How to Make a Torch 

 November 17, 2021

By  Mike Millerson

Your survival skills and situational awareness are what will save you in an emergency. Even a short-term camp trip can become a survival situation because of unpredictable conditions appearing in nature. For instance, rain can create poor visibility, and you may lose your group in the middle of the forest because of the lack of light. In this situation, only you will be responsible for your life as searching for a person in any forest of the world is a long process. The proper survival gear in your well-packed backpack is really important, too. But you should be able to do something by yourself.

The first thing you should pay attention to is the ability to start a fire at your location. The fire was a crucial element of survival for our ancestors, and the reasons for this are obvious:

  • It was the main source of heat, and it allowed them not to get cold and avoid hypothermia.
  • It was almost the only way to cook raw food and kill bacteria during wilderness survival.
  • There were no water filters, and the only method of cleaning water was boiling it.

Fire is still one of the most important things for survival. Being far from cities and technologies, you do not have any other alternative tool for heating, lighting, and cooking. Moreover, fire helps to scare away wild animals and show help signals to emergency services searching for you, which can be a critical factor for life-saving.

Of course, survival food is essential, just like water supplies, but survival is impossible without a campfire or lighter, and one of the methods to start it is to make a torch. All professional homesteaders, survivalists, and preppers should take care of having that knowledge.

What you will learn from this article

This article contains practical information on the creation of a torch in a survival situation. Keep reading it if you want to learn how to have more chances to survive in wild nature.

Let us start with basic recommendations for people going on camping or hiking trips into a forest. First, remember that you cannot be sure of successfully passing the route. That is why you should pack all the necessary tools for survival — knife, map, first aid kit, compass, food, water, suitable clothes, fire starters. This allows you to be prepared for anything that can happen when you are far from civilization.

Of course, you have to know how to use all your survival gear. In this review, we will explain how to make a torch, cover fire starting, and light production.

Table of content

1. History of a Survival Torch

2. The Creation of a Primitive Torch

3. Making a Minimalistic Torch

4. Making a Torch with Tree Resin

5. Making a Torch with Toilet Paper

History of a Survival Torch

Torches provide fire that not only gives you heat but also lights the area around you. Lightning was the main purpose of using torches for centuries before people created electricity or kerosene lanterns popular in the modern world. In contrast to candles or oil lamps, torches were preferable for survival as everyone could construct them using basic required materials.

If you want to become a skillful survivalist, you need to know how to create a survival torch yourself. This skill will help you protect yourself and your group and make navigation in a dark place easier.

Probably, you’ve seen movies where the main characters created torches in several minutes and saved people in an emergency. However, it is not that easy to find materials and design torches in reality, as illustrated in one of the Rambo action flicks. He found a bone in a cave, wrapped cloth around it, and just set it on fire. To tell the truth, such a torch cannot serve you for a long time in real survival conditions, and that is why you should not buy into Hollywood fairy tales.

There are many methods of creating torches in wild surroundings, and we will describe three of them in more detail below.

The Creation of a Primitive Torch

Centuries ago, people made primitive torches of a piece of wood, and the process of selecting a proper type of wood took a lot of time for them. The same situation happens now as a type of wood will determine the burn time of a torch. You should select only green or wet woods, bark, cattails, or river cane as there is a smaller probability that the wood will burn together with the material. Sometimes you need to bound wooden sticks together to make the base of a torch more robust.

Do not worry if you have to use an unsuitable type of wood for torches because you can always make a new one in the forest. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – they will only enrich your experience for future successes.

The next step is to wrap a piece of wood in a material that burns. Usually, the main material for this is s cotton cloth, but there is a solution if you do not have any extra fabric. You can try to find bark and attach it to the top of a torch. Moreover, you need to fill the space inside the bark circle with grass, leaves, or other burning items.

When the construction of a torch is ready, you have to find a substance that will be a good firestarter. Possible options are:

  • Oil;
  • Pitch;
  • Animal Fat;
  • Tree Sap.

Of course, you can use special flammable liquids like fuel for your torch, but the listed substances are helpful when you do not have anything except natural. By the way, do not worry if a fire does not start fast because it can take a minute for natural resins to get lit and produce flames.

So, it is a fast and easy way to get a flame in a forest that will burn for several hours. Knowing the method of creating a primitive torch significantly increases your chances of survival.

Making a Minimalistic Torch

This method is suitable for cases when there is no possibility to find any cattail around you. The main idea of a minimalistic torch is to find any stick and make a torch head with any burning material. As we want to make long-lasting torches, we need to add a flammable liquid to this fabric. A torch will provide light even if you do not use fuel, oil, or special liquids, but it will burn in a few minutes. That is why you need to know the technology of making a torch with wick material.

The first step is always the same — find a stick. Make sure it’s at least two inches thick and two feet long. However, we recommend choosing a green stick or wet branch. After this, you should form a wick that burns well for a long time. Use parts of a cotton shirt or bark for this task making stripes from them. You should cut any of these materials and make 6 inches wide and 2 feet long stripes. Next, apply rope or any string to attach material to the piece of wood tightly and prevent possible wick drops.

In the end, you should soak a wick in a flammable liquid, and the best option is paraffin from a survival EDC kit. If you do not have any prepared flammable materials, you can apply edible fuel, oil, animal fat from meat, or tree sap. By the way, if you have a birch wick, you can burn it without additional accelerant as it contains natural flammable elements inside.

Make sure that the material is fully soaked in oil, fuel, or another liquid because you want to save wick and not burn it when using a torch. The idea of a torch fire is that oil produces a flame, but the construction remains intact.

Making a Torch with Tree Resin

If you have enough time to look for materials and prepare them, your best option is to craft an effective torch using pine pitches. The sap of the pine can replace the accelerator and provide bright light for at least an hour. If there is a pine grove close to your location, find a pine tree and cut a branch from it.

Applying any tool with a sharp edge, you should split the top of the stick into four or five parts and fill all gaps between pieces with pine shaving. This construction works well as a fire is stimulating by a pine sap and generates long-lasting flame.

Making a Torch with Toilet Paper

You probably carry toilet paper when going camping. You can use this material to make an effective torch as well. All you need is to find a wooden stick, 50 ft of TP, and flammable material.

When all elements are ready for the application, you should wrap the stick with TP but do not forget to spin paper as you go — it should look like a rope. After this, fix both ends of the paper on a torch and soak this hand-made wick with fuel, kerosene, lighter fluid, or another burning liquid. Make sure that the wick is completely soaked and ignite it to generate light. Now you can use this lighter for at least 30 minutes for your survival.


When you do not have any campfire or lamp to lighten surroundings can happen to you unexpectedly. That is why you should always know how to make a torch and start a fire in a wild environment. Light is essential when you are lost in the forest or you have a night hiking route. Only a skilled survivalist can save him or herself from death, and making torches is one of the skills you should have.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How to make a medieval torch?

The principle of making torches is similar for all types of this tool. Making a medieval torch will require a wooden stick, some fabric, and a special liquid to facilitate fire and make a bright light. When crafting a torch, make strips out of the fabric and wrap one end of the soon-to-be torch with it. The other end is going to be a handle. After this, you should soak the material in a liquid-like fuel or kerosene to make it burn longer.

How to make a kerosene torch?

You can craft a kerosene torch having a stick, some paper, a small can, and kerosine. In addition, you will need to use an ax or any other tool to split one end of a stick into several parts. Put a can in the resulting gap and insert the paper into it. Finally, soak the paper with kerosene and ignite it with a lighter or matches to start a fire.

How to make a Viking torch?

Usually, Vikings applied wooden staves and cotton or any other fabric to form a wick. As with any other type of torches, Viking one requires a flammable substance to lit a wick. So you should roll a stave with fabric and wet it in fuel or some burning liquid. Detailed instruction on making torches is stated earlier in this article.

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A former USA Army sergeant and a highly educated survivalist and prepper with a degree and interest in Engineering and Electronics, Mike Millerson applies his extensive expertise in survivalism, homesteading, backpacking, hiking and hunting, spreading his deep knowledge about handling emergencies and prepping for them reasonably and effectively.

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