A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Fire Using a Knife

start a campfire

If you’re a hiker or someone passionate about exploring the outdoors, you know that any adventure can be unpredictable. Even if you have all the basic necessities in your hiking bag, you never know when you will have to improvise.

One of the most valuable skills you can learn is to start a fire in multiple ways. If you’re spending several hours outdoors, building a fire is necessary for the heating of food, sterilization of water, and production of warmth. You likely already know how to spark a flame using dry wood—but did you know that you could use a knife for that, too?

Here is a step-by-step guide to making fire using a knife

Step 1

If you’re camping in a protected area, make sure that you are permitted to make a fire. Aside from that, make sure you have contingency plans to extinguish the fire in case it gets out of control. You should have a shovel, dirt, or water nearby to extinguish the flames if it gets too wild.

Step 2

Gather your materials. You need a knife, a waterproof fire-starting material (i.e., a ferro rod), tinder, and wood. Clear the area of any flammable objects. A radius of 10 feet or so would be the safest.

Step 3

Find dry wood around the area. If it’s raining, look underneath piles of leaves and at the base of trees. Chop them down to similar lengths—forearm size is ideal.

Step 4

Use your knife to expose as much dry wood as possible. The best way to do this is to split down existing cracks in the branches that you’ve gathered. Shave away as much dampness as you can.

Step 5

Once you secure that all your branches are dry wood, shave off very thin pieces to use as kindling. Sizes can vary between finger and wrist size pieces. It’s important to keep these wood shavings dry at all costs.

Step 6

Gather your wood shavings around a dry spot. In vigorous motions, scrape the ferro rod against the knife to spark your tinder. Keep your knife as still as possible, and keep the ferro rod in motion. This may take some time, even if you’re a highly experienced outdoorsperson. Try to stay patient and keep your motions consistent. Soon enough, you’ll be able to spark a small flame.

Step 7

Once you start a small flame, feed it with your smallest bits of kindling. Let the flame hit the narrowest parts of the wood so that it can breathe and grow. As the smallest bits of kindling start to catch fire, continue to gradually feed the flame with larger bits of wood, moving slowly and consistently. This slow addition of kindling takes a bit of practice—larger wood shavings may snuff out the fire instead of helping it grow. Any sudden movements can blow out a small flame, so remember: slow and steady wins the race.

Step 8

Once you have a good flame going, keep a close eye on your log pile so it won’t sputter out. If you’re going to sleep, you will have to extinguish the fire and only get it going again after you wake up. Keep hair and clothes far away from the flame to ensure no accidents happen.


If you’re a passionate outdoorsperson, it can be handy to learn multiple methods of creating fire. With just a knife and a ferro rod, you can make your own kindling to help spark a flame! This method takes a bit of practice, but once you polish this skill, you will be able to rely on it in the event of an emergency.

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