Can A Bottle Of Water Be Used To Start A Fire – Yes It Can

Doug Williams

Can you really make a fire with a bottle of water? More specifically: can you concentrate the rays of the sun through the water, in a correctly shaped bottle, so it will act as a magnifying glass to start a fire?

Roadside brush fires are commonly recognized as being started by fluid-filled bottles concentrating the sun’s rays. That’s the reported reason why many bottle manufacturers are paying extra to produce textured bottles.

A wildfire in California on September 5, 2008

That sounds quite legitimate, but can a clear plastic water bottle be used to start a fire with consistent results? Let’s see for ourselves.

We have to assemble all of the parts to solve this mystery. First, we’ll need a smooth, clear plastic bottle full of clear water. Next, we’ll need dark colored, or preferably charred tinder, such as a charred cloth, singed cattail fluff, burned cotton balls, or dark, dry bark. Finally, we’ll require an intense sun, time, and patience.

Photo credit

Now it was time to try the experiment. I held the bottle (cap down) close to the tinder on a hot, sunny afternoon. After repeatedly blinding myself with the glistening light from the continuously moving water of the bottle, I realized that the bottle of water needed to be completely motionless.

I positioned two forked sticks to hold the bottle at the correct angle. I also dug a small hole so I could vary the distance from the bottle to control the focal point of the light.

I have to be honest: this was the most exasperating thing I have ever tried. The breeze was continually moving the tinder out of position, the sun was shining one minute and disappearing the next and I never got more than a momentary wisp of smoke.

I was getting close to throwing in the towel and calling this ‘skill’ a fraud, when all of a sudden, a small smoking smudge remained smoking after the 100th time the tinder shifted position. And then it happened, more beautiful than I could have ever imagined – fire from sunlight!

To summarize, this does work! I think this method is definitely promising in a survival situation. But, as the saying goes – I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.

This is just one more helpful reminder to carry a few Bic lighters or a stack of matches with you if you want to be certain of starting your fire. But good luck if you want to try this for yourself!

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


fmssolution is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival