Camping & Survival

Make a Coke and Candy Fire

A man rubbing a chocolate bar on the bottom of a soda can on a green mottled background.

If you think about it, “fire” is a powerful word. Yell it into a crowd and you could find yourself in serious trouble. Get stranded in the wilderness without it and you will experience a different kind of trouble. Fire is critical if you are hiking or camping. We rely on it for heat, light, cooking, purifying water, and sometimes, for the protection it can offer.

A Mountain Dew and Hershey's chocolate bar on a wood plank background.
It is true that a simple chocolate bar can help you build a fire.

It can be extremely difficult to make a fire or downright child’s play depending upon what you have on hand and the situation. Making a fire is pretty much a science project if you think about it because a fire, any fire, needs the same four basic ingredients in order to start:

  • Spark
  • Tinder
  • Fuel
  • Oxygen

Making a fire using matches and dried tinder is really nothing to write home about. However making a fire without matches is kind of cool and almost MacGyver-like in some cases. One such method is the Coke and a chocolate bar method.

A man rubbing a chocolate bar on the bottom of a soda can on a green mottled background.
Rub or smear the chocolate on the bottom of the can to create a polished mirror-like finish.

I should probably offer a disclaimer here because my first reaction was, “If I am in a survival situation and have a Coke and a chocolate bar I am certainly not going to sacrifice these treats to start a fire.” That was the chocoholic side of my brain talking. Truth is, if you are in a desperate situation you will do just about anything to start a fire, even if it means gnawing off your big toe. So, now that I have your taste buds’ attention, here is how to build a fire using the Coke can and chocolate bar method.

Any type of soda can will work so Pepsi drinkers need not worry. It is the aluminum can we are using, not the contents (an aluminum beer can will also work).

The bottom of a soda can and some tinder starting to burn in the sunlight.
It may take a little time, depending upon the sunlight and how well you polished the can, but patience pays off when you see a tiny puff of smoke.

The amount of sunlight and how polished the can determines how long this takes. Be sure to gather plenty of tinder, kindling and sticks to help turn the smoldering tinder into flames.

You just need three ingredients and a little sunlight.

  1. Open your canned beverage and enjoy the contents.
  2. Take a good sized bite out of your chocolate bar and savor the flavor as you imagine warming yourself next to a toasty fire, because you will not be able to eat it afterward.
  3. Flip the can upside down, take the chocolate bar, and gently but firmly begin to rub the bottom of the can with the bar of chocolate. If it melts it is okay. The chocolate acts like a burnishing solvent to help polish the dull metal can into a shiny reflective device. If you do not have a chocolate bar, you can use other types of abrasives such as toothpaste or cleanser. The wrapper of the chocolate bar works well for rubbing in the chocolate. Scrub the bottom of the can with the chocolate or other abrasive.
  4. Rinse and repeat until you have turned the dull finish into a shiny polished finish.
  5. Hold the polished bottom of the can at an angle to reflect the sunlight (think magnifying glass).
  6. Hold the polished can about one inch away from some dried fire tinder until you have smoke.

WARNING: NEVER eat the chocolate bar or toothpaste AFTER you use it to polish the bottom of the can as it contains TOXIC levels of aluminum and is NOT safe for consumption.

Have you ever made a “coke and candy” fire? Share your fire making tips in the comment section.


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Comments (22)

  1. I made myself an alcohol stove then for fun I polished the concave bottom with toothpaste and a Dremel tool with a buffing wheel. I believe in multi use items whenever possible. I also like to have more then one means to make fire, cook, carry and purify water and get, trap food.

  2. Everyone has been mentioning items to “carry in”. If I have a soda and chocolate bar, I’m going to enjoy both and save the can to carry water and potentially as a signaling device. The wrapper may become my source of dry tender. What I have not heard anyone suggest (we are talking solar ignition) is pulling their glasses off their face and using them as a magnifying lens to ignite a fire (or roast ants). I’ve done it and am more likely to have my glasses than a soda and a chocolate bar.

  3. Don’t forget – chocolate is mostly fat – fat burns – don’t waste the “contaminated” part of the chocolate … eat the rest for needed survival energy …. and ’cause it makes you feel better.
    Now! Everyone go out, get your favorite sparkling beverage, your favorite chocolate bar, and practice, practice, practice.
    If your “significant other” complains … explain how you are practicing ways to save their precious life in the event of an emergency.

  4. I always keep an extra light in my RV for survival situations, even though my new RV has a knob to turn to make the sparks to light the propane stove!

  5. All of these means are great ideas. I just put a Zippo lighter in my bugout gear. There are extra flints in the bottom. It’s wind proof, almost water proof and if the fluid runs out, there’s the steel wheel and flints.

  6. To all the nay Sayers on the Coke and Candy fire starter tip:
    There are many ways to start a fire, some more efficient than others. The point of this article was to provide us readers with knowledge that places but one more useful item in your arsenal in the unfortunet event that you ever find yourself in a survival situation , or possibly camping and/or hiking with deminished or ruined supplies.
    Whether you use a match, magnifying glass, mirror, two sticks, ice (yes ice can be used to make a fire), or the coke and candy trick,
    Keep a well rounded base of knowledge in your mind and you are a well adapted survivalist/outdoorsman.

  7. Many years ago I used the reflector out of a 6 volt lantern to start a fire. It worked pretty good, so now I think I’ll try a smaller sized flashlight & see if it will work. Has anyone tried this?


  8. A neat trick – I rank it with the “bottle of water” method as highly dependent on great tender and bright hot sun (not the situation where you most need fire).

    Everyone should carry a reliable firesource. I carry a Bic lighter (and I don’t smoke) and generally have a spare one tucked EVERYWHERE (car, BOB, get home bag, day pack, probably 30-50 around the house).

    Sure, a more primitive source might last longer – but the average Bic lights, what, 1000 fires in its life (each cig is a started fire)? With care two or three could keep your cookfires lit for two lifetimes.


    ANY THING ELSE YOU MAY HAVE AVAILABLE IS A BONUS! A good sturdy metal cup such as the “Sierra cup” or even the GI Issue canteen cup. Something to carry potable water.

    I would also probably have a .22LR handgun or rifle. I like Ruger’s they make a variety and are relatively inexpensive. While I would PREFER a bigger caliber for self defense I would not hesitate to use it for defending/protecting my life. BULLET PLACEMENT COUNTS! 6-10 hits (actually only 2-3 hits to the face) beats not having anything else other than a knife! They are strong, sturdy, and reliable, AND ACCURATE. Anything from a single action convertible to .22 Mag, various semi automatics (I REALLY LIKE the.22/45 with the polymer frame. The /45 refers to it’s grip angle. Semi auto .22LR and it is accurate and reliable. Ruger also makes 22LR double action revolvers.
    Ruger is currently building a take down 10/22 rifle. Very nice addition to the 10/22 rifle line. Various magazines are readily available for the Ruger 10/22… such as 25-30 rounds or more… ammunition is fairly light compared to centerfire rifle calibers…. you could buy a box 550 rounds that would ROUGHLY fit in about a 4x4x4 INCH CUBE. REMEMBER IT IS SURVIVAL! SPACE,WEIGHT, WHATEVER YOU HAVE AT THE TIME ARE ULTIMATE CONSIDERATIONS! (OK I DID NOT MENTION OTHER ITEMS SUCH AS A GOOD FIRST AID/TRAUMA KIT OR OTHER ITEMS…..CERTAINLY SUCH SHOULD GO WITHOUT SAYING BEFORE SOMEONE ATTACKS ME FOR NOT MENTIONING THEM!)

    I hope you do not mind me sharing the article below…..

  10. Yosemite thank you for reading this blog and thank you and everyone else for the comments. I try to read them. Regarding your comment about rinse and repeat. You can use a variety of things such as spit, sweat, urine (last resort in my opinion) or of course water from body of water etc. Since you are not going to be putting your mouth to the bottom of the soda can you do not have to worry about whether or not your water is clean. I agree with Muleskinner DO NOT WASTE your drinking water. If you find yourself with NO water/sweat/spit/urine/extra soda you can use your sleeve or a leaf or any other type of cloth to wipe the surface clean. Personally I would never knowingly venture off into the wildnerness without several sources for starting fires. I would be more inclined to do what Hank mentions, drink the soda and eat the chocolate bar. But the purpose of this column is to give readers some other possible options they may not have tried. Thanks for taking the time to read my posts. ~Lisa

  11. If your going to rely on the sun to give you a fire it would be much better to carry a small folding magnifying glass on a key chain. they only cost a few dollars from two to six from what I have seen online. It will work a lot faster than a can.

  12. I found a “concave” (I think that’s the word) magnifying mirror at Walmart for just a few bucks. It is round, about 3″ diameter, and is for seeing yourself really clearly. It will make smoke in just a few seconds. They will break. (My wife says she did not throw it, but I suspect she did). But, it will start a fire RIGHT NOW, if you have something dry to burn and some sun.

  13. Steel wool and a 9 volt battery works well too. Take a small pc, 00/000 works best. Touck the positive and negative points of the battery to the steel wool and bam, you have fire.

  14. With the steel wool idea.. If you take a square 9 volt battery and contact the steel wool with it, sparks will start and a flame shortly afterwards next to tinder. Almost immediately it seems.

  15. Cleaning it would not require CLEAN water, just rinse the bottom off in whatever water is available (don’t waste your drinking water unless that is all you have) Steel wool works, but unless you are packed for a survival situation all the time, it’s doubtful you are going to have it on you when you need it. Cans are fairly easy to find.

  16. Great idea, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Personally, I’d rather drink the soda, eat all of the chocolate bar and then polish the concave bottom of the soda can with fine sand or soil to make the reflective surface for my fire. But that’s only going to work in the day time anyway. My BSA approved compass has a small magnification lens on the clear plastic base plate and that will work in the day time too.

    Harbor Freight Tools carries a primitive, small spark stone and metal striker rod tied together with a short line. They call it, “a fire starter,” and when they’re on sale they go for about $2.50, regularly they’re about $4. It takes a little practice but I think they’re worth every penny. I bought a bunch of them and I keep them in my survival kit, my bug out bag, the pockets of my field jackets and my field pack along with a space blanket. I also carry a tiny box of wooden stick matches from the 99 cents store and a small can of cigarette lighter fluid in my gear. It all fits in a sandwich size zip lock bag and the total weight is about a half pound.

    A friend found some small TSA approved plastic containers and he filled them with barbecue starter fluid, bagged them in snack bags for extra protection and distributed them throughout his gear. He smokes so her carries a Zippo. We’re not pyromaniacs but we both agreed that you never know where you’ll be when the —- hits the fan so it pays to be prepared. Hank

  17. QUESTION ON STEP # 4: 4.Rinse and repeat until you have turned the dull finish into a shiny polished finish. WHAT are you to rinse it with? urine? water? saliva? Survival situation means one is extremely limited as to what is available and has on hand. No doubt potable/drinking water is going to be extremely limited! True one can build a solar still but it will take some time to produce any “serious” amount of drinking water…enough to survive on for a time….but not enough to extravagant with.

    Years ago I bought a solar cigarette lighter for about $2.00. It was a concave mirror with a place/focal point you put your cigarette/tender in. It would light the cigarette/tender in less than a couple of minutes.

    Here is a hint for GREAT tender. Steel wool~ Preferably the steel wool pads (or 00/000 pads WITHOUT SOAP!ONE pad can be used to start many fires. Pinch off a small piece of it and sort of “fuzz it up” a bit then strike your sparks into it (or your match or lighter) with some light tender and gently blow on it.

    It has never failed me. IF you do not believe this works try it out for yourself. pinch off a piece of steel wool and hold a lighter or match to it.I so not recommend holding the steel wool in your hands though……but go ahead and do so if you must. You will learn to be more careful about it the next time…you will remember the saying about if you play with fire expect to get burned!

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