How To Start Fire With Water

Let me begin with an obvious statement, some may call a cliché: water is essential for survival.

If you are familiar with the now-famous rule of the threes, you already know that you can survive for three minutes without oxygen, for three days without water and for three weeks without food. Or something along these lines. The point is, getting water in a survival scenario should be your top priority for many reasons.

And speaking about survival, fire and water, this rather strange concept used to be a test for secret societies in the past. I mean, being capable of producing fire from water (exact opposite elements) was considered almost an act of witchcraft among simpletons. But today, not so much, though even if in our brave new world, advanced technology may seem like magic to some folks. However, generally speaking, it appears to me that as a society, we’ve lost the capacity to wonder. Joke aside, getting fire from water is a cool skill to master and it may prove to be a life saver someday, so let’s dig in deeper into the subject.

Catch A Glimpse of Green Beret Outdoor Survival Ingenuity

The thing about being capable of starting a fire using water is that you will kill two birds with one stone. What does that mean, you asked? Well, just like water, fire is an essential survival “item” of sorts. While having enough water to drink keeps fatigue away, energizes your muscles and keeps your mind clear and focused on survival, thus allowing you to basically stay alive, fire is just as important. For example, most of the food we eat is usually cooked one way or another. Eating raw food, even in a SHTF scenario, is, let’s say dubious, due to health concerns. Also, there are foods like meat and fish that can be hardly eaten in a raw state, though I’ve seen it happen quite a few times. However, eating raw meat exposes you to a plethora of potential diseases and so on and so forth, so I wouldn’t advise anyone to try this stunt.

Hence, being able to start a fire leads to cooked food, which translates into better health and tastier meals. Also, fire allows you to boil water, which is another factor in staying healthy in a survival scenario. I mean, boiling removes nasty bugs, like viruses and bacteria, from one’s water supply. Keep in mind that most water sources including rivers and lakes, are contaminated one way or the other. Boiling water before drinking it in a SHTF situation should be a no-brainer for any self-conscious prepper.

Fire is also excellent for signaling your presence, lighting and heating purposes, not to mention that it keeps dangerous animals away. Basically, being capable of starting a fire will boost your survival chances in any situation, while adding to the quality of life. Fire is awesome and your best friend.

The How To’s of Getting Fire from Water

Suppose you’re lost in the woods, and you’ve lost your gear. There are no matches in your backpack, no lighter, no nothing. But wait: you’ve just found a plastic sandwich bag. And you have water nearby. See where this is going?

If not, consider this: have you ever played with a magnifying glass in the sun, back when you were a kid? You know, burning ants with a magnifying glass during hot summers used to be the equivalent of modern-day videogames. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating a bit, as back in the day, not all kids were “evil”, but the point is, you can concentrate sun-rays using a lens/a magnifying glass so you can start a fire. Now, the problem is, what if you don’t have a magnifying glass?

Here the plastic sandwich bag comes into play. If you fill it with water and then twist it into a bulb-like shape, you’ll end up with a lens of sorts. The trick is to shape it as close to a sphere as possible. Provided you do it nice and proper, you’ll create a biconvex lens, also known as a magnifying glass. Yes, a magnifying glass from a plastic bag and water. If you think this is not possible, just watch this video [1]and see for yourself. You’ll also need some dry tinder and obviously, a sunny day. No folks, this trick doesn’t work at night, sorry. The concept is to allow direct sunlight to shine through the most rounded spot in your “make-believe” (just kidding) lens.

Using the same concept, you can start a fire using water via a water bottle. A piece of paper with black ink or dark colored tinder and a plastic water bottle would make for all the gear required to perform this trick. The convex edge of the water bottle would act as a makeshift magnifying glass. Again, this is the same concept used before, but the water-container is different.

Check out this tutorial by the way, see the plastic bottle in action.

The trick is to focus the sunlight on a black piece of paper. If done properly, it only takes a few seconds to get the paper smoking, and soon you’ll see it smoldering. From there, it’s a child’s play to start a proper fire. I would advise you to practice these “tricks” at home, until you become the master of your domain, i.e. a true Sun Fire Master. It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s perfectly doable if you’re patient.

In this type of “racket”, the more spherical the makeshift magnifying glass is, the better it works. Hence, a balloon (think along the lines of a condom, and I am pretty sure latex gloves would do the trick just fine) filled with water would also perform pretty well in this regard, i.e. getting fire from water.

Another solution for a makeshift magnifying glass is a light bulb filled with water[2]. Moreover, you can improvise a liquid lens from a frame covered with a layer of plastic wrap[3]. Then, suspend it on something, just a couple feet off the ground. In the next step, pour water carefully onto the plastic sheath, and as the plastic begins to sag, it will form a natural and effective liquid lens[4]. Finally, you’ll have to gather some tinder and find the focal[5] point of the beam to concentrate the heat. Then sit back, relax and watch the elements do the job[6] for you. Starting a fire, that is.

In colder climates, you can DIY an ice lens[7] and use it to start[8] a fire. Here’s a cool DIY video[9] for improvising a makeshift lens from ice.  Keep in mind that it’s essential to use good tinder for these tricks to work as intended.

I hope the article helped. If you have other ideas or comments, feel free to use the dedicated section below.




Written by

Chris Black is a born and bred survivalist. He used to work as a contractor for an intelligence service but now he is retired and living off the grid, as humanly possible. An internet addict and a gun enthusiast, a libertarian with a soft spot for the bill of rights and the Constitution, a free market idealist, he doesn't seem very well adjusted for the modern world. You can send Chris a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • True, but outdated. More than fifteen years ago I stumbled over headlines like ” Make fire with ice” or “Use your pee to make fire”. Same concept. Probably you’ll grow a nice beard before you’ll get a fire burning at your feet

  • Ok a lot said about one hypothetical incident but says nothing about people wearing glasses and using their glasses to male fire…………..Why over look the obvious…or a rifle scope or a pair of binoculars or even a simple Magnifying glass OR a shot as from a shotgun or rifle or even a handgun??? A blank an start a fire….

    IN an area WITH ICE and snow area one can melt some snow and make a CURVED depression in the snow bank and make a lense to magnify and start a fire…….
    This site is about SURVIVAL……………….

    EVERYTHING MUST HAVE MULTIPLE USES! IF YOU DO NOT HAVE IT…………………….Y.OU TEACH OTHERS MUST IMPROVISE ONLY IF YOU NEED IT……IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING ELSE THAT WORKS weather it is FIRE or another weapon…………..and it is effective…………learn all you can about all of the weaponry…the BAD GUYS HAVE….so you can counter them and use what the tactics they use against them……

  • Wow…. I’ll have to try that. I’ve never seen that before.

  • Hey, Chris . . . How about This . . . My Emergency Pack ALWAYS Contains a 3″ Dia. Magnifying Glass (the hand-held kind) and when the lens is CLEAN – You can start Conifer Bark burning in about 30 – 45 Seconds. It weighs about 8 or 9 ozs. Obviously, it will Not Work after sundown.

  • There’s one other way too- splitting the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen with electricity and a couple electrodes. You’ll need some sort of spark to set off the hydrogen.