How To Use A Fire Starter

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When you’re out camping, there’s no more frustrating feeling than the one you get when you’re struggling to light the campfire. If using a fire starter this is even worse since surely these things are meant to make this whole process easier, right? When used right, then absolutely. If not, don’t worry, we’ll show you how to start a fire with a fire starter.

Table of Contents

What Are Fire Starters?

Fire starters are as the name suggests tools that can be used to help you when starting a fire, making them a great addition to any bug out bag. Using a fire starter should in theory make the process of lighting a campfire easy and simple to do. However, when not used correctly fire starters can be rather unhelpful at best or dangerous at worst.

At their most basic, fire starters come in two parts. These are a blade and block or rod of flint. To use these simply keep the blade steady and quickly strike the flint strip over some prepared tinder. Whilst a fire starter like this certainly makes things easier, combining it with a magnesium fire starter will make it even more so.

How To Use A Fire Starter

What Is A Magnesium Fire Starter?

Magnesium fire starters are some of the most popular, effective and easy to use fire starters you can use. To use one in tandem with a regular firestarter is very simple. 

All you need to do is scrape some magnesium shavings from one of the magnesium bars. If unsure how much magnesium you need, a pile roughly the size of an American quarter should do. If in doubt though go for a smaller amount of magnesium shavings first and build up over time.

The advantage of magnesium fire starters is that they are incredibly easy to set alight due to magnesium being very flammable and burning extremely hot. In fact, burning magnesium can reach temperatures of roughly 2760°C (or 5000°F) meaning that it will easily be capable of lighting your tinder.

However, if your fire isn’t built well, then you’ll soon need to relight it. As such it is important to take the correct steps to ensure your fire burns slowly and safely. 

Building Your Fire Pit

When making a fire, one of the most important initial steps is to set up your fire pit. If making your own it’s important to figure out where and how to build it. Ideally, this should be flat level ground that has some shelter from high winds and isn’t close to any flammable material such as dry grass.

Once you’ve found a satisfactory spot, you’ll need to decide what kind of fire pit to make. A dugout involves digging a hole in the ground whilst a mound will require you to make a mound on the ground out of sand and/or dirt. 

Either way, building it a bit larger than the fire you plan to make will help contain the fire and prevent it from spreading. An additional way to help with this is to create a fire ring out of stones. This ring should surround the fire pit and form a barrier preventing it from spreading any further. 

Collecting Firewood

Before starting your fire you’ll need to collect firewood. When doing this you need to ensure that the wood you collect is dry enough to burn since wet or damp wood will have trouble burning. If it’s a rainy day, however, then small twigs and leaves that are dry enough to get things going can often be found under logs. Once the fire is starting, simply place any larger damp pieces near the fire to help them dry before putting them on later.

Another thing to take into account when collecting your firewood is whether the wood is actually safe to burn. This is is because some types of wood will release harmful chemicals when burned. Some safe examples include birch, cedar and pine wood, however, if uncertain of the wood you’ve found it’s best to play it safe in most situations.

When building a fire you’ll need three types of wood that will be crucial at various stages of assembly. These are as follows:

  • Tinder: These will be small sticks or twigs, dried leaves, wood shavings scraped from trees with a knife. Dry tinder will ignite easily and form the foundation from which you can build a powerful fire.
  • Kindling: Larger sticks and smaller chunks of wood are known as kindling. These are added once the tinder has produced a decent flame to further fuel the fire’s growth.
  • Larger pieces of wood: these will keep your fire burning and providing heat for a long time. These are added last and only when the tinder and kindling are already giving off flames.

How To Use A Fire Starter

Starting And Growing The Fire

Once you’ve got your firepit built and the wood gathered, it’s time to start your fire. This naturally is where the fire starter comes in.

As mentioned before, it’s important to know how fire starters work. This is because if used incorrectly it will either result in your firestarter not working or potentially singeing your eyebrows off.

To use a fire starter, strike the flint strip with the blade or a knife in a similar manner to how you’d light a match. When doing to correctly, this process should generate sparks, which you should angle towards your tinder to set it alight. 

If using a magnesium fire starter to help this process simply mix in a roughly an American quarter-sized pile of magnesium shavings with your tinder. When doing so, however, it’s recommended you lean back somewhat as the tinder may burst into flames rather abruptly. However, this will just be an initial burst. As such, to help the fire grow, you should gently blow on it to provide it with oxygen.

Once the tinder is aflame, you can begin to gradually add your kindling. Initially, this may seem to kill the fire but with some patience, it should come back soon. Then once this layer has a stable flame it is time to start adding the larger pieces of wood.

Extinguishing The Fire

When getting ready to leave your campsite it is important to ensure that the fire is extinguished. This is because even mostly dormant campfires could lead to accidents. To properly ensure that your fire is extinguished, pour a generous amount of water over the top and stir the charcoals to ensure there’s nothing still burning.

How To Use A Fire Starter


How do you start a fire with a fire starter?

To use a fire starter, strike the flint strip with the blade or a knife in a similar manner to how you’d light a match. When doing to correctly, this process should generate sparks, which you should angle towards your tinder to set it alight. If struggling with this method, try holding the knife steady and striking it with the flint instead. 

When using magnesium fire starters, scrape a pile of shavings roughly the size of an American quarter. Then mix it with your tinder and light.

How many times can you use a fire starter?

The steel blade of a fire starter should be good for roughly three thousand strikes against the flint. However, the flint will last longer and can be used until there’s nothing left to strike on. When the blade is dulled any sharp knife should be able to do the job. Meanwhile, the flint can be easily replaced with any piece found in the woods so long as you know what you’re looking for.

How do fire starter sticks work?

When the flint is struck across the sharp, rough steel of the blade, friction is generated. With repeated strikes, the heat from this friction will produce sparks that can be used to light a fire.