One of the joys of camping is having a camp fire. There are times though when a fire isn't just for fun, its a necessity for cooking, lighting, safety or signaling for help. Learning how to light a fire in different ways is a valuable skill that could not only save your life but impress your friends too. Believe it or not, you can even light a fire using a little toothpaste and an empty drinks can!

Things You Will Need

Empty aluminum drink can

Step 1

Turn the can upside down and take a look at the bottom. It is concave (it slopes inwards) and would make a great reflector if only it wasn't a dull gray color and covered in scratch marks. The ancient Greeks are known to have used concave mirrors to light fires, and in modern times the technique is still used to light the Olympic torch. A good mirror needs to be reflective though, and your coke can is currently dull and less than likely to set fire to anything. Lets polish it until it sparkles.

Step 2

Squirt about half an inch of toothpaste onto the bottom of the can and rub it around. The exact amount isn't important, but you need enough to make a sticky polish. Use a bit of cloth or some grass and push quite firmly. Go around in circles and work over the entire base of the can. The toothpaste is a very gentle abrasive and acts as a polish, grinding away the tiny imperfections and oxidized metal on the surface of the can. It takes some effort but, after half an hour to an hour, the dull gray surface will be transformed into a smooth and shiny one.

Step 3

Clean the surface with a bit of fresh cloth, or tissue paper, to reveal a glistening mirror surface capable of producing a good, if somewhat distorted, reflection. If you can't see a good reflection in the surface, add some more toothpaste and keep polishing until you are satisfied with the result. The better the mirror, the easier it will be to light a fire.

Step 4

Prepare some tinder for lighting. Now comes a slightly "trial and error" bit. Point the can base towards the sun and aim the reflection onto the tinder. By varying the distance from the tinder you will find the point at which the suns rays are concentrated into one tight beam of heat and light. The can now acts like a magnifying glass, focusing all the heat falling on the can into one tiny dot.

Step 5

Keep the dot focused on the tinder and smoke will begin to rise. With enough sunlight and a steady hand the tinder will catch and you have fire!

There are quicker ways to light a fire, but keys elements of wilderness survival and camping are having fun and be prepared for the unexpected. Practice coping before you need to, and life becomes so much easier when disaster strikes.

Tips & Warnings

The base of the tin will lose its shine after an hour or two as the surface of the aluminum oxidizes, but a quick polish will restore the mirror effect.

It the absence of toothpaste, chocolate works as well! Don't eat it afterwards though because all that dirty aluminum you polished off the can... it's in the chocolate!