Among all the supplies to take on a camping trip, matches or a lighter are among the most basic. After all, having a reliable source of fire is crucial for staying safe in the wilderness. Still, disaster can easily--and unexpectedly--strike when you're far from civilization: your matches can get wet or your lighter can be lost. What can you do without these important survival basics?
Here are three ways that you can start a fire while on an outdoor adventure--without matches or a lighter.
Using Flint and Steel
Using a flint and steel to start a fire is a classic standby, and for good reason: while wet matches become useless, a flint and steel won't suffer from getting soggy. Even if you have don't have a flint and steel set in your camping kit, you can improvise with your pocket knife blade and a piece of found quartzite.
Just take a piece of char--or some birch or fungus if you don't have any--and hold it against your flint. Then take your steel striker and hit it against the flint. Your char will be positioned to catch the sparks from the steel, which you can then place into a tinder nest and blow on gently to ignite a flame.
Using Your Glasses
As long as you have sunlight, one of the easiest ways to start a fire without matches or a lighter is with a lens. A pair of eyeglasses is likely the most convenient lens you'll have on hand, but binoculars, a magnifying glass or even a piece of ice will work.
The basic principle is that you'll use the lens to focus the sun's rays on a specific spot. Wetting the lens can help make the resulting beam more intense. Just angle the lens in the sun's direction in order to create a beam that is focused on a small area. Place a tinder nest in the focal point of this beam and wait; the concentrated sunlight will soon spark a fire.
Using friction may be the hardest way to start a fire without a match or lighter--but if you don't have the benefit of a steel and flint or adequate sunlight, friction can be used to start a fire using nothing but wood. Keep in mind that only completely dry wood can ignited through friction; if your wood is wet, you must let it dry first.
Gather a flat piece of wood to use as a fireboard and a stick to use as a spindle, and have a tinder nest ready nearby. Cut a notch into the fireboard and place a small piece of dry bark below. Place the end of the spindle into this notch and begin to roll it between your hands. Eventually, the friction between the spindle and board will produce an ember; catch this with the bark, then transfer the ember using the bark to your tinder nest.
Your hope for starting a fire isn't lost if you lose your matches or lighter. The task is a little more challenging without them, but knowing how to do so is important for any outsider.