Video: How To Start a Fire with Batteries

Need a fire? If you happen to have a little steel wool handy or a foil gum wrapper in your pocket, you can use each item with the right battery to quickly and easily ignite a flame.

Steel Wool
A small amount of steel wool and a battery with a voltage of at least 3 (or a pair of batteries) are all you need. By touching the steel to the positive and negative terminals of the battery, you'll quickly produce a ball of burning fibers, which can be placed into tinder and blown into flame. Use good-quality tinder and work quickly, because the steel wool only burns for a few seconds.

The “pros” of this technique are that many different sizes and types of batteries and several grades of steel wool, especially 0 to 0000, will do the trick. One con is that wet or rusted wool won’t work. A dead battery won’t help you either. For safe transport, make sure you store the steel wool in a dry location and away from the battery.

Gum Wrapper
To make fire with this method, you'll need a single D-cell battery and a paper-lined foil gum wrapper. The wrapper should be torn or cut so that just a thin "bridge" of wrapper connects the two larger ends that will be held to the battery's terminals. The easiest way to do this is to fold the wrapper in half lengthwise and use scissors to snip out a triangle from the center that leaves about 1/16 inch of material. (If you accidentally tear or clip the wrapper in two, manipulate the two pieces so they touch.) Span the wrapper from one end of the battery to the other and hold it in place. It should soon smoke and—with luck—create a small flame at the thinnest point of the wrapper. Have your tinder ready to catch a spark or a tiny short-lived flame.