Outdoor Survival tip: Lighting a fire

A good camper knows some tricks. One of the most important ones is how to light a fire… without matches! National Parks and Recreational areas have specific areas such as fire pits to enjoy a bun fire or cook a freshly caught trout. It’s important to follow fire regulations and restrictions, as winds and accidents can cause serious damage. But when in the backcountry, and if lost, it’s important to know the basics of how to light a fire for survival.

Let’s take a look at how to light a fire and some useful tips to achieve this feat. Mile Hi Rafting Company, just 30 minutes from Denver, offers outdoor adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. We offer ATV and UTV tours and full overnight camping excursions; and help you plan your perfect camping trip too!

Camp fire cooking

Preparing the fire pit

The two basic materials you need to start a fire are fuel and an oxidizer. The oxidizer would be air, which aids in the combustion process. Fuel, in the outdoors, would be wood, of course. Dry wood is ideal, as wet wood gives a harder time to start a fire. Avoid picking up wood that is lying on the ground as it might be damp inside. Gather thin, small and long pieces of wood. Choose a place to make the fire. Select a spot, clean it from leaves, and dig out some dirt. Throw in dry leaves, and then start adding the smaller pieces of wood adding bigger pieces in the end, making a pile similar to a pyramid. Make sure that it’s loose as air needs to flow easily. For tinder, use some dry sticks, dry dead leaves, pieces of bark, even pocket lint, or dry grass. You will first need an initial spark to then transfer it to the pit.

Methods to ignite a spark

  • Convex lens: using a magnifying lens on a sunny day would be your life saver. In other situations, you can use a lens from a camera, glasses, binoculars or a convex piece of glass, like the bottom of a bottle. To make this work, you have to angle the lens on the same spot on the tinder and be patient. Ice or balloons (condoms for that matter) filled up with water can serve the purpose of a lens.
  • Battery: There are several ways of using a battery to ignite a spark. One way is to attach a wire to each terminal and then touch the ends of the bare wires together close to the tinder. If you happen to have steel wool, you can also rub the battery terminals repeatedly in the same direction. Both these methods should provoke a spark from the battery terminals.
  • Friction based methods: If you don’t happen to have any lenses or batteries, then you have no other solution but to use your hands. There are two well-known methods: the fire-plow or bow and drill techniques. Both of them require strong and determined hands as you need to rub wood against wood. We’ll expand on both these techniques in a future post.

Friends Camping at Clear Creek



Mile Hi Rafting’s convenient location makes it an ideal destination for day trips and vacations.  Whether you are heading out for your day of adventure or coming back from one-stop by for an ATV tour to finish your day. We offer child and group discounts. Come see us for your next adventure!