How To: Start a One-Match Fire

By | November 1, 2015
From Xplor: November/December 2015

Find a safe spot to build a fire

Pick a place that’s sheltered from wind, rain, and snow. Brush away everything on the ground that could ignite — leaves, pine needles, grass — until you get down to bare dirt or rock. The bare area should be a circle at least 5 feet wide.

Gather wood

  • You’ll need three kinds of wood: tinder, kindling, and fuel.
  • The driest wood comes from dead limbs that are still hanging in trees. Wood lying on the ground is usually too damp to burn.
  • If a stick doesn’t give a crisp SNAP! when you break it, toss it back into the woods.
  • Evergreen trees, such as cedars and pines, often have dead, dry branches attached low to the ground and close to their trunks.

Tinder is dry, fluffy material that easily ignites, such as paper, pine needles, dead grass, birch bark, or cattail fluff. You’ll need a fist-sized wad of tinder to start your fire. Kindling lights easily and burns long enough to catch bigger branches on fire. Look for bonedry twigs that are thicker than a matchstick but thinner than a pencil. Collect at least two armfuls. Fuel is made up of larger branches that will burn from several minutes to several hours. As long as it’s dry, anything from finger-sized branches to leg-sized logs will work. Two or three armfuls should get you started.

Build a teepee

  1. Stack 10 sticks that are each about as thick as your thumb on the ground, one next to the other, as if you were building a tiny raft.
  2. On top of the raft, place a fistsized wad of tinder.
  3. Stack kindling upright around the tinder to form a teepee. Place matchstick-sized twigs closest to the tinder and pencil-sized twigs farther out.

Light that sucker

  1. Kneel with your back to the wind. Keep your knees together so air can’t blow underneath you and put out the match.
  2.  Make a small opening in the teepee so you can see the tinder inside.
  3. Carefully strike the match. Once it lights, cup your hands around it and move it slowly into the teepee to light the tinder.
  4. You may need to blow gently on the tinder to coax up a flame.
  5. When the kindling is burning, add bigger sticks. Be careful not to knock over the teepee.
  6.  Add fuel until the fire is as large as you want it to be. Whew! Now you can relax, warm up your toes, and bust out the s’mores.


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This Issue's Staff

Brett Dufur
Les Fortenberry
Karen Hudson
Regina Knauer
Angie Daly Morfeld
Noppadol Paothong
Marci Porter
Mark Raithel
Laura Scheuler
Matt Seek
David Stonner
Nichole LeClair Terrill
Stephanie Thurber
Cliff White