This might not save you in the even of an apocalypse, but you never know when little tricks like these will come in handy. Not all of these fire techniques are easy, but they do work with practice.
With a Battery and Steel Wool
Use the batteries from a flashlight, cell phone, or whatever else is handy. Roll a piece of steel wool between your hands and form it into a “wire” long enough to touch both the positive and negative contacts, shorting the battery. (A 9-volt battery is ideal, since the contacts are right next to each other.) When the wool shorts the battery, it will ignite, and you can use it to light a fire.
With a Flashlight
Unscrew the front of a flashlight. Remove the silver reflector, then remove the bulb from the reflector. Place some tinder (lint, dried twigs, moss, or a cigarette work well) through the hole in the reflector, and point it at the sun so that the sunlight is focused on the tinder. When the tinder catches, use it to light a larger fire.
With a Soda Can
The bottom of a soda can has a shape similar to the reflector of a flashlight. Polish the bottom of the can with a chocolate bar until it shines like a mirror (this can take a while), then use it like the flashlight reflector to focus sunlight on some tinder.
With a Water Balloon
Fill a translucent balloon with water and tie it shut. (Round balloons work best.) Use the balloon like the lens of a magnifying glass. If you hold it one to two inches from the ground, the light passing through it will be focused to a small, bright point. Squeeze the balloon to make the point of light as small and bright as possible, and use it to light some tinder.
This story was first published in Uncle John’s Fully Loaded 25th Anniversary Bathroom Reader.