water bottle
Make sure to stabilize your water bottle. Tim MacWelch

Can you really make fire with a water bottle? More specifically, can you concentrate sunlight through water, in the right shape of bottle, to use it like a magnifying lens for fire starting? Roadside brush fires are frequently attributed to fluid filled bottles concentrating the sun’s rays. That’s supposedly why many bottle manufacturers pay extra for the textured bottle. That sounds legitimate enough. But can we use a clear plastic water bottle to start a fire—with reproducible results? Let’s see.

First, we’ll need all of the pieces of this puzzle assembled. We’ll need a clear, smooth plastic bottle full of clear water. Then we’ll need dark colored or charred tinder (burned cotton balls, char cloth, singed cattail fluff and dark fibrous bark). Finally we’ll require strong sun, time and patience.

Now it was time to give it a try. I held the bottle (cap down) near my tinder on a sunny afternoon. After blinding myself repeatedly with the shimmering light from the shifting water of a hand held bottle, I realized that the bottle needed to be dead still. I set up two forked sticks to hold the bottle at any angle I chose. I also dug a little hole to allow me to vary the distance from the bottle, and control the focal point.

In full disclosure, that this was the most frustrating thing I have ever tried in the name of OL Survival. While the sun was playing peek-a-boo in and out of clouds, the breeze constantly flipping my tinder out of position, and never getting more than a fleeting wisp of smoke. I was getting close to throwing to BS flag and calling this “skill” a fraud, when a small smoking spot remained smoking after the one hundredth tinder position shift. And there it was, more beautiful than I could have imagined – fire from light.

In summation, this does work, and I think this method is definitely possible in a survival situation. But I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. I’d say this is just one more reminder to carry a few Bics and a sack of matches. But good luck if you try it yourself!

Ever made a water bottle fire? Please tell us how you did it by leaving a comment.