Flint and steel have been used in starting fires for centuries. In the days before matches were invented, flint and steel offered the ability to start a fire without having to carry a hot coal wherever one traveled (and worrying about losing it or having it go cold). Starting a fire using flint and steel takes more skill and preparation than simply striking a match. Try carrying large quantities of matches into the wilderness, or stockpiling thousands of matches in your disaster preparedness kit. Even if the weight and volume of your matches do not discourage you, you are faced with the problem of keeping them from getting damaged by moisture (or other storage concerns). Flint and steel overcome these problems, and provides the survivor with the means of starting a fire that is more reliable than matches (if he/she is skilled enough to use it).

Knowing how to utilize primitive methods of survival (in my honest opinion), are key skills to learn as part of your outdoor/survival preparedness. Getting a fire going by using the primitive flint and steel method can be a very rewarding experience. The Flint and Steel method brings to mind images of a self-sufficient frontiersmen in the wilderness. Once you have practiced and become confident enough to own the skill, you become an outdoorsman with a unique skill set. You may be surprised, but most people are not able to build a fire without the use of matches or other modern-day accelerants.

The kit I am showcasing in this article is the ‘C Steel and Flint Set’ from Self Reliance Outfitters. This is a basic kit that is easy to learn with, and will last you quite a long time. If you’re not confident in finding additional flint, chert, or quartz to strike the steel with, you can purchase additional pieces of flint from Self Reliance Outfitters.

Primitive Fire using Flint and Steel
The C Flint and Steel Kit

Kit contents of the C Steel and Flint Set:

  • C Shaped Steel Striker
  • Flint Stone
  • Lampwick Char Cloth – Lampwick is ideal for igniting your tinder bundle in damp and less than ideal conditions. Because it’s thicker than a piece of cotton from a T-shirt, it will hold the ember longer allowing the tinder to get hot enough to ignite.
  • Stainless Steel Tin – Can be used for charring additional material. Used Altoids tins work great for this. For my personal tin, I drilled a small hole in the top and then applied two coats of High Temperature Black Spray Paint to both the lid and main body. The properties of this paint allow heat to distribute more evenly and also help with cleaning off sticky residue from camp fires.
Primitive Fire using Flint and Steel
Charring tin prepped for the field.

Successfully starting a fire using flint and steel requires a few basic steps.

  • Making Char Cloth
  • Finding Tinder Material
  • Constructing a Tinder Bundle using the tinder material you gathered
  • Striking the flint and steel
  • Igniting the tinder bundle

Making Char Cloth:

Creating char cloth is the process of burning 100% cotton fabric without oxygen. 100% cotton must be used, as fabric with any trace of synthetic material will not char properly. Old, worn out, cotton t-shirts are a great source of cotton for char cloth. To create char cloth, first you must prepare the small metal tin by punching a 1/16″ hole in the lid with a small nail.

Cut your cotton into pieces approximately 2″ by 3″ and loosely place eight to ten pieces into the tin. Close the lid tightly and place the tin onto the hot coals of your existing fire.