How to Start a Fire with a Cellphone

How to Start a Fire with a CellphoneTim Smith, founder and director of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, says that one of the most important parts of a survival plan is to light a fire. If you find yourself in a survival situation, cell phones---while not the best choice---can be used to start a fire. In some situations, it may be your only choice. Even when there is no need for a survival plan, starting a fire with a cell phone is a great trick to liven up the campsite.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Tinder
  • Cell phone
  • Steel wool
Step 1
Collect tinder. Drier and smaller tinder is better, because a cell phone won't generate a big flame. Be sure to collect enough tinder to keep adding to the fire once it starts and have plenty of dry, finger-sized sticks ready to add to the fire.
Step 2
Take the battery out of the phone. Find the contact points. Note the locations of the positive and negative contact points. There are usually three contact points on cell phone batteries; the two outer points are the positive and negative.
Step 3
Roll a chunk of steel wool into a 1 1/2-inch cylinder. Although you want the roll to be tight, don't compact the wool completely. For fire to start, air must be able to access the steel fibers.
Step 4
Bend the steel wool in half and press the ends to the contact points. Make sure one end of the steel wool cylinder touches the positive contact point and the other end touches the negative contact point. Wait for wool to smolder. The steel wool will get hot, so be careful not to burn yourself.
Step 5
Light the tinder with the smoldering steel wool. Once the tinder catches fire, add more tinder. When the fire is big enough, add finger-sized sticks. Work your way up in stick sizes until you can burn logs. In a survival situation, keeping the fire burning is one of your most important jobs.

Tips & Warnings

Using commercially available tinder will make fire-starting quicker.
A great natural tinder is birch bark. Find a dead and down tree, peal the bark from the tree, and rip it in quarter-inch-wide strips. When the smoldering steel wool is placed on this tinder, it ignites.
Carry homemade tinder, like the lint from a drying machine, to speed up fire-making.
Practice this skill at home before your life depends on it in the woods.
Although a cell phone can start a fire, it depends on battery life---so carry a backup source of fire.

Article Written By Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel is a freelance photographer and kayaking guide who began writing in 1993. His outdoors articles appear on various websites. Hansel holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and religion from the University of Iowa.

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