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How to build a one-match fire every time

Posted February 24

From survival situations to impressing your friends, the ability to build a one-match fire is something any outdoor enthusiast needs to have. Let's look at a few tips for doing just that. (Deseret Photo)

THE GREAT OUTDOORS — From the moment cavemen discovered it, humans have remained obsessed with fire. It’s the focal point of any camping trip and next to water, fire is arguably the most important survival tool one can have.

Thankfully, we’ve moved on from rubbing two sticks together to start a fire (although that’s a fun trick to learn), but if you’re in a situation where you only have one match left or you simply want to impress everyone gathered up the canyon for a friendly barbecue, knowing how to start a fire with just one match is a must.

Here are some tips to help:

You can never have too much tinder

There’s no such thing as too much tinder when it comes to fire building, though overuse of the dating app of the same name is quite easy. Tinder is the key to start your fire, and without a proper tinder bundle assembled, it’s almost impossible to start a one-match fire.

A good tinder bundle should include the following:

  • Dry, fluffy bark scraped off the inside of chunks of pine bark
  • Tiny dry sticks and dry weeds
  • Dead pine needles
  • Dead leaves/other dead vegetation

The “fluffy bark” is easy to find, and it’s absolute gold once you incorporate it into your fire-building strategy. To use it, find pieces of dead and dry aspen or pine bark and use a pocket knife to gently peel away the lighter strings of wood from the inside surface. Roll this into a ball and cover it with pine needles, topped with tiny dead sticks, and you’re off to a great start for your fire.

Let the fire breathe

A common mistake made by those building a one-match fire is using too much starter material on top of their tinder bundle. A fire needs fuel, but a key ingredient of that fuel is enough oxygen to let the flames burn.

Instead of piling tons of sticks and smaller logs on your fire immediately, place your tinder bundle in the middle of a cone or teepee-shaped stand of thin, dry, sticks. Leave plenty of space between the sticks to allow air in and out, and leave a larger opening where you can easily reach the tinder bundle with your match.

Keep it going

After striking the match as close to the tinder bundle as possible, and hopefully seeing some quick results, don’t make the common mistake of throwing half a felled tree on your fledgling fire.

Instead, gradually increase the size of the wood you add to the fire until the flames are roaring and you have a nice bed of coals. Once your fire has coals, it’s stable enough to handle the biggest chunks of wood you can find.

A one-match fire isn’t as difficult as some people think. It just takes a bit of planning and forethought to ensure that you build the fire correctly, use the right fuel, and can easily keep it burning.

Safety

As always, be aware of safety hazards when working with fire. Make sure your fire area is clear of flammable objects that could catch fire from a stray ember or spark. Only burn in designated areas and never leave a fire behind if the coals are still warm.

What are your favorite ways to build a one-match fire? Let us know in the comments.

Spencer lives and breathes fly fishing. If he's not out on his favorite streams, he's at home tying flies or he's writing about fishing. Connect with him on Twitter, @Spencer_Durrant.

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