How To

    Start Your Next Campfire with a Magnesium Flint Stick

    flint stick spark

    There are several perks to using magnesium flint sticks for starting a campfire, plus knowing how to do that is a great outdoor skill to have

    Whether you’re camping in the wilderness, a campground or in your backyard with your kids, your campfire is likely to be the center of attention. Fire gives you light for your campsite and heat for cooking and staying warm and it also serves as an insect and predator repellent. But a campfire doesn’t start itself. Here’s one way you can easily start your next campfire using a magnesium flint stick.

    Prepare a Place for Your Fire

    If a fire pit or ring isn’t readily available, you’ll need to choose a level spot away from overhanging branches, brush or dry grass for your campfire. U.S. Forest Service managers recommend using a shovel to clear a circle 10 feet wide down to bare dirt and hollowing it out about 6 inches deep and 2 feet across. Lastly, you’ll want to pile the dirt around the outside of your circle to create a barrier.

    Gather Your Tinder, Kindling and Wood

    Preparation is key to a successful campfire. You should expect to spend at least 80 percent of your time preparing for your fire and only about 20 percent lighting it. Make sure you have a tinder ball of dried materials like an old bird nest, paper or lint. You’ll also need kindling (like match-sized twigs or cut up wood) and of course a lot of fire wood to keep your fire burning.

    Make a Pile of Magnesium Shavings

    Now, it’s time to use your magnesium flint stick. Prepare a divot in the center of your tinder ball and scrape off about a quarter-sized pile of magnesium from your magnesium block. Some magnesium fire starters come with a striker to use for this step. You can also use a dull pocket knife.

    Create a Spark to Start Your Magnesium on Fire

    Once you have your magnesium shavings in a pile, you’re ready to create your spark and start your fire. Simply strike the flint side of your magnesium stick with the attached striker or the opposite side of your knife blade directly into your magnesium pile. Make sure to strike the full length of the flint to get a healthy spark. The spark will light your magnesium and tinder ball. It’s easiest to hold your knife at a 90 degree angle and your striker at about a 45 degree angle not more than an inch away from your tinder ball. Note: You can start a fire without the magnesium pile, but it’s a whole lot easier with it.

    Magnesium is one of the alkaline-earth metals and is a common element in the Earth’s crust. It also burns really hot — about 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that you should be careful looking directly at magnesium when it’s on fire since it burns so brightly.

    Add Your Kindling and Wood

    Just like building any campfire, you’ll want to add your small kindling first and work your way up to your bigger wood to keep your campfire burning.

    Magnesium flint sticks range in price from about $2 to $25. They’re easy to carry, waterproof and nearly indestructible. That means that even if you drop your magnesium stick in water, it’ll still work. All of these perks make magnesium flint sticks a good choice for starting your next campfire — not to mention being a great outdoors skill to have!


    Suzanne Downing is an outdoor writer and photographer in Montana with an environmental science journalism background. Her work can be found in Outdoors Unlimited, Bugle Magazine, Missoulian, Byline Magazine, Communique, MTPR online, UM Native News, National Wildlife Federation campaigns and more.

    Image by Suzanne Downing
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