Skip to content

How to Start a Fire

How to Start a Fire

A Brief History Of Fire

Charred bone and ash. That’s how we know that a million years ago, our ancestors had most likely harnessed the power of fire. Based on evidence found in Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa, scientists have discovered signs of the earliest fire including tools, surface fracturing, and the aforementioned plant ash and bone.

Modern humans have only been around for approximately 200,000 years which means that fire precedes us. As it turns out, we may have our ancestors, the Homo Erectus, to thank for this incredible discovery. The general consensus is that Homo Erectus used fire as a key part of their existence using it to stay warm and protect themselves from predators. Another important way that fire was used? To cook food, making it easier to digest (and arguably a lot better tasting.)

While Homo Erectus may have figured out how to get a flame going, their fires weren’t especially hot. They seem to have favored leaves, brush, and grass as fuel which resulted in fires that didn’t get much hotter than 1300F. That being said, what they lacked in heat, they made up for in massive developments. According to anthropologists, controlled fire may have very well contributed to the evolution of the human brain.


When a combustible material and an oxidizer are exposed to heat, rapid oxidation produces a chain reaction.

In other words, when fuel+ oxygen= fire.

Without the right proportions of these elements, fire cannot exist.

How To Start A Fire

A lot has changed over the last million years. Humans have experienced a fair bit of evolution and so has fire. Unlike our archaic ancestors, present-day humans tend to demand more out of their flames. So how do we master the skills that our predecessors discovered? Get ready for a lesson!

Fire Fundamentals

Fire needs 3 things to survive and thrive.

  1. Flame
  2. Fuel
  3. Oxygen


By introducing sparks to fuel, flames are born. When it comes to lighting something like a campfire, the most effective tool is a ferrocerium rod. Also known as ferro, ferrocerium is a man-made pyrophoric alloy that can produce very hot sparks. As in 5000F hot. As a result of generating friction, small ferrocerium shavings come off the rod and ignite which transforms metal into oxide. Essentially, sparks are tiny bits of metal burning at a scorchingly high heat.


Sparks are great but without fuel, they can’t do much. Depending on what’s available to you, fuel can take many shapes. As the Homo Erectus discovered, twigs and leaves don’t make for very hot fires but they can be a great source of tinder. Introducing heavier branches and logs are what you need to do if you want a fire with substance.

While fuel is important, it’s not the be all and end all when it comes to starting and maintaining a great fire. Once you’ve got the flames going, you need to make sure they don’t die. Which brings us to our next point.


Sure it’s in the air we breathe but in order to use oxygen to keep a fire going, it needs to be contained and directed. Oxygen is a key part of oxidation aka the reaction that releases heat and results in flame. There needs to be an abundance of oxygen to start a fire and even more to maintain it.

Ferrocerium: Invented in 1903 by Carl Auer von Welsbach, an Austrian chemist. Its name is a portmanteau of Twigsiron (ferrum in Latin) and cerium, its two main components.

Firemaking 101—Fuel

  1. Tinder: Leaves, bark, twigs, grass. All are excellent ways to lay a fire’s foundation
  2. Kindling: Bridge the gap between tinder and roaring flames. Small branches will do the trick.
  3. Fuel Wood: Bring in the big guns. Here’s where you want to find solid, hefty pieces of wood that can hold their own against the heat.

How Can I Create Sparks, Ignite Fuel, and Harness Oxygen?

Lucky for all of us, there’s a way to effectively and efficiently start a fire. Behold: The fire starter. One of the handiest, most practical tools for backpackers, campers, paddlers, and all other kinds of outdoor enthusiasts.

What To Look For In A Fire Starter

Not all fire starters are created equally. With that in mind, here are a few things that you should be looking for:

  • Quality: The last thing you want to deal with is a broken fire starter when you need it the most. Stainless steel is your safest bet when it comes to ensuring durability. Chances are that you’ll be taking your fire starter into some rugged terrain so you need to be sure it can hold its own.
  • Design: Craftsmanship matters. You never know where your adventures will take you, make sure that your tools can keep up. Attention to detail and innovative features are always something to keep an eye out for.
  • Experience: When you’re buying a fire starter, find one backed by a company that knows what it’s doing. A history of quality products and a passion for the outdoors is what you need behind the gear that you buy.
  • Cost: Less doesn’t necessarily mean more. If you’re looking for a reliable product that will do what you need it to do when you need it to do it, expect to spend a little more. It’s worth it in the long run.

Stainless Steel

A steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5% chromium content by mass. Known for being resistant to corrosion and low maintenance, stainless steel is also extraordinarily strong. If it’s good enough to be used in the Chrysler Building, chances are it’s tough enough to stand up to whatever you can throw at it.

Why You Need The Ultimate Fire Starter

Unlike most fire starters, The Ultimate Fire Starter provides you with the tools you need to both spark and stoke a flame in one convenient package. It’s also amazingly easy to use.

Just unscrew the ferrocerium rod from the bellows and use the attached striker to create sparks. Next, extend the bellows and direct it at the base of the fire while blowing into it to add oxygen and increase heat.

  • Ferrocerium rod: Good for thousands of strikes, the ferrocerium rod is replaceable and its sparks burn at over 5000F. Perfect for igniting tinder, lighting stoves, and serving as the starting point for your best campfire ever.
  • Striker: This is how you get a strong, hot, and consistent spark.
  • Extendable bellows: At 18” long, the bellows are an efficient way to deliver oxygen to the flames in order to increase heat or revive an existing fire. Perfect for damp or wet wood and stubborn fuel.
  • Lightweight and Compact: Weighing only 1.8 oz and measuring 5.9” when collapsed, the Ultimate Fire Starter is small enough to stow away without weighing you down. We subscribe to the ultralight backpacking philosophy and when it comes to our tools, we put our money where our mouth is.
  • Carrying Clip: Keep the Ultimate Fire Starter close and avoid losing it by clipping it to your belt, pack, or any convenient place.
  • Works When Wet: The Ultimate Fire Starter comes through when you need it the most. Wet firewood? Not a problem.
  • Have More, Carry Less: This is no one trick pony. With everything included, you can adventure on knowing that you’ve got a comprehensive fire starting tool in your kit.