5 Weird Ways to Start A Fire Without A Lighter

Every prepper knows that it’s important to know more than one way to start a fire. This is an especially essential skill if you ever find yourself without a lighter or matches. Before you scoff at the idea of being unprepared, know that even the most experienced prepper can find themselves in a survival situation. Learn these weird, yet effective ways to start a fire without a lighter, and you will be equipped with valuable skills that could save your life. Here are 5 weird ways to start a fire without a lighter.

Necessary Requirements for a fire

Before we talk about weird ways to start a fire it is important for you to understand how fires behave and why it can be so challenging to start one in the first place. Don’t skip this part! You’re life could depend on this quick science lesson.

The 3 elements you need to start a fire are heat, fuel, and oxygen. If you are missing one of these elements, then you will not be able to start a fire.

A fire is a chemical reaction. It is the result of the right amount of the right ingredients at the right time. Every fire relies on the combustion triangle. Each side of the triangle represents one of the 3 required elements necessary for a fire to ignite. If you lack just one of those components your fire attempts could fail and you could freeze, starve, or become dehydrated.


Oxygen is readily available so you don’t have to worry about carrying oxygen tanks everywhere you go. As long as there’s 16% oxygen in the air, you’ll be able to start a fire. This is why blowing on a flame helps. You are breathing out carbon dioxide, but also enough oxygen to feed the fire.


A fire will burn anything dry and flammable. You will probably be able to find fuel for a small fire even in the wettest conditions. If you can’t find sticks, check your pockets for receipts or even dollars. Imagine this is the end of the world (and you could freeze to death without heat), you’ll be better off bartering than giving up precious fuel for your fire. If you don’t have those items, you may need to get creative. Undergarments will burn with a little prodding, even if you’re not at a protest. This could mean life or death so don’t hesitate to “burn that bra”.

The myth stuck, but cotton briefs are better

For the record, they didn’t really burn bras at protests because starting a fire on the boardwalk was illegal. Instead, the feminists had a designated “Freedom Trash Can” into which they hurled mops, lipstick, high heels, and yes a bra. After that the myth stuck. In this case you really could use undergarments as fuel for a fire, but cotton briefs would be best.

Feminism F.A.Q.s: Did Feminists Burn Bras?


This is where most inexperienced rookies fail. They think that heat comes after the fire has started, but that’s wrong. The initial heat has to come from somewhere before a fire can make more of it. Getting that first spark can be challenging. A newbie can often make lots of sparks, but can’t sustain the heat in the right place long enough to start a fire. Don’t be like the newbie.

When all three ingredients are properly set in place, you can get a nice warm fire. I’m not going to discuss fire building in this article, but the video below will walk you through 6 different campfires.

6 Easy Campfires Everyone Should Know for Survival and Recreation

Survival tip

You can use your knowledge of the combustion triangle to stop a raging fire. Simply remove one of the three ingredients and the fire won’t be able to continue.

We made it through the mini science lesson! Thanks for sticking with me, now let’s talk about 5 weird ways to start a fire without a lighter.

How to start a fire without a lighter

5 weird ways to start a fire without a lighter

Every prepper and survival site will instruct you to start a fire with friction. If you rub two sticks together long enough and fast enough then you will eventually get enough heat for them to light.

This is effective, but not cool enough for my list of “weird ways” so we’ll skip that option. I’m also going to skip the talk about flint and steel because you probably already have those items in your bugout bag. This article is about weird and unusual ways to start a fire using everyday objects that you might find after a disaster.

1- Start a fire from water

How to start a fire without a lighter
5 weird ways to start a fire without a lighter

I simply cannot stress enough the importance of having some clear plastic bottles of water. We usually associate water with putting out fires so this might be the most ironic ignition method of all. You can start a fire with water by using a clear bottle as a lens to concentrate sunlight. In fact, some roadside brushfires are actually caused by bottles filled with fluid that concentrated the sunlight’s rays.

The first thing that you should know about making a fire with a water bottle is that it is not easy. It takes some time and practice to learn this technique, but it’s worth knowing. This method is similar to making a fire with a magnifying glass. The water bottle serves as a lens that concentrates the sunlight into a super bright point which heats up the paper or tinder to the point of combustion.

You’ll need:

  • A clear bottle (label removed) with a smooth, curved top, filled with clear liquid
  • Tinder: paper with dark ink works best because it absorbs heat and ignites faster
  • Full strength sunlight. If there are clouds or it is later in the day then your efforts could go unrewarded.


  1. Tear two pieces of paper in half, fold, set aside.
  2. Fold a third piece of paper in half 3 times. If your paper has dark ink, make sure that that it is visible along the longest unfolded edge.
  3. Hold the bottle in such a way that the sunlight passes through the curved top and creates a focused beam on the paper.
  4. Steadily hold the bottle until the sunlight burns a quarter-sized hole in the paper.
  5. Set the bottle down and place a piece of the reserved paper over the burn hole.
  6. Keep adding paper when the hole burns through until the paper ignites.

Start a Fire With a Water Bottle

2- Steel wool and batteries

How to start a fire without a lighter
5 weird ways to start a fire without a lighter

You will often hear me say that you should always have steel wool nearby. Steel wool has tons of everyday uses, is lightweight, and is especially handy for survival. In this case you can use a battery and steel wool to start a fire. This method is straightforward, fast, and really cool to watch. The best part is that it can work in wet conditions as long as your tinder material is dry.

Many prepper sites will say that this isn’t really a survival technique because you’re unlikely to have steel wool and a battery with you. This is your sign from the universe to start carrying a little steel wool pad with you and to also have 9 volt batteries. You never know when those items will come in handy and they have multiple uses. In a real emergency, if you have a cellphone or any electronic device, then you already have a battery.

You’ll need:

  • Steel Wool– To do this right, you need to start with the finest grade of steel wool that you can find. Search for 00-grade steel wool or 000-grade.
  • Battery– Almost any kind of battery will work. You should try to go with at least a 9 volt battery to ensure that it has enough juice. If you don’t have a 9-v then consider bringing out the burner phones and using a cellphone battery or multiple smaller batteries connected together (two C’s or D batteries connected end-to-end.)


  1. Pull apart the steel wool and fluff it up. You need plenty of surface area and oxygen, but don’t get carried away. The strands still need to be somewhat close in order to ignite each other. Make it a little fluffy and spread it out.
  2. Collect tinder. Not the dating app. The material. Place your dry tinder in a location away from drafts.
  3. Place the fluffy steel wool on top of the tinder. Create a little pocket by tucking the edges into and under your tinder pile. You want to make sure that your tinder is connected to the steel wool fluff, hence the tucking. If the steel wool isn’t tucked in, then it’s likely to burn out on top and leave your tinder untouched.
  4. Connect both the positive and negative contacts of the battery to the steel wool. This will be easy if you’re using a 9 volt. Simply tap the contact end against the steel wool in multiple areas. Pull your hand back quickly because it will ignite instantly. Start adding small bits of tinder on top and feed the fire as you normally would.

Survival- Starting a Fire with Steel Wool & 9V Battery!

I found a ton of videos that demonstrate this process, but the “problem” is that they were all done with a 9 volt battery. That’s honestly kind of lame and might not be helpful if you don’t have a 9V. It’s a common misconception that this method will only work with a 9 volt battery and luckily that’s not true.

It may take a little more practice to use batteries with connections on opposite ends, but it still works! As long as both connectors touch the steel wool at the same time, you’ll still get lit.

3- How to make fire with glasses

How to start a fire without a lighter
5 weird ways to start a fire without a lighter

I’m sure that we’ve all heard about kids burning ants with a magnifying glass. Maybe we were one of those kids. Starting a fire with the power of the sun is just like burning ants with a magnifying glass.

This method takes a lot of patience and chances are you won’t have a magnifying glass when SHTF so you will need to find other ways to reflect and magnify the sun’s rays.

You’ll need:

  • A magnifying glass
  • OR broken glasses will work
  • Kindling: dry leaves or a piece of charred rope


  1. Collect your kindling. Dry leaves or small sticks will work.
  2. Place your kindling in a small pile.
  3. Hold the lens perpendicular to the sun’s rays towards the kindling.
  4. You should see a small, bright dot appear if you’re at the right height and angle. This is focused sunlight.
  5. Hold this position for about 30 seconds and a small fire should start.

*This process will NOT work if there is no strong sunlight. Also glasses for farsightedness won’t work. Strong reading glasses will work the best.

How to make fire with reading glasses

Heaven’s knows that I’ve broken my fair share of glasses in various ways, but now I’ll hang onto those old rickety lenses and pack them in my bugout bag just in case.

4- Soda or beer can

How to start a fire without a lighter

In a perfect world, it would be challenging to find a soda or beer can. Sadly, humans can be filthy beings and you can find cans almost everywhere. Forests, cities, and suburbs are littered with these items. While this is annoying in everyday life, the litter could literally save your life in a survival situation.

Keep in mind that this method will only work in areas that get a lot of sunlight. It’s still a cool trick to learn regardless of your location. I would even try it in the Pacific Northwest if I was out of other options.

You’ll need:

  • One aluminum can A soda or beer can will work for this. Make sure that the underside has an unpainted, domed, aluminum surface.


  1. Polish the domed underside of the can. Use a wet cloth and some kind of polishing compound. Polish the domed underside of the can. Your goal is to make the bottom of your can as reflective as possible. Clay or even toothpaste will work well as a polishing compound. I would say try a paste made from wood ash, but we are still trying to figure out how to build a fire here!
  2. Collect your tinder. Create a nice tinder nest and place it between you and the sun.
  3. Position your tinder and the can. Hold a small amount of tinder in one hand. Now aim the polished side of the can directly at the sun. Place some tinder near the bottom of the can and feel for the hottest spot while searching for the smallest point of light reflecting on your tinder.
  4. Wait. Be patient because this could take seconds or even minutes. As soon as you see the spark and smoke, place your tinder on the nest and gently blow.


5- Plastic bags + water

Another must-have item for my survival kit /bugout bag is a handful of plastic bags. They have so many uses! Believe it or not, you can even start a fire with a plastic bag.

You’ll need:

How to start a fire without a lighter
5 weird ways to start a fire without a lighter
  • A clear plastic bag. A plastic zip-lock or sandwich bad will work really well for this. Make sure that it is as clean as possible.


  1. Prepare a tinder bundle. Grind your tinder into a fine powder. Sprinkle tinder powder on top of a tinder nest or a base plate such as a strip of bark or wood block.
  2. Fill your bag with water. Next, fill your bag half full of clean water, but don’t seal it.
  3. Twist your bag and create a water sphere. Hold the bag by the top corner and slowly twist the top of the bag. Push the air out as you twist to create a tight water sphere within the bag.
  4. Properly position the sphere. Carefully hold the sphere over the tinder powder taking extra care to not drip any water. Move the sphere until you find the most concentrated beam of sunlight coming through the bag. Now hold it steadily above the tinder.
  5. Wait patiently. At this point, you’ll see smoke and you may get a flame. If you only see smoke and a blackened area, add more tinder to the burned spot and refocus the sphere. The will heat the tinder from the bottom and the top.

Can You Start a Fire with a Sandwich Bag? (Cool Survival Hack)

Bonus item: How to start a fire with a flashlight

Even if you’re missing your bugout bag, I have a feeling that you’ll at least have a flashlight. Possibly in your pocket or on a keychain or in a work bag (note to self, put a backup headlamp in my purse.) Flashlights are prepper gold so even if you don’t have one, someone nearby is bound to have a light.

Don’t worry if your flashlight’s lens isn’t intact because it can still start a fire. This method is similar to the soda can process. It utilizes refracted light to focus heat. The main difference in this case, is that the tinder inside, rather than in a pile. This means that the light needs to go inward, not outward.

You’ll need:

  • A flashlight. You really only need the reflective cup from inside the lens of the light. Even a non-functioning flashlight can provide this. Don’t attempt this with a very small pen light because a larger reflective cup is necessary.


  1. Disassemble the flashlight. Unscrew the head of the flashlight and remove the silver cone around the bulb.
  2. Place tinder in the reflective cup. Place some tinder in the hole at the bottom of the cup. This is easiest if you push it into the hole from the bottom instead of shoving it down from the inside of the cup. You only need a tiny bit to poke up.
  3. Position the cup. Aim the inside of the cup towards the sun. At this point, you should see light bouncing throughout the cup. Position it so that most of the light is aimed directly at the tinder.
  4. Transfer the lit tinder in the cup to a larger tinder pile. Once the tinder lights, gently poke it out of the cup and blow on it. Then add it to your tinder pile.

Can You Actually Start Fire with Flashlight?


Now it is time for you to practice these fire-starting methods! They can take a little bit of practice, but it’s worth-it to learn these skills so that you have them when you need them. There are many different ways to refine your techniques. Try different types of tinder in different environments.

I know that when the time comes, you’ll be able to use your best judgement to figure out which method to use. Now you can start a fire without matches or a lighter, even without your bugout bag or the perfect bugout location! A little planning and practice could save your life in the future!

Do you know of any creative ways to start a fire? Have you tried any of these techniques or which of these methods are you most interested in? Comment below to share!

I hope that you enjoyed this article and that you learned something.

See you soon!