How to Make a Fire in the Wild: Your Options and Which One You Should Pick


One of the essential survival skills to have while in the wilderness is how to make a fire. Fire has been one of the fundamental survival skills of humanity since before we were humans! It can be used for warmth, cooking, and signaling for help. There are various methods to use when making a fire without conventional tools.

Some are easier than others, but they all require some type of tinder nest. Everything you need to know is detailed below.

Important Factors when Making a Fire in the Woods without Conventional Tools

The most important part of how to make a fire in the wild is how you start it. Several factors will affect how much time and effort goes into making your tinder nest as well as how easily it catches flame. These main questions can summarize these different variables:

  1. What wood do I have available? How big is it? What condition is it in (dry or wet)?
  2. How good am I at creating kindling with my hands or improvised tools? 
  3. If this takes me longer than usual, how long until nightfall? 
  4. Are there any other items that might help, such as paper products from an emergency kit?

If you think about these things beforehand and plan for them, starting your fire will be much easier!


The Pieces of Wood Available to You

Wood is the essential part of making a fire in the wild. The type, size, and condition of the wood you have available will all affect how easily your tinder nest catches flame. There are three types of wood commonly used for making fires: softwoods, hardwoods, and man-made materials.

Man-made materials such as newspaper or cardboard can be lit easily with a spark from an iron rod or flint and steel, but they don’t produce much heat or flame. Softwoods such as pine and dry cedar material or their piece of bark catch fire relatively easily but burn out quickly. Hardwoods such as oak and maple take longer to light but burn for a long time.

What Size is the Wood You Have Available?

Size plays a big role in making a fire because it affects how much tinder you will need and how long your kindling must be for it to catch flame. The larger the dry piece of bark, the more surface area available for catching fire which means that less effort on your part which results in an easier time starting a fire. 

In addition to size, the condition also matters when making a fire with twigs. A wet wood piece does not burn well, so if you find yourself stuck in rainy conditions, this could drastically affect how difficult things get!

How Good Are You at Creating Kindling with Your Hands or Improvised Tools?

This question is essential when learning how to make a fire in the wild because it affects how much time and effort goes into making your tinder nest. If you are good at breaking small pieces of wood off a larger piece, you will have an easier time starting a fire. 

However, if you aren’t as handy, gathering kindling can be quite difficult and take more time than necessary. In this case, using artificial materials such as newspaper or cardboard might be a better option.

Tinder Nests

The first step on how to make a fire in the wild is making sure you have tinder. Your tinder nest will be used as fuel for your kindling and then eventually use its energy to ignite the piece of wood that you’ll need for your fire pit. You want something light, dry, and fluffy, so if possible, try using things like cattail down or pine needles, but really, anything works! 

To test whether an item can work like tinder, gather up some with one hand and snap it between two fingers. Suppose it creates tiny fibers, then this may be good enough to create smoke later on when starting a fire in nature. Remember, it only needs to catch a spark before igniting into flames.

Now that you have your tinder nest ready, it’s time to choose a method for how to make a fire in the wild.

The Hand-Drill Method

The hand drill method requires a spindle and a fireboard. The spindle is what you will use to create friction against the fireboard, creating heat and eventually smoke and flames. This is one of the more complex methods, but it can be very successful if done correctly. 

To start, find a straight piece of wood around 12-18 inches long and ½ inch thick. Cut notches into one end of the spindle so it can easily spin in your hands. On the opposite end of the spindle, drill a hole about ¼ inch in diameter.

The next step is to make your fireboard. This can be made out of any type of wood, but it must be soft enough so you can create friction against it. Cut a piece of wood about 12-18 inches long and ¾ inch thick. Drill a hole in the center the same size as the one on the spindle.

Now, take your tinder nest and place it in the hole on the fireboard. Put the spindle in the other hole to line up the notches and begin rubbing them together quickly. You should start to see smoke after a minute or two if you’re doing this correctly. Keep rubbing until you have a small flame, and then carefully transfer it to your fire pit.

The Bow Drill Method

This method is more straightforward than hand drilling but can be more complicated depending on how you set up and maintain it throughout the process because of how complex it can be. To start, gather two pieces of wood that are very similar so they have equal potential for friction and can withstand pressure from one another over time.

This can be accomplished by choosing dry, dead branches or fine-grained woods with lots of resin like pine, cedar, and spruce trees. Once you have these items, cut them into different-sized sections so that when put together, they will create an X shape with each piece connecting at the ends.

Cut notches on each piece of wood to easily rotate and create friction when you rub them together. Make sure to place your tinder nest in the center! Take one stick, hold it vertically above a fire pit with one hand on top of the other, then start rubbing them together quickly.

You should see smoke within minutes if you go with this bow drill method correctly! Keep working until you have flames before carefully transferring over to your how to make a fire pit.

The Jerry Rigged Flint & Steel Method

This method doesn’t require any special tools but does rely heavily on having some knowledge about flint or metalwork, which may not be available for use during times like these. To pull off this method, you’ll need:

  • A piece of flint or quartz (or any other hard, sharp stone).
  • A metal striker (could be anything from a knife blade to the back of a hacksaw).
  • Some char cloth which can easily be made at home by tying up some cotton fabric tightly and cooking it over low heat until it’s blackened.

The process is pretty simple but does take a little bit of practice. 

First, cut your char cloth into small pieces that will fit comfortably in your hand. 

Next, use your striker to create sparks onto the flint. Once you have a spark, quickly place it onto the char cloth and blow on it gently to start the flame. If done correctly, this method can be very successful!

The Fire Plow Method

The Fire Plow method is pretty simple and doesn’t require any special tools, but it does take some time and practice to get it down.

The first thing you’ll need is a long piece of wood (at least 18 inches) that’s about ¾ inch thick. 

Cut a groove into one end of the wood that’s about ¼ inch wide and ½ inch deep. 

Next, find another piece of wood (about 12-18 inches long and ¾ inch thick) and cut a small notch in one end that will fit snugly into the groove on the first piece of wood. This is your fire plow.

Now, take your tinder and place it in the middle of the fire plow. Holding the two pieces of wood together, start rubbing them back and forth quickly across each other. You should see smoke within minutes if done correctly! 

Keep rubbing until you have a small flame and then carefully transfer it to your how to make a fire pit.


There are many different ways on how to make a fire in the wild with nothing. It’s important to know which method will work best in different survival situations and how to set it up correctly so you can be successful!



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