a rock. The bow can be made by taking a strong stick and bending it, followed by tying the ends with rope.

After you loop the string around the spindle one time, the bow can then be operated using one hand. With a back and forth movement, you can then turn the spindle. The other hand should be used to press down on the rock on top of the spindle, which will ultimately generate frictional heat. Once the tinder begins smoking, gently blow on it to continue to build the fire. When learning how to make a fire without matches, this is one of the more efficient methods out there. Here’s a video that will show you exactly how it’s done:

Fire Plow

How to Make a FireIn my opinion, operating a fire plow is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to make a fire when you’re in the wild. It’s the perfect option for when you’ve been left without modern fire-starting tools. The fire plow is relatively basic in design (picture it like a modified version of taking two sticks and rubbing them together). Similar to the previous method, we’ll use friction to generate heat. Here are the steps you can take to making a fire plow:

  • Step 1: Place a bundle of tinder (wood shavings, dry grass, etc.) at the end of a board.
  • Step 2: Take softwood and run a stick back and forth to form a long groove in it.
  • Step 3: Rub the tip of the stick at a 35-degree angle down the length of the board.
  • Step 4: Once you’ve created ember, transfer it to your bundle of tinder.
  • Step 5: Blow on your tinder bundle to turn it into a full blown flame.

While learning how to make a fire like this one is relatively easy. However, I still recommend that you continually practice it. That way, when the time comes to use it in the wild, you’ll be fully confident in your skills. Just like before, here’s a video that will talk you through the exact steps for making a fire plow in the wild:

Flint and Steel

There’s something special about knowing how to make a fire without modern technology like lighters or matches. It really goes a long way towards making you that much more self-sufficient (and prepared). In this section, I want to talk about making fires using flint and steel. This is another one of those options that are considered very beginner-friendly. So even if you’ve never made a fire from scratch before, I’m confident you’ll have little trouble with this method. Let’s look at how to do it.

The Flint

How to Make a FireWe’ll start with the flint. Despite what people may think, flint isn’t just one type of rock. It’s more like a family of rocks, each of which have a Mohs scales of hardness of “eight”. One of my favorite types of flint is Niagara Chert. Why? Because it’s relatively easy to find where I live. The type of flint you use will depend on where you live. Ideally, you want a flint that has a sharp, acute edge that will have the ability to take a hefty “bite” out of steel.

The Steel

How to Make a FireObviously, when learning how to make a fire of this caliber, you’ll need some steel. A good steel should be rich in carbon. My favorite type of steel is W1. The reason is because it’s hard enough to resist pressure being exerted by the flint. A steel that’s been properly treated should have the ability to give you thousands of sparks (if not, millions). Keep in mind that you can buy flint and steel kits on Amazon that come with everything you need, minus the tinder. Speaking of tinder, let’s look at how to properly make it.

The Tinder

How to Make a FireIf you’re reading this article, chances are good that you have an idea of what tinder is. It’s basically anything that burns if a spark lands on it. Pretty simple, wouldn’t you agree? Dry grass and dryer lint are two common examples. Your success in regards to learning how to make a fire will depend largely on choosing the right tinder. Oakum is an example of a high-quality tinder. Although, there are dozens and dozens of other options besides this one. I’d recommend doing more research on the different types of tinder that exist.

Once you’ve mastered the flint and steel method for making a fire, I think you’ll be in a much better position as far as prepping and wilderness survival are concerned. Here’s a video demonstrating the techniques for how to make a fire using flint and steel in the wild:

Bottom Line

Learning how to make a fire is one of the most important skills that you can have as a survivalist. It’s a skill that can be used in the wild or in an urban setting. Fires can provide you with protection, help you cook food, and even be used to light up the way when traveling at night. In short, it’s a super-valuable skill to have. I’d recommend practicing these techniques before you actually need them. Otherwise, a survival situation is going to occur and you’re going to be ill-equipped.


  1. How to Start a Fire Without a Match (How Stuff Works)
  2. How to Start a Fire Without Matches (Art of Manliness)
  3. How to Build a Fire (Wild Backpacker)
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