Campfire tips: starting a campfire without matches is a lost skill. Learn how.
Would you think that steel wool and eye glasses would be tools for a camper to take with them in an emergency package? Well they are and so is a pencil and pencil sharpener. As are a car battery a bottle of lighter fluid. Starting a fire without matches or a lighter is a skill that is lost to most of us. This article will give you some ways to start a fire that are a little more reliable than rubbing two sticks together.
As a camper it is always a good idea to bring along matches, or a cigarette ligther to use as an ignition source. This is not always possible and lacking these two items, you have to know some alternative methods to start a campfire.
One of the keys to fire starting is dry kendling. Following a wet period this may be the hardest item to find. Yet a pencil and pencil sharpener can provide needed dry wood to start your fire. The beauty of this source is that even if you were to fall into the water with you pencils, the paint on the pencils and their shape will keep the inside wood and carbon dry and flammable. The sharpener grinds the wood into shavings that are always useful for starting fires in difficult situation.
Dry wood is just a start. Fire needs three things to burn; fuel, air, and heat. Since air is almost universally available, heat and fuel are the most needed items. We have already addressed the problem of fuel for starting the fire, next is the issue of heat. This is where the eyeglasses and the battery and steel wool come in.
During the day, the eyeglasses can be used as lenses to focus sunlight onto the kendling. If you remember burning things using light and lenses it's easy to understand how this works. The problem with this is you need a sunny day. This is what makes the battery an useful 24 hour alternative to starting fires with lenses.
Two wires from opposing terminals of any battery connected together by steel wool provide an source of heat by way of electrical resistance. As the battery heats the steel wool contact between the wires it (the steel wool) will get hot enough to start the kendling to flame. All types of batteries from car batteries to flashlight batteries can be used in this way. The length of wire and amount of steel wool will vary but the principle is the same, resistive heating.
Don't have wood, use oil, alcohol, or cooking grease with the electrical heat source. There are also exotic methods for fire starting like using grounded aluminum powder and rust mixture ignited by electricity (this is called a thermite reaction), or combining nitrate compounds with flammable liquids (though not a very sane thing to do)and running an electrical charge through the combination. But for purposes of normal use the lense and the battery/steel wool methods are most common sensible. Of course friction still works to start fires, and you can still always rub two sticks together.