How to start a fire with a battery and a gum wrapper

Are you a strategic planner who carries a fire starter in your emergency pack, purse, or the glove compartment of your car? If so, then you are miles ahead of the average person. Let’s just be honest. Lighter’s often break, fire starters sometimes stop working, and matches get wet when you usually need them the most. This is why it is so useful to know multiple ways to start a fire. Far too many people die hypothermia-related deaths each year. The worst part is that these deaths could have been avoided with proper planning. I am going to teach you how to start a fire with a battery and a gum wrapper. If you learn this method, you could save a life.

How to start a fire with a battery and a gum wrapper

Why it works

In the methods described below, you will essentially create a path of very low resistance for the energy to flow through. From the positive (+) terminal to the negative(-) terminal of the battery. Once this connection is established, the battery will put power through the material and make this connection possible. If the material is too thin and cannot handle this flow of electricity, it will heat up and eventually get red hot.

Chewing gum wrapper foil is perfect for this technique because the foil is very thin and has a paper backing. The thin foil easily heats up and the paper backing is an excellent fuel source that can help turn the heat into a flame. If you aren’t a gum chewer, it’s okay because you aren’t limited to gum wrappers. There are many other thin, conductive materials that create this same reaction.

You’ll need:

  • A battery: If you have a working (battery operated) flashlight, then you have a battery to work with. If not, you can improvise. Search for anything that might have a battery like your cell phone, tablet, lantern, GPS, or any other battery powered device. You will want to avoid very small batteries like watch batteries because they cannot put out enough energy to make this technique work.
  • Chewing gum foil: Chewing gum wrapper foil is ideal for this technique because it has a thin piece of foil on one side and usually a paper backing on the other side. If you don’t have this, then you can improvise. Aluminum foil can work if you have a big enough battery (such as a cell phone battery or a 9-volt battery.) You can also trim the foil down to make it thin enough. Your mission is to find something super thin and conductive.

How to start a fire with a battery and a gum wrapper

All you need is a battery from your flashlight (or another device) and a single gum wrapper to start a fire that will keep you from freezing. Make sure that you have an abundant supply of dry tinder and follow these steps.

1- Locate a AA battery.

If you have any electronic devices in your bugout bag, then you most likely have a AA battery. Whether it’s headphones, a flashlight, GPS, digital camera, or any other battery-powered device, you probably have a suitable battery. If not, you can also use a D, C, or AAA battery for this purpose.

2- Find a foil gum wrapper that has a paper lining.

Try to find a gum wrapper that has a paper lining. This will produce the best results. Unfortunately, this kind of wrapper is not as common as it used to be, but some popular brands still package their gum this way like Wrigleys or Big Red.

3- Prep your foil gum wrapper for lighting.

You can use a pair of scissors, your fingers, or a small knife for this step. Cut the wrapper lengthwise into three equal strips. This will provide you with three opportunities to start your fire. Next, cut each of these strips into an hourglass shape. Aim to make the hourglass measure about 1/16th of an inch at the center of the strip. The narrow center is the point of the foil wrapper that will spark and ignite into a flame. From there, the flame will spread to both sides of the wrapper.

4- Start your fire.

At this point, make sure that you have plenty of dry tinder ready and available. You will have just a few quick seconds to ignite your tinder with the flame created by the battery. Next, touch the foil side of both ends of the gum wrapper to the positive and negative ends (poles) of your battery. It’s important to protect your hands with gloves, a rag, or a scarf because this step can release some heat. Be prepared for the center of your wrapper strip to spark quickly. When it sparks, immediately light your tinder. Be ready because you will probably only have 1-2 seconds to ignite the tinder.

5- Troubleshoot mishaps.

If your fire doesn’t ignite with your first attempt, it’s okay because you have two more pieces of your gum foil strips. If your first strip didn’t spark and create a flame, it could mean that the hourglass shape in the center of the strip wasn’t thin enough. Trim down the center of your hourglass wrapper strip to make it thinner and try again.

Gum Wrapper Fire Starter | How To Start Fire With Battery And Gum Wrapper

Practice, practice, practice!

The know-how and skill of starting a fire without a modern fire-starter, lighter, or matches can be crucial for surviving the freezing cold winter temperatures. During snow storms, you will need to seek shelter in the forest or areas with overgrown shrubs if there are no buildings or shelters around.

Most people carry fire-starters in their pockets, cars, or emergency packs, but even the most prepared prepper can be caught off guard. Or the fire starter may be defective or broken. You must be prepared to improvise and ward off the cold in dangerous / extreme conditions. Practice this technique now when it isn’t a life or death situation and you will be confident and well prepared if you ever need it in the future.

How to use a 9-volt battery

The method above also works well with a 9-volt battery. Know that a 9-volt is a lot more powerful than a standard AA battery. If you try this technique, make your hourglass cut in the center of the foil strip wider than 1/16th of an inch.

When you use a powerful battery like a 9-volt, it gives you more material options than just a thin gum wrapper. These methods all operate on the same principle: too much electrical current through a conductive material that is too thin to handle it.

9-volt battery and steel wool

You can also use the method above to spark a fire with a 9-volt battery and steel wool. 9-volts are commonly used to power smoke and CO alarms, and other small appliances. You can also use two 1.5-volt batteries. Just remember that it’s less voltage so you’ll need a very thin material to pass the current through. You can use a loosened strand of fine steel wool.

9-volt battery + an incandescent light bulb

I just found out that halogen and incandescent light bulbs are being banned in the U.S. I’ll read about it and write about the reasons why soon.

The tungsten wire filaments within a standard incandescent light bulb reach reach high degrees of heat when electricity runs through them. You can start a fire fairly easy with this method since the wire inside of a 75-watt bulb can reach temperatures as high as 4600 degrees Fahrenheit. The biggest problem would probably be finding an incandescent light bulb if you are stranded in the woods or deserted country side (especially with the impending ban.)

However, if you happen to come across such a lightbulb and a 9-volt battery, then you may be in luck! Wrap the bulb in a rag or cloth then use a blunt object to gently break it. Take extra care and don’t damage the filament inside. Now carefully clear away the broken glass. Make sure that your bundle of dry tinder is next to you. Dry twigs, grass, and small branches work well for this. Next, touch the base of the lightbulb to the two opposite terminals of the battery. This should light up the filament. Touch the filament to your tinder and you’ll have a fire!

You can use your cell phone battery

You can start a fire with the powerful lithium battery that is inside of your cellphone or tablet. Desperate times call of desperate measures, right? While you probably wouldn’t want to use your cell phone battery (many of us are very attached to our devices), it is a feasible option that is good to know.

You can still use a foil chewing gum wrapper, but don’t trim the foil as thin as you would for a AA battery. The flow of electricity from your cellphone battery will be very powerful.

This is how you do it:

  1. Prepare the battery. First, remove the battery from your phone or tablet and identify its positive and negative terminals. These two terminals are usually the outermost gold plates located at the top or bottom of the battery.
  2. Prepare the conductive material. Next, form a thin log roll out of aluminum foil, foil lined paper, or fine steel wool. If you are using a chewing gum wrapper, you can roll it lengthwise into a log rather than trimming it. You want your material to be thicker than it was for the prior methods.
  3. Prepare the tinder. Collect plenty of dry tinder. Take the amount that you think you need and double that. If it is challenging to locate dry tinder, think creatively. Search at the base of thick bushes and under rocks.
  4. Shape your material and make contact. Shape the log roll of foil or steel wool into a U so that it can reach both the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of the battery. Now touch the ends of the U to both battery terminals at the same time.
  5. Light up your tinder. As the battery short circuits and sparks your material, light your tinder.

How to Start a Fire with a Cell Phone Battery ?

Can you get electrocuted while doing this?

Do you risk electrocution while attempting these fire-starting methods? This is a valid safety concern. Luckily for you or anyone else who is stranded in the bitter cold, the risks are almost non-existent. Nearly all of the standard batteries (like AAA, AA, C, D, or even 9-volt batteries) are not capable of producing enough electricity to harm a human.

Keep in mind that a cellphone (lithium) battery will have more kick in terms or electrical flow, but it is still only around 5 volts. You are pretty safe and should be more concerned about burning yourself than getting electrocuted.

If you would like to learn more fire starting techniques, visit:


There are various methods for utilizing the physics of electricity to start a fire, but one of the safest and easiest methods for most people is performed with a battery and a common gum wrapper.

Remember to practice it now that way you will be ready if you ever need to use this method in the future. Once you become proficient at this technique, I bet that you’ll remember to carry batteries and will search for the gum that has the appropriate kind of wrapper. And if you don’t need a wrapper to start a fire, it’s a nice uplifting boost to chew on some gum during a hike.

I trust that you are already more than prepared with a variety of fire starters. If not and if your supplies fail, at least you have this method for your tool box.

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? Alana