How to start a fire with sticks

With the world of camping becoming ever more popular, we recommend all members know some basic survival skills such as how to start a fire with sticks.

If you’re camping or hiking and suddenly realise you have forgotten the matches this survival skill may come in useful.

The bow drill and hand drill method are well-known and popular fire-starting techniques.


To start a fire with sticks you first need to gather tinder. You can also use dried leaves, moss or items that will catch alight quickly from the forest floor. You also want everything to be dry, so that the sparks can have something to ignite to. You are going to want to mould this in to a small round mound, this is also called a tinder bundle.


Once you have got your mound of tinder, you also need some kindling. This is what you will add to your fire. You will want to gather several handfuls of kindling, e.g. small pieces of wood in various sizes. You will want wood of different thicknesses.

TOP TIP: If a branch bends without breaking, it’s still alive or not dry enough.


With all your kindling you are going to want to make a teepee or “house” out of wood, around your tinder bundle. However, remember don’t overload the teepee, and leave space so air can pass through and feed the flame.


Now you need to make your tools! You are also going to need to collect a piece of wood about 4-5 inches wide and 10-12 inches long. Then you want to cut a hole in it – you can use a knife to do this.

And you also need to create your fireboard. This is what you will press the drill against to create the friction that will hopefully start your fire.


Once you have your fire board you will need to make your drill – this should be made of harder wood and carve it down using a knife to a length of around 8 inches and a diameter of about 1.5 inches, and sharpen it like the end of a pencil.


Carve a small hole in the fireboard, about an inch from the edge of the board and then you can use your drill to burn the hole, using friction created using the bow. Hold the bow in your right hand and the drill in your left, saw back and forth on the bow until you start to see black powder and smoke around the bottom of the drill.


Now it’s time to make fire but remember not to forget to put your coal catcher under the chimney notch, and have your tinder bundle ready so the moment you catch a spark you are ready!

Start pushing and pulling on the bow, and pushing down on the socket and eventually you will get black powder collecting in the chimney notch. Keep going and you’ll get some smoke. Sometimes this can take time, so be patient!


Once you have enough smoke, blow the coal into flame and lift the drill away from the fireboard. Gently, using one hand fan the coal. Once you know the coal isn’t going out, you can transfer it to your tinder and give it a gentle blow.


Begin blowing softly through the tinder bundle as keep an eye out for the tinder catching. You can gently move the bundle around or re-shape it if you need to. And soon enough you will see flames!


Put your fire where you want it and continue to watch it, adding more tinder or firewood if it needs more. Keep blowing on the flame if you think it’s loosing momentum and you can start to add increasingly bigger sticks once the kindling has caught fire.

And there you go! You started a fire with sticks!!!!! And you can use the same method with how to start a fire pit.

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About Me

Sophie is a travel writer, based in the UK, always thinking about her next adventure. Sophie set up Outdoor Adventure Girls in 2020 with the aim to provide safe spaces for women to connect, get outdoors and push themselves out of their comfort zone.