Camping Gear

How to Start a Fire Without a Match

My youngest son just had his Blue and Gold at Cub Scouts and was promoted to a Webelo. He’s is so excited for this rank, because they learn how to make a fire without a match. While he hasn’t earned his belt loop for this (Iron Chef), he has been practicing under very close supervision. He’s favorite way is the bird nest method.

The bird nest method is a quick and easy way to start a fire that older kids can do with supervision following common sense fire safety. Never allow kids to start a fire without adult supervision and clear understanding of fire safety rules. Know the rules of starting fires in your campground. Some do not allow fires to be started on the ground.

Learning to start a fire without a match is also important for adults to know as well. You never know what could happen while going for hike in the woods. A turn in the weather or getting lost could force you to shelter in place. Having a nice warm fire could greatly enhance your survival and comfort. Keeping flint and steel fire starter on your belt loop would be an easy thing to do. Just make sure you know how to use before you need it.

Things you will need

Burlap Twine
  • Burlap Twine
  • Cotton Ball
  • Flint and Steel Fire Starter

Make the Bird Nest

First you will need to cut about 6-7 inches of the burlap twine and begin to unravel the twine.

Burlap twine

Next take the unraveled twine and roll it into a ball.

Burlap Twine Ball

Finally shaped it into a “nest” and put a small dent in the middle. This is where you will place small piece of a cotton ball. My son calls this the egg.

Bird Nest

Flint and Steel Fire Starter

How to Start a Fire Without a Match
Flint and Steel

My son has used two different kinds of flint and steel fire starters. The top one was a bit harder for him to use, but produced a lot of sparks. The orange one was easier for him  to use and he seemed to the light the fire a lot quicker. You can find ones similar to them here (black one) and here (orange one).

It takes a lot of practice and patience to get the hang of using the flint and steel. Sometimes it works quickly and other times it takes a lot of work to get a spark. It shows kids not to give up, keep trying for that spark. The spark will light a great flame. Seeing a kid start fire on their own is amazing. That look of pride on their face at their accomplishment is truly worth it. This is skill that will stay with them forever.

Keep the Fire Burning

The type of elements to have on hand before actually starting the fire are these three things: tinder, kindling and fuel.


Tinder is what the bird nest is going to ignite first. It needs to be dry leaves or pine needles. A lot more than what is pictured below.



Kindling is what the small pieces of wood, twigs and sticks are called. Make sure they are dry as well.



Fuel are the big pieces of wood you usually buy at the camp store. It’s better to start the fire first then add the small pieces of wood to get it going and then the bigger ones to maintain a good fire.


Light it Up

My husband uses the log house method for a campfire the most. Lay the bigger pieces of wood like you would when building with Lincoln Logs.

Log House

Place the Tinder in the middle with the Kindling on top of that. Put the bird nest as close to the Tinder as possible.

These are pictures from a couple of campfires we did over a camping trip, but you should get an idea of what do.

If you can kneel on one knee. You need to to in a position where you can quickly jump back if needed. Quickly strike the metal stick on the flint and sparks should start to fly. It only takes one really good spark to ignite the bird nest.

Start a Fire

The bird nest will start the Tinder, which will catch the Kindling on fire. Once that starts to burn, add your Fuel. You have now started a fire without a match!


Nothing beats sitting around a campfire while camping with your family. Break out the S’mores and enjoy the time together. Or add a little color to the fire with Mystical Fire.

Magic Flame

Enjoy your next camping adventure and Happy Camping!

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