If you’re relatively well-versed when it comes to preparedness, you know a few things to be true. You know you need to have your go bag stocked and ready before disaster hits. You know which foods are perishable versus non-perishable. You know what threats your area needs to be ready for, whether they be hurricanes or planned power outages. And you know that the ability to start a fire is key to survival, from cooking food to keeping you and your family warm.
However, even if you have your go-bag stocked with essential items to start a fire (such as a Fire Disc or InstaFire Fire Starter Pouches), there’s always the risk of plans going awry. Your go bag may disappear, or you may not have it with you when disaster strikes (this is why it’s key to have a go bag at home, in your car, and at work).
If you find yourself in these situations, you’ll have more peace of mind if you know of a few back-up methods to ignite a flame and start a fire. And here’s your chance to learn a few. Today, I’m sharing six unconventional ways to start a fire in an emergency. Whether you’re lost in the wilderness or at home without power or fuel, I have no doubt you’ll find these methods useful.
#1: Whiskey or other grain alcohols
Typically, we think of whiskey’s main purpose to be taking the edge off after a rough day, or celebrating a special occasion. However, there’s a lot more to whiskey and other grain alcohols than you may think. In addition to serving as an antiseptic or a barter good, whiskey can be used as a vehicle to start a fire. Most bourbon brands are around 80 proof, meaning they are highly flammable. Assuming you have a way to ignite a fire using matches or a lighter, you can use whiskey as a source of fuel.
Once the alcohol content is gone, all that remains will be water. So if you pour whiskey onto a pile of damp sticks, the alcohol will burn off quickly and the sticks will be wetter than before. As Outdoor Life shares, “Plan ahead by lighting a rag or a bundle of tinder that has been doused with bourbon, and placing it under the sticks until they catch (rather than wetting the sticks themselves). This way, you take advantage of the liquor’s flammability, without the drawback of its high water volume.”
#2: Chewing gum wrapper and battery
Out of matches? Happen to have a foil gum wrapper and cylindrical battery on hand? You’re in luck. You can produce a small flame using these two items to create a weak circuit. Here’s how: Cut the middle of a foil gum wrapper so that the middle is about ¼ of the thickness of the ends. Touch one end of the foil side to the bottom of the battery and the other end to the top of the battery. If done correctly, the narrow part in the middle should catch fire.
No judgement, but if you used a magnifying glasses and the sun to burn ants as a kid, you’re already accustomed to the lens-based method for starting fires. There’s a multitude of options when it comes to exact materials, but the basic principles are going to be consistent. Essentially, you’ll need…
- Sunlight--this method won’t work if it’s overcast or at night.
- A tinder nest, which can be made up of things like fibrous grasses and bark, dryer lint, or other lightweight flammable material.
- A type of lens to focus the sunlight on your tinder nest.
Here are four examples of lens-based methods, each using a different kind of lens:
#3: Plastic Wrap and Water
For this method to be effective, make sure the sun is directly overhead. Create an “aqua lens” by stretching plastic wrap across a makeshift frame. Keep it in place with tape, and make sure your tinder is located underneath. Then, use the wrap as a bowl and pour water on top of it. This makeshift aqua lens will form a beam of sunlight on your tinder, igniting it.
#4: Balloons and Condoms
Using a condom to light a fire might sound a bit far fetched, but it’s a totally proven method that we shouldn’t overlook. And let’s be honest, people are more likely to have a condom with them than a balloon. Simply fill the condom or balloon with water and tie off the end, ensuring it’s as spherical as possible without making it so inflated that the sunlight’s focal point is distorted. Hold the condom or balloon about one to two inches from your tinder, and squeeze them until you find a shape that gives you a sharp, focused circle of light. From there, you should be able to get a fire going.
#5: Parts of a flashlight
Flashlights are a go-bag essential, so if you’re out of traditional fire starters but have a flashlight on hand, you’re in luck! Take the top lens off of the flashlight, and remove the reflective cone that the light bulb sits in. Place your tinder nest where the bulb is typically located, and position the cone in direct sunlight. The tinder should start burning in no time.
#6: Soda and Chocolate Bar
Not only are soda and chocolate good provisions for stressful situations--surprisingly, they can also come in handy when starting fires. Use the chocolate (or toothpaste, if you don’t have chocolate) as a burnishing solvent to polish the bottom of the soda can until it shines like a mirror. Make sure no one eats the chocolate after it’s been used for polishing, as it will contain toxic levels of aluminum and isn’t safe to ingest. Hold the polished bottom of the can at an angle to reflect the sunlight like you would with a magnifying glass. Make sure the polished can is about one inch away from your tinder nest. In seconds, you should have a flame.
Though these methods may seem odd, unconventional, and even far-fetched, they do work, if done correctly. Never assume you’ll have everything you need when you need it in times of disaster. Keep these methods in mind and you’ll have comfort in knowing that you can keep your family members warm, fed, and more during emergency situations.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply