How to Make a Fire Without a Lighter

How to Make a Fire Without a Lighter

and other fire facts

It’s summertime! That means swimming at the pool and beach, going to camp, and enjoying bonfires. But what if you don’t have a lighter to start your bonfire, or to complete your ultimate campfire when you’re exploring the woods on a hiking trip?


Fires are one of the most common chemical reactions on the planet, yet few of us know how to make a fire without a lighter, using common materials found either around the house or in nature. We here at FactSumo take a look at all things fire today: how they function, what they’re made of, and how you can make a fire without a lighter. Let’s get started!

What is Fire?

This may seem like a dumb question, but what is fire actually composed of? Well, it’s not exactly matter. It’s instead the result of a process involving matter. That process is a change in state called a chemical reaction. To simplify things, fires start from the interaction of oxygen and some type of fuel, after the fuel heats to ignition temperature. Some substances, such as steel, have higher ignition temperatures than, say, wood.


In the case of wood, fire occurs when something heats the wood to its ignition temperature: a lighter, lightning, friction, or an array of other things. The material of the wood starts decomposing at this temperature and giving off smoke. Burning occurs when the molecules of these gases break down and re-form with the oxygen in the air. This is the chemical reaction, and you’ll notice that fires die out when you cut off their oxygen supply. It’s also why fires are hard to control: they will continue to grow until you get rid of their fuel or oxygen.


There are two important products when this chemical process happens: heat and light. Incandescence is what we see when a fire happens. The light is a result of intense heat: hot blue at the base of the fire, and cooler orange/yellow near the top. Pressure differences in the air and the gases that are released means fires and their heat rise upward.


Starting Fires Without Fire

There are countless ways to get a material to ignition temperature, but keep in mind it’s easier to use fuel with lower ignition temperatures, like paper and wood. It’s also much more desirable to use dry fuel, so keep these rules in your head! Here are a few ideas on how to make a fire without a lighter.



The sun is a great source of fires, if you have a way to concentrate and magnify the light. A popular method is to polish the bottom of a soda can with chocolate or toothpaste, and then use it to reflect light onto tinder. Another way this can be done is with a magnifying glass, a bottle of clear water, or a plastic bag filled with water! Water and plastic are a great team when it comes to concentrating solar energy into a small area.



There are a few methods to create fire using friction. These are a little bit harder to use, but the general concept is that heat is generated when two surfaces rub together. This is easiest with flint and steel, as they are made to create sparks. But it can also be done using wood and string (drill and bow)

Household Objects

There are common household objects that can generate sparks too. These mostly include batteries because of the charges they hold. All you have to do is complete their circuits. This works really well with steel wool or metallic filaments such as gum wrappers.


We hope you enjoyed these fire facts and fire starter methods! Just be careful when you start a fire; they can be difficult to stop, especially in an area that has a lot of natural tinder and kindling around. If you’re going to start a fire, know how to stop it beforehand. Check out other awesome things to learn here!