“There are many ways to light a FIRE. From using the obvious tools, like matches, to improvising with some unlikely materials.

As with all Bushcraft – the secret to consistent success is to be found in the detail. Take nothing for granted.”

Ray Mears – UK Bush Craft & Survival Legend. Trainer to Special Forces

Top 10 Fire Starting Techniques You Need to Know!

NOTE: It’s a great idea to practice these techniques as much as possible. Also, having at least 3 different ways to start a fire covers most situations.

1/ What is a FIRE for and do we really need to start one?

Seems obvious enough, but there are many uses of a fire. Firstly, you’ll need to decide whether to start one at all. It’s a commitment.

*If you don’t have a Cooker, you’ll need to start a fire to cook your food or boil water.

A Tinder Bundle Tied With Paracord. Quick & Easy.

Video: Small Fire ready to heat water. Very dry conditions. Using rocks as a surround.


1.For Keeping Warm

2.For Cooking Food

3.For Boiling Water to Make Safe

4.For Light

5.For Moral

6.To Keep Away Predators & Flying Bugs

7.To Melt Ice & Snow for Drinking Water

8.For Signalling

9.To Dry Wet Clothes

10.To Make Tools


Are you supposed to be where you are? Is it a Stealth Camp?

Is the area a Fire Risk? (with high winds and dry conditions e.g. a tinderbox.)

Can you do Without one? (have you enough safe water and a cooker to cook your food?)

    Are you near a source of fuel for your Fire? Or is it a long trek to get wood?

      Video: Gathering Kindling from dead branches. Not off the wet ground.


      Of all SURVIVAL skills, FIRE starting is a key skill.

      You need to be able to practice many different ways of starting a FIRE anywhere. In many conditions.

      We are out at least once a week to keep up our skillset.

      We all lead busy lives…but try and get some time out to practice. You’ll appreciate it that one time you need it the most!

      I’ve been stuck in the mountains in deep snow (with a vehicle breakdown) a fair few times.

      I managed to set up a temporary shelter and get a fire going quickly (Always carry your Fire Kit).

      Using these techniques to save myself and a friend. We had a long walk out the next day (in deep snow) but didn’t freeze to death.

      Survival is the art of staying alive. Mental attitude is as important as physical endurance and knowledge. You must know how to take everything possible from nature and use it to the full…

      John 'Lofty' Wiseman Ex-Survival Instructor for SAS

      #Survival Stealth Tips

      If you really need a FIRE, have a small one.

      NOISE travels a fair way in the forest and SMOKE can be smelt a long way too.

      Also, the light of a blaring FIRE gives your position away.

      I always do a RECCE before and after starting a small fire. See where it can be seen from.

      Is there a trail/footpath nearby?

      Have you seen anyone near or around your location?

      Start your fire behind natural cover and you can also use a TARP or make a wood wall to hide the flames.

      Be Conservative with FUEL. You might be there a while.

      Take Your Time and Don’t Rush…


      Think where you want your fire (see Stealthy Tips). You need to be able to control your fire.

      Don’t start a fire at the base of a tree or on top of a root system (It can burn for hours even if the fire looks out!)

      Clear the area well of leaves, twigs, moss and dry grass etc. You will need to get down to the bare earth surface.

      You can encircle the fire with rocks. Just make sure they are not Porous, from a river bed or creek. They may explode!

      Check they are solid. The rocks can be used later as bed warmers.

      Collect enough – Tinder, Kindling and Fuel before you start.

      And don’t RUSH the fire starting.

      Clear the area well of Leaves, Twigs, Moss and Dry Grass etc.

      You will need to get down to the bare earth surface. Keep an eye out for Tree Roots.

      Before and After shots (see photos)

      6/ General Rule:

      The more Oxygen a fire gets…the Brighter the fire.

      But, it does burn through more wood.

      By reducing the air flow, it will burn Less fiercely. It also needs less fuel.

      In Cold conditions you might have to help out!


        Video: Blowing air onto fire to aid combustion.

        7/ Materials

        Tinder: Any material that takes a spark to light e.g. Birch bark, dried grass, paper, wood shavings, birds’ nest, pine needles and charred cotton (SEE Char Cloth – How to Make and USE).


        Kindling: Wood used to raise flames from Tinder e.g. small twigs, resinous softwoods are best. If wood wet, can shave off until dry. Best collecting from branches than forest floor.


        Fuel: Mixture of dry, green woods and dried out damp wood. Larger logs. Anything that burns and sustains fire.

        When you are at the Fuel stage, the fire is now well established.

        1# Standard 2 Stick “Parallel” Fire Set Up

        Light with Matches or a BIC type Lighter

        Clear the main Fire area of debris. Leaves, twigs, moss etc.

        Prepare enough Tinder, Kindling and Fuel wood.

        If the ground is wet or snowy, make a platform for your fire using multiple similar sized sticks (thickness of your thumb) under you main fire set up(see pics)

        Find 2 medium sized sticks about thumb sized.

        Position them parallel to each other with a couple inches gap between.

        Layer fine Tinder across.

        Using matches or a lighter or any other fire lighting techniques, light under the Tinder bundle.

        Slowly add fine Kindling as the Fire catches.

        Don’t smother the fire by putting too much wood on. Be patient and let the fire get established first

        Slowly add larger wood as required.

        Note: In damp weather it may take longer to catch. You can blow on the fire to help combustion but dont over due it. Be patient.

        Dry wet wood on the sides of the fire to add to later.


        2# Teepee Fire

        Pretty Quick and Easy to Make. Burns Fast

        Gather a lot of Tinder because your Fire is going to be built on it.

        Build a center of Tinder and then build a surround of Kindling.

        Next, take larger pieces of wood and stand them up around the center so that they are leaning on one another.

        These larger Kindling sticks are what you are going to use to build out your Teepee structure.

        Your Kindling is a very important part of the Teepee fire. You want to have a couple of different sizes of Kindling.

        Fuelwood is essential when you are building a Teepee fire.

        This is one of the most popular types of fires to make. The key to this fire is the Tinder at its core.

        Teepee fires burn quickly and burn hot as heat rises upwards. You’ll need a fair bit of Fuel to keep the fire going.

        3# Vaseline & Cotton Wool

        Burns Very Well. Simple To Light

        Prep as normal. Pick apart a Cotton Wool Ball (you can also use a Tampon) and rub Vaseline into it. A healthy amount helps.

        Position the Cotton Wool and Vaseline mix under the Tinder fire lay. Light this. It will burn quickly and well.

        Slowly add small pieces of Kindling. Add larger pieces until well established.

        When the flames are above the Kindling, start to add small pieces of Fuel. Increase the size as the fire burns.

        Just don’t smother and be patient.

        You can use matches or a lighter but a Ferro Rod (Firesteel easily lights this fire).

        4# Gaffer or Duct Tape (Fabric best)

        Good To Get a Fire Started In Wet Weather

        This is a great little easy Fire Starter (I believe Dave Canterbury ‘the Survival Legend’ discovered this)

        I wrap Duct, Gaffer, Gorilla Tank Tape (whatever you want to call it) around much of my kit. That means, I’ve always got a fire starter to hand.

        Buy some decent Tape, NOT the super cheap stuff.

        Prep your Fire Area and Lay as normal. Role 3 x 2-3″ strips of Duct Tape up into tubes.

        Place them on some bark of small piece of wood. You then lay them on top of themselves in a triangular shape.

        Take one and light it, using this to light the others.

        Slide underneath your fire lay. Slowly adding more pieces of Kindling once the Tinder has caught.

        Add Fuel when the Fire is well established.

        Note: This technique, works well in the rain.

        Update: There is another technique pulling the threads out of the Tape, creating a Birdsnest. Then ignite with a Fire Steel.

        5# Lean TO / FIRE AGAINST LOG

        Good To Get a Fire Started In Windy Weather

        A Lean To Fire structure gets its name from the concept in building the fire.

        Multiple sticks leaning onto something, Often a larger foundation log, but sometimes a medium-sized stick on an angle.

        As always, prep your Fire Area and Fire Materials.

        Find a Log or Large stick.

        Put your Tinder Bundle length-wise against the Log. Make sure Air can get to your bundle.

        Put your Kindling so that it is leaning against the main support. Doing so protects from the wind stopping the fire getting established.

        Light the Tinder Bundle underneath.

        As the Kindling catches, slowly add your Fuel Wood as the fire burns.

        You’ll have a good burn for some time with the large log or stick you are leaning against.

        Note: Works really well in Windy conditions. Remember to position your Lean To Fire into the wind.

        6# Magnifying Glass or Solar Fire

        Fire Starting Using The Sun’s Rays

        This ONLY works on a sunny day. Harnessing the power of the Sun’s Rays.

        You can ignite your Tinder with a Large Magnifying Glass (or handy wallet sized Fresnel Lens).

        Note: Some Compasses have a Magnifier on them to magnify things on the map.

        Prepare the area and have supplies of Tinder, Kindling and Fuel to hand.

        Focus the Sun’s Rays to form a tiny, bright concentrated spot of light on your Tinder, Dried Leaves, Dried Grass or Birds Nest etc

        Ideally, do this out of the wind. This can slow the process down.

        Be patient. When the Tinder starts to burn, add very small pieces of Kindling. Slowly add to this. As the Flames increase in size, you can add Fuel.

        Build the fire up as large as you need.

        Practise makes perfect on this one. Not all Magnifying Glasses work the same.

        Try with different Tinder. Dried leaves or dried grass work well!




        7# Birch Bark

        An Excellent Natural Fire Starter

        Prep Fire area and build Fire Lay.

        Peel off a strip of Birch Bark.

        Birch is a widespread hardwood tree in the Northern Hemisphere. Its bark contains oils that can be extracted and refined into birch tar/birch bark tar.

        Fold length ways as when you light the end, Birch curls upwards. This will prevent that.

        Light the end of the Birch Bark. It will take quite quickly. Let the end burn and establish itself.

        Slowly (like a large match) put the flaming Birch Bark under the Fire Lay to light the Tinder.

        When the flames have risen above the top of the Fire, add the Kindling.

        When this is burning well, add the Fuel. Keep on adding as required.

        Note: Birch Bark has superior waterproofing abilities. So birch bark is waterproof and flammable — Really useful for getting a fire going on a rainy day.

        Also, you can start a Fire with a Ferro Rod using the scrapings of Birch bark, as a powder or in thin strips.

        8# Fire Dragons or Equivalent SOLID fuel Fire Starter

        Easy and Quick Fire At ANY Time

        As above.

        Clear the main Fire area of debris. Leaves, Twigs, Moss etc.

        Prepare enough Tinder, Kindling and Fuel wood.

        If the ground is wet or snowy, make a platform for your fire using multiple similar sized sticks (thickness of your thumb) under you main fire set up(see pics).

        Choose which fire you would like to build. It doesn’t matter with these.

        They burn for about 8 mins, so plenty of time for the fire to catch.

        Light with matches, fero rod or lighter. Very flamable. One should do under the Tinder and Kindling. Add more wood as the fire catches but don’t smother.

        I carry these always for when I’m tired and need a quick fire and always in the wet and snow.

        Note: If flying with them, put in the Hold luggage (I travel all the time with them).

        9# Bees Wax or Any Candle

        Bee’s Wax Can Burn for 12+ Hours

        Prep enough Dry Tinder, Kindling and Fuel.

        Here I am lighting a Parallel fire with a cheap & basic Candle.

        Note: I have created a platform of Cedar Bark underneath.

        Light the Candle and add on top the dry Tinder and Small pieces of Kindling.

        Make sure there is enough room Not to smother the candle’s flame.

        As the Fire takes, add larger pieces of Kindling and then when established, add Fuel Wood.

        10# Make a birds nest and light with a ferro rod

        A bit more involved but a great skill to have

        Prepare the Fire Area and prepare your Tinder and Kindling

        This time we are going to create what’s known as a ‘Bird’s Nest’. Simply, because it looks like a Bird’s Nest.

         In this example, I am stripping bark off a Cedar tree. I break the fibres down into very thin strips.

        They are so small, they will take a light from a Ferrous Rod. This can be done quickly but practise and take some time to create a good sized Nest.

         This can be done using any flammable, dry, fibrous material to hand. Grass, inner and outer barks (like we have here with the Cedar tree). Also cocunut husks, fine wood shavings etc.

        Rub vigourously with your hands to mkae as fine as possible. Ideally, if you can, place even finer 9more combustible material at its core).

        9/ EXTRA TIPS:

        1.When you light a MATCH, light a Candle. You will get multiple lights off the candle. BEESWAX candles can burn for 12+ hours.

        2.Prep your FIRE a few hours before nightfall. Tinder, Kindling and Fuel ready to go.

        3.On SNOWY or WET ground, build base of green logs to make FIRE on.

        4.Soft Woods burn FAST and spark (Alder, Spruce, Pine, Chestnut and Willow)

        5.To save energy, feed larger wood over the fire so it burns through middle. Saves cutting through.

        6.Also to save energy, break wood over rocks or snap through a tree.

        7.If you aren’t carrying an Axe, you can process wet wood using a Knife.

        Called Batoning (DON’T DO THIS if you only have one knife). SEE Batoning.

        8.Dry Wet or Green wood around fire.

        9.If you’re tired after long day just use a Firelighter.

        10.In Winter and the Wet, it takes longer to prep for fire. Baton to get to dry wood (link needed).

        11.In Winter you will go through a lot of wood during the night.It will keep you warm though but burn through calories.

        12.Just before bad weather, smoke from the fire may cling to the ground.

        13.To MOVE a Fire, make a Tinder Bundle and tie with Paracord.

        10/ Common Mistakes

        1. Don’t burn through your wood. Be Conservative…only burn what you need.

        2. Don’t put rotten or mossy wood on the fire. Smokes a lot.

        3. In WINTER you’ll easily burn up calories just keeping the FIRE going (but it does keep you warm. Try not to sweat so much. Layer down.)

        4. Unless it’s a real SURVIVAL life-threatening situation, DO NOT cut down new trees. There’s normally enough deadfall. It also won’t burn very well.

        5. In Winter you might burn your boots and clothing, wearing many layers and getting too close to the FIRE.

        6. Don’t RUSH the Fire starting.

        7. Be in the Mindset of…ONE matchONE Fire.

        When you leave the area, make sure the fire is out. Pour water over until it stops steaming.

        *Coming Soon

        1.Long Fires (ideal for Winter)

        2.Fire Drill Technique

        3.Petrol and Diesel Fires

        4.Chemical Fires

        5.Wire Wool and Battery Fires

        6.Cooking Fires

        7.Fire Reflectors

        8.Batoning or Processing Wood

        9.Char Cloth

        10.Punk Wood

        11.Hidden Fire – Dakota Fire Hole