How to start a fire without matches or a lighter

Have you heard of a firesteel? They are a handy little tool that can be used to start a fire or ignite a stove in any condition, making it a must have for those that love camping, hiking, backpacking, travelling and even those with a backyard fire pit or wood burning fireplace. Unlike matches and disposable lighters, its use doesn't rely on petrochemicals, plus it's tough, long lasting and cost effective. So how do you use one and where do you find them? Read on as we show you!

How to start a fire without a lighter | Light My Fire Firesteel | Biome Eco Stores

Image: Light My Fire

The problem with disposable lighters and modern matches

Disposable lighters, such as those plastic ones by Bic, use butane, which is a hydrocarbon gas that falls under the broad label of liquefied petroleum gas. They are generally made of plastic and are one of the most common items picked up during beach clean ups. You may remember seeing footage from Chris Jordan's film, Albatross of an albatross chick on Midway Island that had swallowed plastic bottle caps, plastic toys, and even a plastic lighter. We won't share the photo as it's quite shocking, but you can see the trailer herePlease note: some viewers may find this footage distressing.

And even if a plastic lighter doesn't end up in our environment or being mistaken for food by an animal, they will still end up in landfill where they will remain forever. Matches on the other hand are made from wood (usually aspen) that has been impregnated with ammonium phosphate and paraffin wax. The match heads are a mixture of potassium chlorate, animal glue and other materials that moderate combustion. The striking surface is generally comprised of powdered glass, red phosphorus and adhesives (gum arabic or urea formaldehyde).

Advantages of using a firesteel

A firesteel is a great, safe alternative to butane lighters and matches. The Light My Fire firesteels that we carry are made of a magnesium alloy rod and a stainless steel striker. A firesteel carries several advantages over matches and disposable Bic lighters:
  • A firesteel will withstand being immersed in water (goodbye wet matches!);
  • Perform well in high winds;
  • They are effective at any altitude (unlike a butane lighter);
  • They're very tough and strong (they won't snap like matches!);
  • They last a very long time. Depending on the style, a single firesteel can light up to 12,000 fires (imagine how many matches or lighters you would need to light that many!);
  • If you use a Firesteel through to the end of its life, the price per fire is much cheaper than buying multiple boxes of matches to light the same number of fires;
  • Their manufacturing and use doesn't rely on petrochemicals; and
  • They can be recycled - bring your firesteel into a Biome store and we will send it to a specialist recycling facility for you.

So how do you use one? Here's how!

How to start a fire with a firesteel

To use the Light My Fire Firesteel Scout or Army, scrape the stainless steel striker (a knife also works) along the rod, using a slow to moderate stroke with adequate pressure. This will generate a shower of hot sparks which you direct into either fuel or tinder. You can generate the sparks by either moving the rod or moving the firesteel. Gas stove: To light a gas stove that doesn't have an in-built igniter, turn on the gass, stroke the firesteel and direct the sparks into the gas. Campfire: Place the end of the firesteel rod on top or resting against your tinder. You can hold your tinder down with the end of the firesteel rod to keep it from blowing away. Stoke the firesteel and direct the sparks into the tinder.
How to start a fire without a lighter | Light My Fire Firesteel | Biome Eco Stores

Image: Light My Fire

According to Steve of NatureOutside, natural tinders that are “fluffy” or “wispy” work best with a firesteel. Fine bark and wood shavings will also catch a spark. This fluffy tinder traps oxygen in the air between its particles, creating suitable combustion conditions. We recommend doing a few practice runs using different strokes and using different tinder until you find a technique that works for you. How to start a fire without a lighter | Light My Fire Firesteel | Biome Eco Stores

To encourage and build your fire quickly, instead of using cotton balls and petroleum jelly, which is often suggested, transfer your lit tinder to environmentally safe and petroleum free fire starters. We stock If You Care Firelighters (made from FSC wood and non-GMO palm oil-free vegetable oil) and Honeybee Beeswax Fire Starters (beeswax, organic cotton, coconut oil, tree resin and jojoba oil).

Light My Fire Firesteel Scout and Army

Light My Fire Firesteel

Biome's firesteels are made by Swedish company, Light My Fire. This is the same company that created the original Swedish firesteel for the Swedish Department of Defense! You can use them to light campfires, gas stoves and gas barbeques, plus they work just as well when wet and at any altitude.

The Light My Fire Firesteels produce a bright 2,980°C degree spark. We stock two sizes. The Scout lasts for approximately 3,000 strikes and the Army lasts for approximately 12,000 strikes. They also feature a flexible cord and a built-in emergency whistle.

Find the Light My Fire Firesteels here >

Fire not providing enough light? Check out our incredible collection of Camping Lights to have your campsite lighting sorted out this holidays.

Camping Blogs:

Eco Camping Guide

Minimal Impact Camping

How to Start a Fire Without Matches or a Lighter

How to Reduce Your Waste While Camping

5 MORE Ways to be an Eco-Camper

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The Lost Troopy - 2

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