how to light a fire without matches

Being able to light a fire is a real necessity and it could really save your life one day. As you all know fire provides warmth, safety, and heat for cooking. But do you know that fire can also make fresh water? If you followed our post on making fresh water out of seawater we could only achieve this by lighting a campfire.

Fire matches have been around for a long time. For most of us its the standard way we light a candle or a fire while out camping. Over time the humble match hasn’t really evolved a lot. Sure we have long handle matches, windproof matches, and the good old waterproof match.

Over the years we evolved our fire starting capabilities into the good old gas lighter. These are usually powered by butane and provide a nice strong adjustable flame. But they do over time run out of gas or the flint striker fails.

But with the advancement in electricity and now high power lithium-ion batteries, I was excited to see some rechargeable USB lighters called the arc lighter. This is how we will light a fire without matches.

These work by using a high voltage at the element tips which case a plasma beam to jump from the positive electrode over to the negative electrode. This plasma beam can reach temperatures over 1,100 degrees Celsius or 2,012 degrees Fahrenheit.

As I love gadgets especially if it involves the outdoors I was sold. I now have a few different sizes shapes and designs. All of which serves a different purpose. But best of all they are rechargeable. Perfect for when I go on my next expedition with my family.

How to light a fire without matches using an arc lighter.

arc lighter for camping

Due to the tip size of the arc lighter, it is often impossible just to use it on your neatly prepared stack of wood in your campfire pit. What you need to do is prepare a little extra in the way of getting it lit.

Use some newspaper or even some toilet paper scrunched up into a little ball. Place these around in strategic places in your woodpile. As usual small dry sticks, twigs, and leaves will work extremely well if layered.

I use another piece of rolled up newspaper to form a long pencil-like lighter. This is what I light first and then use this to light all of the rolled up balls in the firepit. The tip of the Plasma lighter is very small that’s why we light the rolled up newspaper first. If you are fast you can light dry leaves or a clump of grass first if you don’t have access to some newspaper.

You can also cheat and use the flammable fire starters that are used by charcoal burners. They will light up very fast and will burn for around 5 minutes.

Doing it this way will take a few minutes of extra preparation, but it really makes sure the fire gets lit fast and safe. The last thing we need on our camping trip is a 3rd-degree skin burn, ouch.

How long does the battery in an arc lighter last?

Depending on the make and model I have found you will get around 100 uses of the arc lighter. This is depending on the length of time holding the plasma button on. I tested the USB Tesla coil lighter for 10 seconds and received over 100 cycles.

If you do run out just recharge the battery up which should only take an hour or so with a fast 2amp USB charger. In fact, I charge all of my electronic devices with a Sokoo solar foldout panel while out camping. These are cheap, lightweight and rugged. Perfect for my outdoor activities

So as you can see its a long time. So if you were trying to start a fire out in the bush you are going to get quite a few chances with a full battery. As a survivalist, this device is a must-have in any bug out bag.

How does a plasma arc lighter work?

Click for many other designs over at Amazon

USB plasma lighters work by providing a very high voltage across positive and negative terminals. This voltage can be as high as 10-15kV enough to push electricity through the gap which turns the air particles into plasma.

The internal batteries are lithium-ion and so are able to pump out high discharge currents necessary for the electronics to function. These batteries are able to last over 500 charges without degrading.

The plasma is much hotter than a traditional open flame lighter and can be used upside down without burning your fingers.

There is interesting sound when operating an arc lighter this is the plasma beam interacting with the air particles. It sounds a lot like the wind going through a grove of trees but not very loud.

Can I bring an Arc lighter on a plane?

According to the TSA website, you are not allowed to bring any arc or plasma lighters onto an aircraft. This includes checked baggage and cabin baggage. Occasionally I see some USB lighters that say “TSA Approved” but I’m not willing to take that risk. Just leave it at home.

I’m of the opinion that this is a good decision. It’s the last thing I need while flying that some person starts playing around with an arc lighter. Let’s all stay safe up in the air.

Will an arc lighter give you an electric shock?

Arc lighters work on the same principle as a taser. Large voltages will induce an electric current which jumps across 2 points. Tasers are designed slightly different with current limiting devices etc.

So as for science I accidentally touched the tip of the arc lighter. No, I didn’t get a shock but I did receive a small plasma burn to my finger. I don’t recommend anyone else do this. I believe this is because the electrons are looking for the path of least resistance.

I have seen a video of someone touching the electrodes with a metal object. They did indeed receive an electric shock. So be careful.


I can just see my caveman ancestors now marveling over how technology has advanced so much. With one press of a button magic electricity turn the air into plasma. Sure we can use a match or a butane lighter but wheres the fun in that. What happens when you run out of matches?

As long as I have a solar panel charger and my trusty arc lighter I can light a fire without matches or a flint fire striker.

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