How To Build a Campfire Without Matches

Building a campfire without matches is much easier than you think and inside of an hour, when armed with a few simple tools and the proper know how, you'll have the skill set and confidence to be able to build a campfire on that next backpacking trip with ease.

Aside from the know how, there really are only two simple tools you'll need to have on hand.

  • Dryer Lint - The next time you run a load of clothes through the dryer, save the dryer lint.  That stuff is magic when it comes to building a fire.  It lights very easily without matches and it's super lightweight.  If dryer lint isn't available, cotton balls work great too.  If you're fresh out of both of those then find and old, dead dry log and scrape it with the back of your knife to create super fine tinder.  But, we want to make this easy so go get that dryer lint.
  • Flint & Steel - The second tool you'll need is a flint and steel set.    You can pick one of these up at over a dozen retailers for under $15 and it's really an indispensable tool.  And believe it or not, the spark generated by a flint and steel set is over 5,000 degree F!  That's some serious heat it generates.  I not only use the flint and steel for campfire making, I also use it to ignite my alcohol stove.  

What's more, it's so lightweight and compact, you can stick it in your pocket.  I carry mine with me each time I head out on the trail and I've got zero worries about getting a fire going with it.

So, with dryer lint [or cotton balls] and flint & steel in hand, lets get you in the know about building a camp fire quickly and easily.

Preparation:  There are a few steps that you'll need to take before you strike that first spark but I promise they're completely easy and completely worth it.

Our next step in building that great backpacking camp fire in gathering the right wood.

  • Dry, Dry, Dry - To get your campfire started, you'll want the driest wood you can find.  The drier, the better.  If it's damp out, you can find dry wood if you look in the right spots.  Wet wood just won't start so if that's all you can find, use your knife to peel off the outer layer to reveal drier wood within.
  • Kindling Sized - And you'll want to search for three different sizes of wood as in the above photo.  Wood that is about half the thickness of a pencil is perfect for starting.  Get a good sized pile of that.  Next, gather a pile of pencil thick wood.  That will ignite fairly easily too.  Then lastly get some pieces that are about the same girth as a good walking stick.  With the wood in the above photo, I started and maintained a good sized fire for over an hour.  While you've got that good foundation burning, that's the time to wander out a bit and get those logs that will burn hot enough to cook a great meal and to keep you warm throughout the night.

Note: A camp saw is super handy to have, not so much for the smaller kindling for building the fire but for the larger wood you'll want later on for cooking, roasting hot dogs, smore's, etc.  It will make cutting that larger wood into more manageable pieces super easy.

Once you've got all your starter wood gathered, it's time to build the Bird's nest.  One important tip here is to keep enough air space in the pile.  I leave the front wide open so the fire has plenty of air to breathe.  Smothering the fire with too much wood or not enough air space is the number one cause of failure.

I build a horseshoe shape of larger wood around the outside base then lay my kindling wood on top.  You want enough room in that 'pocket' you just made to be able to get your fist in there.

Now, insert that dryer lint bundle, fluffing it up a bit, again to allow the fire to breathe, and to get as much of that lint ignited as quickly as possible.  And keep  that lint bundle right in easy reach as you'll need to be about an inch away from it when using the flint and steel.

Another important note is that you'll want the top of the lint to be about one inch away from the kindling you laid on top.  The lint will light up very quickly and you'll want the flame licking all that wood you've got on top right off the bat.

Above all else it's practice that builds your skill and confidence.  But even the first time fire builder can have great success with these simple tools and preparation tips.

So practice these tips at home a few times and most of all have fun!  Building a campfire either on the trail or even in your backyard is super relaxing to watch, listen to and even cook off of.

Thanks for reading!


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