Raw Survival Skills – How to Start a Fire Using a Fire Steel

Here’s another video in the survival series.  In the last video I used a match to light a fire, but in this video I use a fire steel to start it.  I picked up this particular firesteel at Dick’s here in Maine, but I just ordered the real deal from firesteel.com and when it comes in I’ll do a gear review.  Supposedly it gives off huge sparks in comparion to what I get on the video.

How to Light a Fire Using a Firesteel

This is another one of those things that a lot of people have in their bug-out bags, but very rarely ever try and use, and like most things survival related it takes a little practice and skill. 

First, make sure you have some dry tinder.  I like to make it as realistic as possible and only use what I can find in the forest during whatever the time of year I happen to be out there.  In this case it’s early spring (April 10) and there’s still some snow on the ground in patches in the woods thus it’s still a little damp.  I like to use a “bird’s nest” of dead grass whenever possible because this will catch a spark really well, but this time all I had was dead leaves and dry ferns.  Crumple the leaves up as much as possible and have the dead fern standing by because once you get a flame it could go out in a second.  As soon as you see the flame put a small bundle of fern (or whatever is dry and burns quick) on the flame and let it go.  Then add your small kindling and build your fire up until there’s not danger of it going out.

This is not as easy as some people make it look and I would highly advise you to get out there with yours and practice until you have a reasonable amount of success with it.   Also, practice under different weather conditions as well.  Work on different scenarios where you live where a firesteel might save your life.  Maybe canoeing in the spring or fall and your canoe or boat capsizes and everything is wet and all you have is a knife and a firesteel.  Could you survive?  Could you get a fire going in that event?

-Jarhead Survivor


Again, I’m still experimenting with cameras, software, technique and so on.    If you have any suggestions please put them in the comment area below.  Thanks!  (Some day I’ll make a blooper reel.  I’ve already got about five minutes of footage of just that!)  I also broke another tripod.  If anybody knows a good Jarhead-proof tripod please let me know so I can check it out.

8 comments… add one
  • CollegeMech April 11, 2011, 9:46 am

    I have never tried this (only seen somebody do it), but you can start a fire using charcloth. Charcloth is made by putting a scrap (or multiple scraps) of thin cloth in a small tin container and then sticking that in an existing fire. The tin container must have a small hole drilled in it. After the smoke ceases coming out of the container, the charcloth is ready, so take the tin container out of the fire using tongs, but don’t open it until it is cool or the cloth inside will just flare up. The charcloth looks like cloth, but it is completely blackened and rather crumbly. A couple sparks from a flint & steel got the charcloth to start burning.

    I tend to start fires using a magnifying glass. I gather a thick, dense mat of pine needles (about a handful is good) and spread them underneath a teepee of thin sticks and kindling. After around two minutes, the pile will flare up. The unfortunate downside is that this requires a very steady hand and a sunny day.

  • Jarhead Survivor April 11, 2011, 10:02 am

    I’ve never used charcloth, but I’ve heard of it. When I’m in the woods I like to use whatever is available for tinder there. I’ve used magnifying glasses before, but like you said it takes a sunny day.

  • Leon April 11, 2011, 10:39 am

    Bogen tripods are bulletproof. I’ve used the same one for more than 20 years, and it has never failed me!
    I just did a firesteel demo and presentation at a Cub Scout meeting last nightin Prineville, OR. On my way (as is my custom at such events), I stopped along the road to gather cat tail fuzz and juniper bark for tinder. This combination works very well, but it is by no means easy to start!
    All survival techniques need to be tested, tried and practiced on a regular basis!

  • JoeNY April 11, 2011, 10:47 am

    I bought from Firesteel.com a few yrs ago—great stuff ! Now they even have newer types or accessorized fire steel, even better, different sizes for different kits & applications. I HIGHLY recommend their site, you will NOT be disappointed , this stuff works very easily, buy some & you’ll see. I carry cotton balls to use with them. and get some smalls jars of the original US made vasilene (to dip/coat the cotton balls ) 2nd use for vasilene–if you have a tick stuck to you smother it with vasilene. If bit by a deer tick, please go to a Doctor for blood work. I got bit by one a few yrs ago & didn’t know it until I got sick as a MF’er. (excuse the curse, if you ever get Lyme disease, you’ll understand)

  • ChefBear58 April 11, 2011, 3:28 pm

    I remember going on a camping trip a few years ago with some friends, somehow (still not sure how, because almost everyone who went were smokers) there weren’t any matches or lighters to be found in anyone’s gear. Someone said they would just start a fire using a bow & drill… Of course I just sat back watching this whole debacle unfold, knowing the whole time that I had a fire-starting kit in my truck. Watching the guys attempt to make a bow from a flimsy tree branch and a shoelace, and not being able to figure out what you use under the drill was probably one of the funniest things I have ever seen! After about 45min of watching the fiasco continue, and right before someone left for the store to buy a lighter, I pulled out my fire-steel and had a campfire light in about 3 minutes.

    Point being, don’t rely on a skill you don’t understand/know in a situation where your life/safety would depend on it!

    • Ranger Man April 11, 2011, 6:17 pm

      I made fire with a bow drill once. You gotta find the right wood to start.

      • ChefBear58 April 11, 2011, 11:17 pm

        I have used a bow & drill to start a fire a few times, the most memorable was when I was going through “The Ordeal” for Order of the Arrow in Boy Scouts. The challenging part was, we had been dropped off in the middle of the night to different spots along a maintenance road (glorified trail), with a piece of painters plastic where we were allowed bed-down anywhere within a designated 10yd square; Problem being that everyone’s spots were located with massive drainage ditches running through the middle , so you had to sleep in the ditch. Unfortunately for most, it rained like CRAZY that night, and most folks slept down in the ditch, so they were soaked and so was the little bit of gear they had! That morning we were given 1 match, paper cup, safety pin, 3′ of twine, canteen of water, a raw egg and a small bucket of creek water (in case we needed to douse a uncontrollable fire). We were told that we had to start a fire and hard-boil the egg, then eat the egg for breakfast before going out and working our community/wildlife enrichment projects. Almost everyone, I can only assume due to sleep deprivation, put their match into their soaking wet pocket… guess they didn’t plan on using them! I had a fire-steel and a small “snack-size” zipper bag full of dryer lint; when I started to use it, one of the “elders” told me I had to give it up, he did however bring me his hand-made bow, drill and 1x4x8″ plank to run the drill though… I had a fire started in about 10 min (it’s A LOT of HARD work to do it right!), with the help of my stashed dryer lint. In had used the “log cabin” set up for my base, with the tinder in the center (because of wind). Almost everyone came and asked to “borrow fire” so they could cook their breakfast!

        Again, a bow& drill, a fire-steel, or whatever you plan to use… the key is to practice using what you are going to rely on to gain competence/confidence!

  • T.R May 23, 2011, 9:54 pm

    Good thing to have , I have 3 of em in different places . They are a bit tricky until you get used to it .


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