A critical survival skill is knowing how to make a fire. There are many ways to make a fire when you’re out in the wilderness, but who would have thought that you could make fire from ice or water?

It makes sense though, when you think about those science experiments where a light source shines through a lens of sorts, and then is directed at a very specific point and it started to smoke. That’s what we are going to learn here today, how to make fire from ice or water, but using “wild” ice or water. 

The below infographic summarizes the two different ways to start a fire, continue below to see all the details. 

How to make Fire from Ice or Water

Supplies that you will need to make fire from ice or water:

  • Ice or water (obviously). One caveat, the ice needs to be clear, not cloudy.
  • A clear water bottle or plastic bag, if you are using water.
  • A knife or tool that can shave the ice easily.
  • A “stand” where you can rest or secure the lens so that you can get to fire making.
  • Very fine and dry tinder to use as firestarter.

The process of making Fire from Ice

Step 1: Locating

Locate the ice that you want to use. You will want to find ice that is as clear as possible for this to work. The easiest places to find wild ice is typically in a lake or pond.

Step 2: Cutting

Once you have found your ice, you will want to cut out a chunk of it to use to make a lens. Your lens needs to be spherical, but don’t worry about cutting out the perfect shape on the first excavation of the ice.

You can whittle away at it with your knife/shaving tool once the smaller piece is removed from the main piece at its source. The video below shows a great illustration of what the ice needs to look like. You can rub your hand around the ice to help melt and smooth it out.

Step 3: Placement

Now it’s time to make some fire. The sun needs to be shining for this to work. You will be using its rays as your light source and heat. For a bigger chunk of ice, you could prop the ice lens/block up against some strategically placed branches that can support the weight of the ice.

It will need to be set up in such a way that the sun will directly hit the ice and shine through it to a more precise point on the ground, where your fire will soon be. The ice lens is acting as a magnifying glass of sorts, which why the shape of the lens is so important.

If you have a smaller piece of ice, you can always just hold the ice lens in your hand and focus the strongest point of light on your already made tinder.

source: primitiveways.com

Step 4: Enjoy your fire!

Your magnified light should cause your tinder pile to start smoking and eventually catch fire. Be careful not to allow your melting ice lens to drip on the pile as it grows. As the fire gets stronger, add more tinder and smaller sticks to help it grow. Keep adding to it until you have a strong, blazing fire.

Making a Fire with Water

There are a few ways to make a fire with water.

You can use a clear water bottle, an incandescent light bulb, or even a picture frame with clear plastic wrap over it. The concept for all of these is the same, you are trying to create a magnifying glass/lens to harness the power and light of the sun or some other powerful light source. Using a water bottle might be the safest option as far as carrying the supplies needed in the wilderness.

A light bulb is the easiest option as far as the quality, but it could pose a hazard carrying around a glass bulb in your pack. Watch this video for 5 ways to start a fire with water.

Today we will talk about using water and plastic wrap to start a fire. Plastic wrap is incredibly light weight, albeit a bit of a pain in the neck to manipulate when you need it.

Step 1: Get everything set up for a fire

You will need to set up your tinder and have everything ready to go, since you will be holding the lens that you are creating out of the plastic wrap and water. You will also need a small bowl, about the size of your fist, to support the plastic wrap while you add the water.

plastic wrap

Step 2: Prepare your instruments

With a little finesse, line the bowl with plastic wrap so that the edges of the wrap are sticking out over the sides (enough that you can gather up the edges once the water is in). Next, pour the water into the bowl, filling it about three quarters of the way full.

Once you’ve added the water, gather up the edges of the plastic wrap and bring them together to form a bag. Twist them all together several times to form the bag and create a seal so the water doesn’t pour out.

You will want the “bag” of water to be very tight and feel like a hard ball of water. You don’t want a lot of excess air in there.

Step 3: Make fire

Make your fire just like you would using the ice lens, or a magnifying glass. Hold your water bag/lens so that it is at a proper focal length that allows as much concentrated light as possible to hit your target. And voila!

Starting a fire from water or ice is a great tool to have in your survival toolbelt, but there are some cons to this type of fire starting. The efficiency of these methods depend greatly on a variety of variables; like the weather.

If it is windy, your tinder might constantly blow out of position. If you have to hold the lens, you will need a steady hand to keep the light concentrated on the same position. If it is cloudy, you could lose your light source every little bit when the sun hides out behind the clouds.

It won’t be as fast as pulling out a waterproof match or lighter and lighting it up, but it is an option when you don’t have access to those useful survival tools.

​Did you find this guide helpful? Have you ever tried to start a fire with water or ice? Let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this guide, please consider sharing with your friends and fellow adventurers.

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