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February 15, 2019 Last updated: March 11, 2020

How to Light a Fire With Just One Match

You’re lost in the woods on a cold day, that’s only getting colder as the sun sets and the sky grows increasingly dark. If you don’t warm up, you’ll freeze, so you quickly and haphazardly gather some wood and begin to try to light it. But the wood isn’t catching. As you start to panic, you blow through your matches faster and faster, yet one after the other is snuffed out before it ignites a flame.

Eventually, you’re left with a single match. What do you do with your last chance? You steady your mind and hands, start over, and go about making a deliberate, foolproof fire set-up that’s certain to light with just one match. 

1: Gather plenty of tinder-about two big handfuls worth.

2: Gather an armload of kindling in varying lengths and thicknesses. Break the kindling into 6″ pieces.

3: Build a teepee fire, with a big bundle of tinder as the base, and small pieces leaned together over it.

4: Block the wind by crouching or kneeling upwind of the fire.

5: Strike the match close to the tinder, and protect the flame by cupping your hands around it.

6: Try to light the fire in three or four different spots, if possible. This gives you a chance of at least one spot catching.

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Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

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